Reasons and ways to make meal planning happen

“No one is born a great cook, one learns by doing.” (Julia Child)

Growing up we ate the same two week rotation of meals until I graduated high school. I can still recite the 14 dinners my mom made for us throughout my childhood. Because of this, I avoided meal planning for years. It felt like returning to the predictable meatloaf Mondays and taco Tuesdays.

All this changed when Josh and I graduated college and both began working full-time. Cooking, health, and budget suddenly became vital aspects of our lives. We each took two nights in the kitchen and spent the other three nights eating leftovers or going out. Spending time chopping, sautéeing, baking was a welcome break from teaching — it became meditative and restorative.

During this season, I began looking to cookbooks and specific cooking websites for inspiration rather than Pinterest, which I found overwhelming because of the infinite amount of available content.

Reasons why meal planning helps your budget, health, and daily rhythm:

  • Going to the grocery store with a list of specific items keeps you from impulse purchases and overspending. Taking stock of what’s left in the fridge and cupboards before heading helps too.
  • Having a list of meals planned for the week prevents those 5 p.m. munchies from happening. When you have a dinner on the docket, you aren’t scrambling and eating the easiest, least healthy thing in sight. Whenever I’m cooking, I pull the trail mix out and munch on some nuts and dried fruit to hold me over. Not having unhealthy foods in the house to begin with leaves the snacking options limited.
  • When you meal plan, pay attention to what else you have going on during that day leading up to dinner. If you’re aware ahead of time how much energy and time you’ll have for preparing dinner that day, you won’t overload yourself with an intense meal on busy days and you can enjoy a longer more involved cooking session on days with more space.

How to make meal planning a part of your life:

  • Set aside time every week to go through the fridge and cupboards to see what’s available and to sit down and create your weekly menu.
  • Write it down. Write down the meals you will make and write down the items needed to make those meals. I use pen and paper for the meals and keep it on the fridge. I use my phone for the grocery list.

Things to consider when creating your menu and grocery list:

  • The current season. Using ingredients that are seasonal prevents getting stuck in food ruts. It also promotes sustainable farming practices and supports local and regional economies.
  • Your season of life. Working full-time? New baby in the house? Give yourself grace to find a pace for meals that works for you.

Some caveats and resources:

  • Be flexible. Sometimes you need a break, so take a night off and make some grilled cheese or pancakes.
  • It takes time — start small and slowly change habits and practices incrementally. If you start small and go slow, change is sustainable and long-lasting.
  • Include some easy days and leftover/clean out the fridge days each week.
  • Maybe you’re in a season when a meal planning service makes more sense than anything (Blue Apron, Hello Fresh, and Daily Harvest are all great options)
  • Try to mix up the protein throughout the week and have at least one vegetarian night (this is good for your health and the environment!) This provides a loose structure and helps to narrow the choices. For example:
    • Monday: beef
    • Tuesday: chicken
    • Wednesday: vegetarian
    • Thursday: leftovers
    • Friday: breakfast for dinner (could be as simple as eggs and toast)
    • Saturday: fish
    • Sunday: take-out or restaurant
  • Cookbooks are inspiring and informative. They don’t just include recipes, but provide valuable insights from experienced cooks and chefs. Here are some of the most helpful ones (budget friendly tip – check them out from your library for free to see if they work for you before purchasing):
    • Simply in Season – this is helpful for a crash course in seasonal cooking
    • The Art of Simple Food – one of the most foundational cookbooks full of cooking wisdom and knowledge
    • Salt Fat Acid Heat –  the cookbook that completely transformed my approach to cooking (FULL of amazing information and beautiful illustrations that will elevate your skills)
    • An Eater’s Manifesto – not a cookbook, but an essential resource that will change your mindset surrounding food and eating habits
  • Those four are foundational resources. Here are a few more if you want to dive deeper:

“Every repast can have soul and can be enchanting; it asks for only a small degree of mindfulness and a habit of doing things with care and imagination.” (Thomas Moore)

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Rhythm series: rest

Ever since I can remember I have been a planner. Sometimes to a fault. You know those kids in school who write everything down in their agenda? The adults who buy all the stationary goods?  Love or despise planning, natural skill or not, paper or phone, figuring out a way to set rhythms for our lives is essential to living an intentional and purposeful life. Annie Dillard said it best: “How we spend our days is, of course how we spend our lives.”

