Elaborate Plans and Stumbling Blocks

When I started this cooking for myself plan, I posted about it on social media and announced it to friends and work colleagues. The idea was that if everyone knew I might feel accountable to them and actually stick to the plan. I think that’s helped? Anyway, a lot of my friends have a had advice, and some of it I think is misplaced. One of the most frequent things people have talked about is making a plan for all the food I’m going to cook that week (and perhaps prepping for it on the weekend). Here’s why I think that’s a trap.

I’ve been reading about having a planned menu for the week for years. I’ve been intending to do it for years. And it’s really really intimidating. I’m not sure why? Perhaps it’s because I have to make a lot of decisions all at once when I don’t even know what I’ll feel like eating in the future, and it also feels like I should go away and research all the perfect recipes and work out all the quantities and basically spend hours and hours getting it all perfect. Which isn’t going to happen, because note I’ve gone from “I can make a nice risotto tonight with this spare rice I have and these vegetables and seasonings” to “I must now spend many hours on an intimidating task I’ve never done before and that I’m not sure where to start”.

I live a very short stroll from a supermarket. If I need an ingredient it’s trivial for me to pick it up on the way home. So it’s not like I need to develop a plan in order to shop. In fact, even if you’re stuck with a weekly shopping trip, I still don’t recommend starting with an elaborate plan because it’s still going to be really intimidating and make you procrastinate. You probably know roughly what stuff you need to make a lot of the things you can cook. Buy those. Focus on stuff that’s simple and quick to prepare. If you mess up and end up with too much and something goes off, cut yourself some slack. You’ll get better at it. You can throw most things in a stew anyway, if you get stuck. Just skip the massive planning exercise that will probably just lead to procrastination and failure. In the morning think about what you’re going to cook that night using stuff you already have.

It’s not that I don’t think having a weekly menu plan is a bad idea. I think the concept of prepping a lot of things on Sunday is a great idea and one I will eventually implement. Likewise the big Sunday cookup that you freeze portions of. Also I’m sure if you have a family with small hungry children it might be absolutely necessary because you don’t have the same sort of faffing around time that I have and probably don’t want to drag two hungry children through a supermarket every day on the way home from work/school. So I get it. It’s even a goal of mine to one day reach that level of planning. But for now it’s just way too intimidating and has been acting as a stumbling block for me for years.

Takeaway Lesson: If elaborate menu plans are something you find intimidating (and if you struggle with cooking regularly I suspect you do) then give them a miss. Just get it done however you can, and leave the several hour planning and cooking marathons for a later date when you’ve developed stronger habits.


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