Monday, March 6, 2017

Four Steps to Meal Planning

One of the wonderfully comforting aspects of Waldorf in the home is the rhythm and repetition of the activities of the days, weeks, seasons and year. There's a predictable flow to life.

The children know what to anticipate.

When children know what is coming, they feel secure. Children are able to relax and lean into the security and comfort of having a predictable flow to their lives. Going outside to play each morning after breakfast while mom hangs the clothes on the line, or climbing into bed at the end of the day to hear a story before lights go out, are two examples of a predictable sequence of events, also known as routine, that occur at the start of the day and the end of the day. 

These routines form a rhythm when they are done with a conscious awareness of how they flow energetically. The active play out of doors in the morning is just what a young child needs, and is deeply nourishing to the child, while the quieting down in the evening with a story before bed helps a child let go of the day.

This is one way Waldorf education or a Waldorf home life provides resilience to children in a rapidly changing and sometimes unsettling world - with the predictability of daily, weekly, seasonal, even yearly rhythms, that provide security to the children, in knowing that their world is reliable and consistent. They can depend on it and look forward to familiar events.

Children thrive on rhythm and repetition, on knowing what is to come and then doing it over and over again, whether it is singing a song, chanting a rhyme, repeating a refrain from a story,  acting out the same scenario again and again in play, or  hearing the same story over and over again. 

In the Waldorf kindergarten, this rhythm and repetition manifests in having the same predictable foods, the grains, on the same days of the week, week after week, over and over again. Young children thrive on a regular and predictable life. They need the repetition in their lives. It gives them a sense of security and well being.

Let's begin with the why. Why plan meals? 
Meal plans are a helpful way to anticipate what is coming in the week ahead. They help you plan meals ahead of time. Planning ahead gives you time to gather the ingredients you'll need and know what you're going to have for dinner each night of the week. There's no need to think about it

Of course you can always change your mind and your plan, and serve whatever you like any night of the week. It's yours! The purpose of the meal plan is to help you make your week more predictable, and make less work on a daily basis to put dinner on the table.

1. Begin with what you like to eat. Check in with the members of your family. Ask them each to name their favorite dinner. Ask each person to note for three or four favorite dishes that you prepare for dinner. Include your own preferences. Jot them down in a list.

2. Check your inventory. Look at what you have on hand: in the fridge, pantry and freezer. Look at the list of your family's favorite meals. What can you make with what you have? What do you want to make? Do you have the ingredients to make the meals on the list? What's easy to pick up without making a special trip? What's in season?


3. Take out your writing utensils and look at the week ahead. Are you all home for dinner every night? Do you have a regular night out? A pizza night or Chinese food night? Note them. Keep it simple. Sketch out a plan for the week. Don't get hung up on making it beautiful or permanent because your weeks will change, your tastes will change, what you feel like cooking will change and the seasonal foods will change. Just plan for this week. Baby steps. I use an envelope or piece of paper from the recycling bin, like this:
If you're serious about meal planning, you might like to keep a diary of your meal plans. That can come later. If you're new to meal planning, just start.

4. Note and shop for any ingredients you may need for all your meals for the week. Stick to one stop if that's possible. I note the ingredients I need to pick up in a different color, in this case red. It makes it easy to see when I go to the store. Because the meal plan is on the back of a used envelope, I don’t worry about preserving it, I just tuck it in my handbag or jacket pocket.


Now you're ready. Each morning, upon rising review your dinner plan in your mind. What needs prepping? At what time do you need to begin to have the meal on the table by a time that works for you and can be consistent?

Next step will be to consider a repetitive weekly thread to your meals, such as Friday Pizza night, Beans and Rice night, Curry night, Stir Fry night, whatever you like to prepare and eat night. But that's the next step. For this week work on a plan with what you have, what your family likes and what's easy to gather and use.

Best wishes to you if you're new to meal planning!

If you have a tried and true meal plan you'd like to share please leave it, along with any other comments below!

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