There are certain seasons when it feels like the things we spend our days on are not important. Seasons when everything feels mundane and unimportant. And then there are seasons when it feels like the train is barreling down the tracks so fast that it won’t stop and you can’t get off. Seasons when everything feels urgent and important.


In this rhythm series, I hope to pass along some keys I’ve learned that establish rhythms that work for your life. Before diving into the nitty gritty details of schedules and planning, this post’s focus is rest.

It really is senseless to work so hard from early morning till late at night, toiling to make a living for fear of not having enough. God can provide for His lovers, even while they sleep. (Psalm 127:2, The Passion Translation)

In our lives there will always be a time to work and a time to rest. If we don’t give ourselves permission to rest, the fear of lack and scarcity will rule our choices and decisions and our actions become frantic and aimless. It could be fear of lack in any area of life that prevents rest; scarcity in finance, relationships, time, opportunities, and a hundred and one other things that can keep you up at night.


Things in life produce and grow when given periods of rest. Bread dough bubbles up and rises with rest. Soil is most nutritious when given a break every few years. The muscles in our bodies heal and grow with recovery time. I’ve been guilty of striving and toiling and things get ugly quickly – small stresses and annoyances suddenly become a huge deal.

Rest is a space cushion, that safe distance between your car and the cars around you, in our lives keeping us safe and giving us room for movement. It’s the margin that allows for flexibility and overflow.

Here are some keys to establishing rhythms of rest:

  • Figure out what brings you rest
  • Find ways to gracefully say “no”
  • Disconnect: turn the phone on airplane mode or off
  • Do one thing restful everyday (even if it’s only 15 minutes)
  • Plan one extended restful activity once a week (could be half a day or a whole day depending on your season in life

Figuring out what brings you rest can be tricky. Resting is different than crashing; it’s intentional not mindless. Maybe it’s taking a walk, reading a book for pleasure, listening to music without doing anything else, going to an art gallery, running, journaling, browsing the aisles of your favorite store, road tripping, taking a bath.

Regardless of everything else going on in your life, set time aside each day and once a week that is sacred and immovable to rest. In the beginning of creation the need for rest was established – we are at our best in every other area of life when this is a rhythm in our lives.


If you want to dive deeper into this topic here are some good resources:

Rhythms of Rest by Shelley Miller

Chasing Slow by Erin Loechner

Crazy Busy by Kevin DeYoung

Deep Work by Cal Newport

In Praise of Slowness TED talk 

The Art of Stillness TED talk 

 

 

Making the most of early summer: tastes, sounds, and discoveries

Here in Michigan winter and summer collide. We have a few sporadic spring days sprinkled between winter temperatures and then suddenly the days are long, humid, and green. This seemingly overnight season change is a shock and jolt to the system.

Eating seasonally towards the end of winter and beginning of spring is challenging and when the first summer harvest arrives, my tastebuds are ready for the freshness of greens and strawberries and rhubarb. In this post, I’m sharing some of the seasonal foods we’ve been loving, some things to listen to, and a few recent discoveries that have totally blessed the early days of summer. Scattered throughout are a few photos from a recent Saturday lunch of arugula pizza, mesclun salad, and the most luscious farmers market strawberries.

