Last month I had a question about how my bullet journal made meal planning easier for me. I started to answer, but decided there was too much to say in a comment and that I should probably post about it, so I could be rambly and thorough and give the whole embarrassing picture.
I say embarrassing, because I just don’t really understand what’s so difficult about meal planning for me. But seriously, I would get so wound up and flabbergasted every time I tried to do it that I would try to move on to other tasks and fail utterly because I would forget how to do them. I’m not kidding. Once Jeremy interrupted me mid-meal-planning-attempt and asked me to cut his hair. It took me about three times as long as normal because I was so upset that I forgot how to cut hair. Congratulations to you if meal planning is your spirit animal and you’re sniggering right now at this pathetic confession of mine. I can’t explain it. All I know is that any attempt at planning our meals made me crazy and overwhelmed. It’s nuts, I know.
Part of the problem was a mental block at the schedule that meal planning enforced. At least, I felt like it enforced one. I felt like if I made a meal plan, I had to stick to it no matter what. Now, we’re not super spontaneous people (we have three little kids with early bedtimes, hello) but there were frequent occasions when someone would invite us over to dinner last minute, or Jeremy would call on his way home saying he was headed to such-and-such town for a craigslist run and did we want to go, or the day would be so crazy at home that dinner needed to be something easy and not-made-by-me, that it was impossible to plan a separate meal for every day for a month and expect every day to go that way.
I have this thing about schedules. If I schedule something, it has to happen. I get crabby if it doesn’t. Schedules are not good for me–I’m too much of a rule follower. I couldn’t get past the schedule nature of a meal plan–especially the ones that encompassed breakfast, lunch, elevenses, afternoon tea, dinner and supper for an entire month. Just the thought of that and how difficult it would be to adhere to it 100% makes me itchy all over.
So I didn’t do it at all. And that was a great solution!
(That was sarcasm, there.)
I first encountered bullet journaling via a friend’s gardening Pinterest board. There are tons and tons of resources about bullet journaling on Pinterest, but if you’re sensitive and easily overwhelmed, I highly suggest you do NOT search for it on Pinterest. Just watch the youtube video instead.
Put simply, a bullet journal is a no-frills planner and journal wrapped up together that you make yourself in the blank notebook of your choice. You make your own index, your own monthly overview with appointments and tasks, your own page numbers, lists, daily to-do’s, etc. and catalogue them all in the index for easy reference.
If you search on Pinterest, you will find all kinds of crazy bullet journaling guides that involve highlighters and colored pencils and washi tape, etc. I use my notebook and a pen or pencil, like in the video. It is very, very black and white, and very simple, and very straightforward, if not very pretty.
Now, what has made the bullet journal super useful for me is that everything is contained in one spot. Previously I had many notebooks and notepads and journals and planners and calendars spread all over
God’s Green Earth my house, and I would jot down notes and lists and to-do’s and appointments in their appropriate places (or inappropriate, in a lot of cases–like on envelopes that would then accidentally get thrown away). Of course, with the exception of my calendar-planner thingy that was attached to my billfold and therefore stayed in my purse, most of these lists and notepads and notebooks would get carried off by elves my children, or even myself, and misplaced.
This was particularly awful when it came to the miserable state of my meal planning. I would write out a grocery list, then lose it. Or manage to take it to the store, but then lose it on the way home. I never really thought this was too much of a problem until I started writing my grocery lists in my bullet journal. Then I realized I could brainstorm and write out a week’s worth of potential meals, then flip the page write my grocery list using my “potential meal list” as reference. Making a list of potential meals made the whole meal planning thing SO much more palatable for me. There was no “this meal on this day”–at least not yet.
Once I had my meal list, and then my grocery list and shopping done, I started writing out our meals each morning when I wrote my daily overview and to-do list. Looks like this:
It’s the first thing I put down after writing the date and day of the week. I flip back over to my list of potential meals and pick what sounds best to me that day. Sometimes I look ahead and pick something for the next day, too, if it’s something that’ll have to be thawed or whatnot, but usually I just go day-to-day. And somehow, the daily nature of it makes it way more flexible and easy to wrap my head around.
And for the record, we eat oatmeal EVERY DAY for breakfast, but I always write it down anyway, because…you know.
After a couple of weeks, I found I could reference the former meal lists and move the meals we didn’t use up to the new week’s list. It’s like keeping a running tally of what’s available in our pantry and fridge.
It may sound absurdly simple, but what it’s ended up doing is taking something that used to cause me great deals of anxiety and agony and made it so easy that I do it in about fifteen minutes the night before I plan to go grocery shopping, and then for literally two minutes in the morning–about how long it takes for me to ask myself, “hmmm, what sounds good today?”
I didn’t plan on using the journal for this, and it’s not the only thing I use it for, but by far I have been blown away the most by how simple it’s made keeping track of food in the house and staying on top of meals.
Does meal planning come easy for you? Anyone else out there break into a sweat at the thought of having to plan every day out ahead of time?