Making Meal Planning Work


I’m still battling with sugar. Some days I have a little less. I’m buying less chocolate, but it’s Easter, so there’s just a lot more around anyway.

What I have done though, is create a meal plan. 28 days worth of dinners. It’s taken the best part of a week to pull it together, but I already feel like this time it might actually work.

Of course, I have tried meal planning in the past, but after doing it for a week or two it would get harder and harder to think of what to eat and I’d buy more and more ready-food until I eventually gave up.

And we seemed to always be eating the same things for dinner, which I hated. Meal planning took up time that I didn’t have and seemed to stop me from trying new recipes.

This time I’ve gone with a different approach. I decided I could eat the same meal once a month, so why didn’t I just plan 4 weeks worth and then repeat it?

I made a list of all the meals we eat that I really like, then I supplemented that with some new recipes to try and some other very basic ready-food ones that I plan to upgrade as we go on.

At the beginning of the week I started cooking. This first month will be a test of the plan – I need to cook my way through it and make sure every meal is:

  1. Not too fiddly
  2. Really nice to eat
  3. Something the children like (or can hopefully learn to like)

I’m also using up things in the fridge and cupboard, so I’m skipping about a bit to start.

So far, we’ve just had our second week of the year where we’ve only had one takeaway, and our first week of the year where every other dinner has been cooked from scratch.

I’m feeling really positive and like I might actually be able to stay with the plan. It will remove SO much meal stress for me, and we’ll be eating better and saving money too.

Separating Meal Prep and Cooking

I did something different today. I prepped all the food for dinner while the baby slept at lunch. It turns out that food prep is not too much of a chore. And cooking dinner is not too much of a chore either (it took a record 12 minutes to get chinese chicken and rice on the table tonight). 

Together they ARE a chore. The prep, the cooking, the cleaning up… all just so you can spend 5 minutes getting something in your stomach. Man. 

But separate? I felt so organised and the cooking part was so clean and quick and easy. Maybe I have found the solution: prep early in the day. 

It also takes any decision making away at dinner time. No getting a takeaway because all the food is ready to go.

I haven’t had chocolate for two days. I had three cookies today, but my sugar cravings are quite noticeable so I think they aren’t spiking my blood sugar like shop chocolate. Coconut sugar is apparently lower GI. Two days down, yay!

Maybe I Need More Practice

Not to be deterred, next on the list were Pistachio and Date Cookies, from Madeleine Shaw’s Get The Glow.

These were so promising. Hard work to mix, but I followed the recipe to the letter.

Things started to go wrong when the instructions said make 12 walnut sized balls. I had enough mix for double that, so I went with 16 largish balls. They were to be cooked for 8 minutes at Gas Mark 3 (really? Can anything cook at that temp in eight minutes?).

Mine, predictably, were still almost liquid after 8 minutes, so I left them in for another 10. They spread out into each other and were nothing like the picture (mine top, Madeleine’s bottom).

Once cooled they did actually turn into cookies, albiet paler and smoother.

The taste test

Oh my. These are great. Really great. I heart coconut sugar, hahaha! But they are VERY sweet, even for a hardened sugar addict like me.

To compare, two of these cookies (if you make 16), will give you 30g sugar. Ouch. That’s more than the 27g I get in a Yorkie. So they are not exactly healthy, but I suppose they are better than a Yorkie in terms of ingredients.

Today I did have a Yorkie as well (I had an awful sugar withdrawal headache by 1pm so I bought one because I can’t handle the three children with a banging head), so my sugar total today is around 42g (one yorkie, one cookie and a slice of gluten free cake with no sugar that I’m not counting).

I’ll aim for less tomorrow. Sigh.

This Is What Happens When I Cook


This is a gluten-free, sugar free cake I made this morning.

I can tell you – it tasted about as bland and yuk as it looks. This happens SO many times when I cook. Whatever I make just doesn’t turn out the way it’s supposed to (the moist, brown cake in my head is a long way from what I actually got).

Sigh.

BUT I will not give up. I’m going to go and pick up some coconut sugar this afternoon and try another recipe for healthier biscuits. I’m following this recipe TO THE LETTER.