Tastes of early summer

Spring greens are such a refreshing taste and flavor after months of root vegetables, soups, and stews. Here are some of the things I’ve been doing with our early summer harvest of greens:

Arugula/rocket: this peppery, hardy leaf grows so well it can be overwhelming if you don’t have a few different ways to use it. A few that I love include:

Simple salad: arugula, juice from half a lemon, olive oil, salt and pepper

Pizza: bake your choice of dough/flatbread, cheese (I like mozzarella or goat), and maybe some proscuitto then throw a generous handful of arugula on top after it comes out of the oven

Pesto: whiz together arugula, walnuts, olive oil, lemon juice, parmesan cheese if you like, and salt and pepper until it’s the consistency you like and use as pasta or pizza sauce

Spinach: rich in nutrients, it’s hard to say no to the health benefits of garden fresh spinach. Ways I use it most often:

Frittata: basically a panfried then baked egg dish – I love the combination of spinach, baby potatoes, asparagus, and feta cheese

Scrambled eggs or omelette: sauté spinach with a little onion then added to some eggs with goat cheese served with some whole grain toast makes a delicious meal

Smoothie: throw a banana, frozen blueberries, a handful of spinach with some nut milk and nut butter in a blender for a refreshing snack

Rhubarb: this secret vegetable is one of my late spring, early summer favorites. It’s tangy, fresh flavor remind me of my grandma’s strawberry rhubarb pie. Some ways to use it:

Muffins: there are so many lovely recipes for rhubarb muffins floating around Pinterest. These ones made with applesauce are simple and tasty.

Crisp: throw some cut up rhubarb, sugar, cinnamon into a baking dish and top with your favorite oat crumble/crisp topping and bake

Jam: this rhubarb chia jam recipe is so simple and healthy

Strawberries: they don’t last longer than a day in our house eaten straight out of the bowl

Sounds of early summer

Rebekah Lyons: Being Free Part 1 and Part 2: few podcasts make me stop everything I’m doing to sit down and just listen. Rebekah’s powerful testimony and speaking ability communicates some of the most foundational truths about who we are in Christ with such grace and heart that I felt challenged and inspired afresh. Take a listen. You won’t be the same after.

Hillsong United’s new album Wonder: full of beautiful songs, this album is breathing life into summer right now. So Will I (100 Billion X) has been on repeat the past few days. It’s one of the best contemporary psalms/hymns I’ve heard in a long time.

The Simple Show: Tsh Oxenreider is so easy to listen to and the most recent episodes about summer travel and hospitality are practical and inspiring.

For some more serious listeningInvisibilia Season 3 recently began and it’s just as phenomenal as seasons 1 and 2. Sorta Awesome episode 99 is one of the best discussions I’ve heard regarding talking to kids of all ages about their bodies, reproduction, and sexuality. This list of books and resources from the podcast is amazing – I’ve checked out all the books for preschoolers from the library and they have been so good.

Early summer discoveries

The Organically Clean Home by Becky Rapinchuck: about a year ago, I began the slow process of using up pre-made cleaning products and then making my own. While I love Pinterest, it feels like a rabbit hole of information that is hard to climb out of. This book is clear, concise, and full of recipes and tips for literally everything. It’s free on Kindle, which is amazing if you have a kindle or even have the kindle app on your phone. I borrowed it from the library and will be adding a physical copy to my own personal library once I return it.

No-Drama Discipline: The Whole Brain Way to Calm the Chaos and Nurture Your Child’s Developing Mind by Daniel J. Siegel: with summer break just around the corner and two preschool aged kids who don’t nap, I’m looking for all the resources about parenting these days. This book is practical and well researched. There is a cheat sheet at the end that is perfect for printing out and sticking on the fridge as a constant reminder of the solid principles found in this book.

With every new season, there is the opportunity to try new things and make a shift in life. Cheers to enjoying these long, warm days and all the lush sights, nature sounds, season fresh tastes, and all the summer sensations!

 

The Grass so little has to do –
A Sphere of simple Green –
With only Butterflies to brood
And Bees to entertain –
And stir all day to pretty Tunes
The Breezes fetch along –
And hold the Sunshine in its lap
And bow to everything –

(Emily Dickinson)