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I make meal plans in advance now, which is something I picked up from my sponsee and realized would help me too. She does it in OA because, like, knowing what you're going to eat helps you not overeat, and I figured last year that it would help me not undereat and it would help me to know what I was going to spend on food. (I assume they do it in stuff like ABA too.)

It is so awesome. Like, when I'm not doing this, even when I know more or less what I want to buy, I tend to go to the grocery store and buy a bunch of extra things that just look good, that I think I will want to eat. When I'm making a meal plan, I start doing that and then I realize... when am I going to eat this? I already have enough food here for two weeks' worth of meals! There's no room for $10 worth of fake sausage patties! If I really want it, sometimes I switch out what I am going to make. Or make a note to put it in the next two weeks' meal plan.

It is SO awesome. At first, I was pretty much just guessing what things would cost, trying to overestimate if I wasn't sure, so that I wouldn't get to the store and find out that my nice $100 list cost $200 or something. But now I have a pretty good idea of what everything I like (or that I eyeball in longing) costs, so I can make really good guesses about how much my food will cost for two weeks. And you know, I still overguess and get to buy extra ingredients or the extra-good kind of the ingredients as I go, and end up with more food than I needed, so I have leftovers, so I have a few extra days before I have to buy food. But that's fine. But guess what?

A few months ago I went back to doing this. And I only had enough money right that second to buy one week's worth of food instead of two. And the universe had been heavily hinting in the past that it would be great if I could do the food shopping once a week instead of planning for two weeks out. It would make it so much easier than trying to guess what I would want to eat in two weeks or figure out how to pattern the meals so I don't get tired of them. (Which is a sad thing to worry about because I really don't get tired of them too quickly, and in reality I can switch them around if I want to anyway.) So this time, I just planned my meals for one week, and it was so fast! AND... it ONLY COST ME $21.29!

I had been allowing myself $75 for two weeks, and I had been planning to increase it to $100 once I got a full-time job. Because I've been trying to make fancier food for breakfast ('cause normally I avoid breakfasts) and that costs more than just making a shitload of muffins, and also because I need to start figuring afternoon snacks into the plan because I KNOW I need to eat about every 3 hours but I don't plan for it. But this one-week food plan has grilled cheese sandwiches on cheesy garlicky bread, and meyer lemon risotto with barley, and garlicky home fries with eggs, and then organic tangerines and also seaweed (cooked like greens) and also whole milk yogurt with blueberries for a snack. Some of that is food I already have, but it always is.

So that is awesome! I will now show you how I do it!

First I think of things I want to eat. It is amazing to me that I can eat anything I want! Like, I had already made a note to myself that I wanted to try that risotto recipe, and that I wanted more of the sammiches. And that I wanted to get yogurt for the blueberries I have. And I had a ton of home fry fixings left over, so I just made a shitload of those and decided to get eggs to have with them.

Then I make a note of how many meals I think each of those things will make:
Grilled cheese 6
Sauteed seaweed (leftovers) 6
Meyer lemon risotto 6
Yogurt w/blueberries 4
Homefries w/egg 6

And then I separate out the breakfasts because I see breakfast food as different, or because I want it to be different. So in one week, I need 7 breakfasts. I have 6 servings of home fries for it, and I know that there will be leftover eggs and suspect that the home fries will last more than 6 servings, so that's okay.

Then I need 7 lunches and 7 dinners = 14 non-breakfast meals. I have 6 sammiches there - the seaweed is a side so I don't count it - and 6 servings of risotto - and I suspect, again, that I will have more than I need in reality. If not, I can always buy another something for dinner. In fact, I was going to buy a treat of those weird chicken taquito kind of things that Trader Joe's has now that are reallllly good; maybe I will get them anyway and make it a whopping $24.29.

And snacks, which I am just learning to include in this: I don't ALWAYS have a snack, and I have a lot of tangerines already on hand and some seaweed for snacking on, so I think that 4 servings of yogurt and the easily 4 servings of tangerines on hand and the 2 or 3 servings of seaweed will be more than enough.

If I don't have enough meals with what I have listed, I grab some cookbooks (or websites) and get some ideas. When I'm done, or as I'm going, I make a list of the ingredients I need that I don't have on hand, and about how much I think they will cost. Every so often, I stop and add it up and adjust what I'm making if necessary to fit into the amount I want to spend on food. When first starting out, it is good to just pay attention to what you're spending on food and see if that amount works for you or if there's something you need to change - like if you're spending a ton but you are still eating out a lot and not taking that into consideration. Over time, I decide whether the amount is working for me or if I need to raise or lower it.

