Meal Planning: Plan to Eat
A year ago I switched to a vegan diet and was shocked at the amount of meal planning and preparation required (I tend to procrastinate on most things in life). I recently found an online meal planner called Plan to Eat. Not a meal delivery service – a meal planner and recipe organizer. So, I reached out to the company to chat with Christopher McLaughlin of Plan to Eat, LLC – and found out that his wife just so happens to have IBS:
Rebecca: What was dinner/meal time like for your household before you started using a meal planning system?
Christopher: Life became complicated after my wife, Erin, was diagnosed with IBS 7 years ago. We’ve since been trying to figure out which foods she can eat, which foods she can’t, and which combinations of foods or stresses or environmental conditions have caused specific flare days. After 7 years, most of the time, the provocation is still a mystery. We also have 5 children – so that’s 7 people in our household. That’s a lot of people. And they all eat.
Thankfully our children are really good eaters, but we are still juggling one child who has a mild allergy to dairy, another who decided she doesn’t like ham, and another who doesn’t like mayonnaise. When their preferences are lumped on top of the complex spreadsheet of what my wife can and can’t eat, our meals together become very complicated.
The complications don’t end at home. The biggest surprises about life with IBS have been social:
- Eating at restaurants is impossible.
- Vacations are incredibly complicated (see point #1).
- Erin brings her own food (which doesn’t come across as being very social)
Rebecca: How has using a meal planner helped your wife manage her IBS?
Christopher: Our reality, whether we are eating at home or being social, is that we end up eating two separate meals. Yes, there are occasional special meals that our family can eat together, but the strict standards of Erin’s diet are too expensive for a family of 7 to eat consistently. So, we adapt and cope, mostly through meal planning. Without a meal plan our household would shut down. Here’s why:
With IBS, we can’t make last-minute decisions. Everything that Erin cooks for herself is involved and takes a lot of time. Her meal plan lets her know what foods need to be prepped for future meals. If she doesn’t prep, she doesn’t eat. If she doesn’t meal plan, she doesn’t prep.
Erin often says:
“The problem is when you’re hungry and you just want something to eat. You reach for something you’re not supposed to eat because it’s there and you don’t have anything else because you didn’t prepare it. Meal planning will prevent those moments of temptation by providing food that won’t make you sick.”
With IBS, Erin needs to eat top quality (and typically expensive) foods. We’re not independently wealthy and we can’t afford to waste anything. Our meal plan ensures that leftovers are put to good use and that nothing is wasted. While we can’t afford to feed a family of 7 with the types of specialty foods that she is eating, at least we can usually eat together because a meal planner allows us to to get two separate meals on the table at the same time.
Rebecca: Using a meal planner seems like a lot of work. Why should someone with IBS consider using one?
Christopher: Yes, meal planning is work but anyone who eats food is a meal planner! Whether planning at the last minute or while at the store, we eventually make a decision about what we will eat. What IBS has shown us is that if you make those decisions in advance (when you are equipped to make a good decision!), it’s easier to get a nourishing meal on the table when you need it.
We’ve found that the key to meal planning is to use tools that allow you to streamline your meal planning process by eliminating redundant tasks. A lot of people are still planning with pen and paper, so they are starting from scratch every time, which is not an efficient way to plan. A good planner will leverage work that you’ve done in the past so that you don’t have to do it again – making it faster and easier because you build off of what you have already done.
Enter to Win a Year of Plan to Eat! (CONTEST IS OVER)
If you’re interested in trying an online meal planner, head on over to PlanToEat.com and see how it works. Not only can you plan your meals monthly, you can clip online recipes with the PlanToEat browser extension. But the best part is that you can try it free for 30 days, and no payment information is required to do so. Even better, we’re teaming up with Christopher and Plan to Eat and giving away a one year subscription to the service!
How to Enter
To enter, please leave a comment below by clicking the blue speech bubble “Join the conversation. Members can add a comment to this story.”
Tell us why you would like to win the one year subscription to Plan to Eat’s online meal planner. All comments must be received by Monday, March 27, 2017 at 12:00 am ET.
One winner will be randomly selected on March 27, 2017 and will be notified via email. Winner has 48 hours to claim their prize before another winner will be selected, so be sure to check your spam box! Please be sure to read the Terms and Conditions prior to entering. Good luck!
SORRY THIS CONTEST IS NOW CLOSED!