And guess what? I had a slice of the bland cake this morning with a cup of tea and didn’t have any chocolate. And I haven’t dropped dead yet from withdrawals.

Feeling good.

Where Do I Start?

I’ve got the supplements. My diet is next. My really crappy diet.

Last month I spent £45 on sweets, treats and alcohol (I tracked my spending for the first time in ages). In the first three months of this year, we had 25 takeaways. That’s almost one every three days.

Horrible.

I am shocked by my own habits.

So I know that thinking about it, writing about it, reading about it – none of theses things will help. What I actually have to do is DO SOMETHING. I have to DO SOMETHING and get started on this journey for real, not just take some extra vitamins and think that I’m doing something.

The biggest problems are:

  1. Takeaway food
  2. Sugar
  3. Alcohol

Out of those, alcohol is probably a lesser issue. I drink a glass, or just under, most nights (ok, every night). But very rarely do I have more. I have a very moderate drinking problem – too much gives me a headache and stops me sleeping, so it’s kind of self-limiting.

The other two problems are big problems.

I love takeaway food as much as I hate having to cook. And sugar – my sugar addiction is completely out of control, and I know it.

Most days I consume at least two bars of chocolate, plus any number of other sweet treats and bits and bobs. Sometimes I reckon I get 1,000+ calories from chocolate and hot chocolate before lunch, and then I eat hardly anything until dinner. It’s a dreadful, dreadful way to eat and it’s something that has crept up on me gradually.

And do you know what happens next week? Easter.

All the more chocolate for me. I am looking forward to it and hating the idea all at the same time.

So I think the first thing I need to tackle is the sugar. Sugar ages you, destroys your body and causes inflammation. It’s terrible for arthritis.

My sugar addiction kicks in soon after breakfast. With my first cup of tea I like to have a chocolate bar. I’ll have a second bar straight after.

I can’t just stop this habit, there is no way I’d make it through a day. So, I have to replace it with something.

But then there is the problem of Easter. What am I going to do? Do I wait until Easter has gone and then start? Do I start now and ignore Easter? Or do I start now, eat chocolate at Easter and then attempt to pick myself up off the floor and get back on the wagon?

It all just seems so overwhelming, I don’t even want to think about it 😦

But I must. Because I am killing myself eating this way.

There is always going to be something – Easter, Christmas, birthdays, etc. There will always be chocolate on offer. So I think I need to just take it in my stride. It shouldn’t stop me from starting right now with healthier habits.

So I’m going to set out some rules.

  1. No sweet stuff after midday. This one is not too difficult, because I only really crave it in the mornings anyway. I’ve never been one for big desserts at the end of the day, but I have noticed my sweet habit creeping further and further into the day, so I need to stop this one right now. No more treats (that’s cake, sweets, chocolates or sweet drinks), in the afternoons, while I’m cooking the kids tea, or in the evenings after dinner.
  2. I have to make healthy versions of sweet treats if I want to eat them. I absolutely HAVE to get over my hatred of cooking, so I might as well get this started right now. I’m going to gather together some recipes to try and start making them. Then I can eat my own sweet treats instead of shop bought crappy chocolate.
  3. Maximum of one Costa trip each week. Costa hot chocolates have gotten ridiculous. I remember when I was younger I didn’t drink hot chocolate very often because I found it too cloying and sugary. Now I’d drink it daily if I could. And my family are the same – we’re always in there buying the stuff. It’s a shit example for my children, and it’s shit for my health, so we need to cut this right down.
  4. Dealing with Easter: save any chocolate I get until Easter Sunday. In the morning have a chocolate feast. Once I feel sick, chuck the rest in the bin to get it out of the house.

There, I feel better already.

Time for me to go and look up some goto treat recipes, because I’m going to be needing them.

Untangling My Resistance To Healthy Eating

I’ve always been interested in nutrition and health. And yet I’ve always struggled to eat a healthy diet. I’m not overweight (I must have a zippy metabolism because to be honest I eat crap 90% of the time), but my health is frankly dreadful.

So why don’t I just eat better? It’s so simple in theory:

Buy healthy food. Eat healthy food. Look and feel amazing.

