The lingering citrus flavor of Belizean ceviche had faded, and the last piece of red velvet wedding cake had been savored. While deciding where to put the recently-unwrapped waffle maker, a harsh reality began to sink in. I realized a bag of steamed vegetables for dinner, while perfect for a girl on a wedding diet, would not satisfy my husband, who still eats like the football player he once was. The carefree college meals of fro-yo and popcorn were long gone and housewifery was ahead of me.
I decided the best way to tackle this transition was with meal planning.
I have always enjoyed cooking and trying new recipes – I could flip through cookbooks for hours; however, this enjoyable hobby is now confined to a time frame bound by working hours and attempting to eat at a reasonable time. Making a plan not only provides peace of mind, but in doing so we are able to monitor our spending and our calorie intake – our two main priorities when shopping (I’m not so sure if the hubs cares as much about the latter as he does the former).
When I am feeling especially organized, I attempt to plan our meals for the entire week, but it usually works out that I plan for two days, maybe three, at a time. Sure, this may seem like an excuse to peruse around Pinterest or revisit the flagged pages so dearly constructed by sweet friends Ina Garten and Giada De Laurentiis, but hey — it’s a planning period! So on I go, pinning and dog-earing, pinning and dog-earing until I have decided on two nights worth of food. I try to find a happy medium between the hearty, meat-heavy meals that Robert enjoys, and light, health-conscious meals for myself. After I have found what I’m looking for, I grab a pen and two notecards – time to make the list.
First, I list the boring stuff – laundry detergent, toothpaste, trash bags, etc., followed by the ingredients found in each of my chosen recipes. After everything is scribbled on the first notecard, it is time for the second – the final draft, the hard copy, the be-all end-all. I organize my list from produce to ice-cream dairy, picturing exactly where each item can be found in the store. This way I can easily move from the right part of the store to the left, getting in and out of there as quickly as possible.
Like getting married or moving to a new town, it is important to find your groove when meal planning and grocery shopping. My first few trips to the grocery store as a Mrs. trying to create grown-up, well-rounded meals, I felt like I should grab the “Customer in Training” child’s cart – “make way for the novice shopper everyone, I have no clue what I’m doing.” One time in particular I was shopping for flank steak. I went on to get everything else on my list before returning to the meat case (this was the first time I broke my left to right rule) because I wanted to go when no one else was around. I wanted to take my time reading each label, familiarizing myself with what was there. Over time, and after many many trips to the grocery store, I have now become more comfortable and feel like I earned the right to use the grown-up cart.
After many meals being eaten at 10 pm or last minute trips to the Mexican restaurant, we are finally developing our routine. Now that the warmer weather has settled in, we have started grilling (almost every night). So unless it is a one dish meal, we will both venture to the fridge at the end of the workday – I pull out ingredients for a fun side dish and he pulls out the pork chops, grabs some tongs, and heads to the patio. Minutes later we have a healthy, summery, meat-focused and newlywed-approved meal.
I have been raised giving and receiving food as a token of love, and as an adult I have chosen to incorporate this into the planning process as well by thoughtfully choosing each meal. My grandmother’s pound cakes complete birthdays all over the county, and my mom’s Chipped Beef Dip always puts a smile on dad’s face. I have not found my specialty yet, but by fine-tuning the grocery shopping experience so that it is enjoyable rather than dreaded, I am able to put love into every meal I create, well beyond the honeymoon phase.