I’m a newlywed. In fact, our one year anniversary is coming up in the next couple of weeks. D and I dated for four years before we got married and he spent the majority of his time at school, work or at my apartment. There were definite adjustments when he moved in with me post-wedding, but he knew what he was getting himself into before we got hitched. 😉 For one, I don’t buy into traditional gender roles. I don’t believe in a subservient role in marriage; I believe in a partnership. And I am so lucky to be married to someone who is happy to support a marriage based on equality.
I did not know how to cook when we got married. Wait, let me explain. I physically understood how to cook. I can follow a recipe and I’ve been baking with my family my whole life. I guess I should say “I did not know how to meal plan when we got married”. And I didn’t. The idea of creating meals for seven days a week on a newlywed-still-in-school-while-working budget absolutely overwhelmed and terrified me. In fact, I wonder how all of my fellow married couples handle this. Do they all just know inherently how to meal plan? Do they take a class? Do they just compile delicious Pinterest recipes and make them each night? We need some married friends our age so I can sleuth their choices!
Anyway, meal planning. While perusing one of my favorite blogs, IHeart Organizing, I read a sponsor post that included a place to make five dinners in one hour per week. Let me be very clear, I HATE subscription activities like making my bed or doing laundry. It will just have to be done the next day and I struggle to find the motivation to do these things. I have to fight with myself to do things that other people consider normal, everyday behaviors. The idea of cooking for an hour every night of the week when I have a small business to run, two jobs and a hubby who works two jobs and goes to school full time? No thanks. There are only twenty-four hours every day and I spend at least six sleeping and at least eleven working at jobs or on my business. Then there are pets, cleaning, laundry, family time and especially D time. Spending an hour on something that will be gone in minutes? This also goes along the line of my wedding mindset. I did NOT want to spend every minute of every day for six months obsessing about an eight hour event. If you ask me, that has a ridiculous opportunity cost.
So I was really curious about this one hour to make your food for the week scenario. I clicked over to the site and signed up later that day. I think the cost is $5 a month, but trust me, it was completely worth it to me. We used to eat out a lot or buy a lot of mismatched groceries with no complete meals and then end up going back out to purchase more on different nights. Paying five bucks more than makes up for the feeling of overwhelmed overspending budget panic I was experiencing. The site is simple: you sign up, pay and you receive your menu for the month immediately. Every month you get an e-mail with your entire cooking plan.
Every week of the month has two pages, one with the menu and cooking directions and the other with the grocery list. The list is separated by grocery section so it’s simple to pick everything up. There are five meals per week and at least one of them is freezable so that you can use it another time if you decide not to eat it for some reason. Each week our average food cost is about $75 for two people and we always have a lot of leftover food.
On the menu/directions page, it will tell you what you’ll need to get out to cook for the week. I always just set up my laptop with a couple of episodes of the X-Files or Parks & Recreation and let it play while I prepped. You prep your meals, fridge them and then pull them out and crock-pot them or stick them in the oven each day. One meal, simply enough, was a casserole with chicken, broccoli, cheese, milk, water and cornstarch. It’s basically just mixing and layering said ingredients and it is so easy and yummy. This might all be second nature to most people, or it might seem like an overly specific explanation of cooking. Which I can accept. But just in case there are any other anxious newlywed people who don’t have a clue about meal planning or cooking, here. I’m with you. I was freaked.
The best part about all of this, the absolute best part, is that it gave me confidence to cook. I did this, pretty religiously for about two months. In the third month, I started noticing things that would create simple inexpensive meals on my own. After making twenty soups, I knew what spices I could add to make them taste a certain way. I don’t feel so lost or overwhelmed about making foods that actually constitute a meal instead of a conglomeration of random foods.