But real life is nothing like that. And I honestly cannot fathom why this is.

I’m doing some serious soul-searching right now, trying to find the root causes for exactly why eating food that makes me feel amazing is such a struggle. Here are the six reasons I’ve come up with:

1 – A crappy kitchen

We bought the house 10 years ago and in that time we have updated every room except the kitchen. This is partly cost – kitchens cost a bloody fortune – but that can’t be the whole reason because we have spent money on other parts of the house. It’s partly because ripping out the kitchen means TOTAL chaos at home while your food area is basically unusable (with three kids in the house). However, given how much I loathe cooking and how many takeaways we currently eat, that’s hardly an excuse either.

However, it is what it is. We have a crappy kitchen (the ancient and decrepit floor covering doesn’t come all the way to the cupboards, so we have a concrete edge around the room, the grout has cracked and separated from the surface behind the sink and is mouldy, the lighting is awful, and the work surface is some kind of beige marbled thing that looks identical whether covered in three weeks worth of crumbs or pristine clean – I hate it).

It’s the top reason though. The best kitchen we ever had was in a rented house and I cooked more there than I have done anywhere else.

2 – A dirty kitchen

This is shameful to admit, but since this my super-secret blog I can just let it all spill out. I hate cleaning, and the kitchen is no exception. Even when I blitz the whole thing, within a couple of days the dirt starts to build back up. I hate it. I hate the maintenance of it, the endlessness of it, the dirtiness of it. I’m quite OCD about dirt and mess, so you’d think it would be spotless, but I just get all the anxiety of the problem and I can’t bear to do anything about it.

And worst of all? It’s such a crappy kitchen that when I clean it, it doesn’t really look much better anyway 😦

3 – Not knowing what to cook

This is partly a planning problem and partly a skills problem. I just don’t know what to make half the time. I am always hunting around trying to work out what the hell to feed everyone, and with everything else I have to do this tends to take last place on the list, which means we end up eating junk/processed food/takeaways. Willpower is used up in little decisions all day long and by the time the end of the day comes around, I will pay anyone to sort dinner out for me because I am finished and have nothing left.

Planning is the obvious solution, but the thing is, I DON’T EVEN KNOW WHAT TO PLAN, so it just moves the whole agony forward in the day/week and I still don’t have any answers.

4 – Not enjoying my own cooking

I am not a great cook (most probably because I really don’t like doing it, and we’re never very good at things we don’t like doing), so I find that I don’t really enjoy eating a lot of what I make.

It sucks to spend forty minutes in a kitchen you don’t like, doing something you don’t like, just so you can eat something you don’t really like.

5 – Faffing

Healthy food is more of a faff. People say that a piece of fruit is just as easy as a chocolate bar, but it clearly isn’t. An apple for example – eating an apple sprays apple around your face and makes your hand sticky. Cutting up an apple makes a mess. Don’t get me started on an orange. Or a pineapple. Berries have to be washed (mess, mess), and then they’re all watery unless you dry them with a tea towel or something.

Do I sound like a middle-aged moron yet? Well, the thing is I have three children who demand ‘Mummy’ ALL DAY LONG. There is barely a 30 second break between each instance of being required for something, whether it’s a cuddle, a bum-wipe, help with scissors, a drink, questions about boa constrictors, or examination of a teensy graze that is making someone cry. Not to mention the fighting and snatching and hitting that I have to referee, or the watching to make sure they aren’t jumping on the furniture (again), or playing tag on the stairs.

If you think that cutting up an apple is just as easy as eating a chocolate bar, come and babysit my three for a day, and I’ll leave both options in the fridge for you. See which one you choose, huh?

6 – Deprivation

This one is probably less than the others, but it’s still a factor, especially when I have a bad day. Generally I like healthy food – I really enjoy eating it. I like all vegetables and there isn’t much that I won’t eat. But I do so love treats. And sometimes I honestly feel as though the only sweetness I get in my day is from chocolate. Sad, eh?

So there we have it. I think this list pretty much encompasses all the reasons why I choose crap food over good food.

The next question of course, is what am I going to do about it?