Whenever I see a meal plan, my brain registers it as meal ideas. There are food combinations that I might enjoy, ones I'm not interested in, and ones where I would add or subtract elements to make them work. Actually following someone else's meal plan doesn't occur to me anymore. It worked for the other person because it was their own, just like my eating has to be my own. A meal plan doesn't know how hungry I am, or that I'm sick of oatmeal, or craving something hot and savory. My brain and stomach know. All I have to do is buy them some tasty groceries that I look forward to eating, and then I can decide what I want as I go. I tend to go through phases where I love a particular meal and eat it frequently until I get bored with it or fall in love with something else. I'll have several meals that I love and keep in the mix each week. Then new ones appear and old ones fade away as I find even tastier combinations. But at no point am I going to make a plan and stick to it, or eat anything I don't like, or eat anything unsatisfying. And forget having a whole bunch of recipes that I have to grocery shop for and prep. I can handle that maybe once a week, not four times a day. So my meals are mostly things I can make quickly with food I keep on hand. Spaghetti, tacos, pizza, sandwiches, macaroni, soup, beans, rice, stir fry, and frozen items I can reheat. I need to be able to walk into the kitchen, think about what sounds good, and be eating it in 10-20 minutes, under five if I have leftovers or feel lazy. If I have to mess up the whole kitchen and wait an hour, forget it.
Thank about food combinations that you find both easy and satisfying. Maybe you make some of it ahead of time, but you need to be able to change your mind and still have something good to eat quickly. For me, it kind of looks like, "Well, I was going to make tortilla pizzas but I'm too impatient for the oven to preheat, so I'll open a can of beans, roll them in a tortilla and stick it in the microwave instead." It's a meal, but it's phenomenally simple, and the fun/satisfaction part comes from the guacamole, tortilla chips, cheese, dessert etc. I try to never eat "clean." It's counterproductive because it's so unsatisfying. Satisfaction is the key to everything.
I like having fallback meals. These are meals you can put together quickly from ingredients you always keep on hand. They’re meal combos that don’t take much (or any) effort. Some may take time but are very easy. Others take no time at all. I rely on my freezer and cupboards over needing lots of fresh ingredients that I have to prep or that will rot if I don’t find a use for them right away. Fresh is great. I eat lots of fresh ingredients, but if it’s all you have, the meal situation is going to start getting sketchy when you haven’t had time to shop. That’s where fallback meals are really important.
Foods I always keep around:
Dry pasta and a jar of marinara sauce
Pizza crusts (or pitas, or flour tortillas), frozen veggies, canned olives, tomato sauce
Brown rice, frozen stir fry vegetables, soy sauce
Yummy bread, peanut butter, jelly
Canned refried beans, corn or flour tortillas, salsa, Wholy Guacamole
Bagged salad mix, bottled dressings
Cereal and milk
The pickles/onions/mayo/mustard necessary to turn anything into a salad (tuna, potatoes, chicken, chickpeas) on toast or crackers
Frozen veggie burgers and buns. Awesome with a pan of oven fries or roasted veggies
Waffles, butter, and maple syrup (or any topping like peanut butter, honey, banana, blueberries, jam)
Canned soup and a box of crackers.
This way I never come home tired and end up eating protein bars and TicTacs for dinner.
I would love to know what kind of foods and meal combinations you keep on hand for busy times. You know, the ones that are so simple there’s no real recipe involved but so good that you eat them regularly.