Then, often, I write out a meal plan. I don't always pay attention to it, but when I do it helps me make sure that I use everything. (Last time, I ignored it completely and ended up not using a bunch of things, and then I was all, "artichokes???" In fact, I was going to use artichokes this time too. D'oh! Maybe I'll get a couple instead of the taquitos. Or I could do it as well as, since my budget for food for a week was $37.50.) Also, more importantly, it lets me know when to make food so that I always have something prepared at a meal time. And it means that I can always have at least one thing I know I can eat at a given meal, because not having anything that I know I can eat and not knowing what to eat is a big cause of undereating for me. I end up being all, "I am too hungry to think and I have nothing to make and nothing is ready aaaaaa!"

So it might look like this:

f 2/16   home fries                  pasta primavera                               grilled cheese and seaweed
s 2/17   home fries, egg, toast      grilled cheese & seaweed       yogurt         risotto, artichoke
s 2/18   home fries, egg             grilled cheese sandwich & artichoke       yogurt       risotto & seaweed
m 2/19   home fries, egg             meyer lemon risotto & seaweed   tangerines    grilled cheese & miso soup             
t 2/20   home fries, egg             grilled cheese & seaweed         yogurt       meyer lemon risotto
w 2/21   home fries, egg             grilled cheese & tangerine       yogurt       meyer lemon risotto
t 2/22   home fries, egg             grilled cheese & risotto       tangerines     seaweed and risotto
f 2/23   home fries, egg             taquitos & tangerine       crunchy seaweed    taquitos and miso soup

And probably not all those breakfasts will be the same. Like, maybe some will be two eggs or an omelette by itself. Also, some of the servings are smaller in my mind - like, "grilled cheese & risotto" will be a small grilled cheese and a little bit of risotto to round it out. And you can see me planning for things sort of - I added "toast" to saturday's breakfast cause I will then go meet with one of my sponsees at Bittersweet Cafe and I don't want to waste my limited money on chocolate this week - I want to be full enough that I won't be all, "Hmm, I could use some hot chocolate...."

Now you try it!

1. What do I want to eat for the next ______?
2. How many meals will that make?
2a. What else can I make? Is that enough meals yet?
3. What ingredients do I need to make these things?
4. About how much will those ingredients cost? (adjust as desired, without tripping out or sacrificing any of your needs)
5. When do I want to eat each of these things?

Regularly creating a meal plan helps me stick to my spending plan, save money, and eat really awesome things. It gives me a structure within which I can work to explore cooking and nutrition. I can look at it and think "wow, I am avoiding vegetables lately," or "let's see what happens if I only eat foods that are green!" Nowadays I do work full-time and I have raised my grocery money to a whopping $40 a week, and am in the process of creating a foodblog by that name that will offer weekly sets of recipes that cost US$40 or less to make.

The best thing about it is that when I actually follow the meal plan, I generally don't undereat. I don't have the opportunity to put off eating because I don't know what to make, and then get too hungry to think. I can notice when I'm hungry and go get the food that I have already made. I sometimes put off the grocery shopping or cooking parts of it for too long, but it quickly becomes obvious that that leads to binge-spending on restaurant food as well as dangerously low blood sugar in between. With a meal plan and the willingness to take care of my needs and work with it, I get to have great food and cooking skills as well, often, as extra treats and extra cash. It's a great deal.

A clinical transcript from the new reality television program:
"TV Rehab — Your Favorite Small-Screen Stars Embark on a Program of Recovery."

JOLEEN

Now that we've established and met some of your other treatment goals, it's time to discuss things that will be helpful to you when you leave Betty Ford." You'll find that planning ahead is one of the best ways one can relieve the stress of daily life. Remember, life after treatment is about making healthy choices. So what better way to talk about choices and health than meal planning! My name is Joleen, and I'm a registered dietician. Today we're going to talk about creating a meal plan that is based on a healthy, complete diet. The first thing we'll talk about is where we go shopping for food. Now who'd like to start?

"GRANNY" from "The Beverly Hillbillies"

Shopping? Y'all gotta be pullin' my leg. All's I shop fer is hominy, coffee, and ..."

JOLEEN

(Interrupts) Well, Granny, how can you expect to prepare healthy meals for your family if you don't shop once in awhile?

GRANNY

Varmints.

JOLEEN

Excuse me?

GRANNY

Varmints. Got all kinds o' tasty little critters runnin 'round the back of the property. I jus' get my traps out and ketch 'em nice an' fresh-like; then I skins 'em an fires up the Bar-B-Cue an...

JOLEEN

(Gags.) Ah, I see. So Granny's pointed out a good source of protein. (Gags, retches.) Hmm. Maybe we should talk to Jane about how she prepares meals for the family.

"JANE" from "The Jetsons"

Well, George likes just about everything I make for him. If I make something he really doesn't care for, I just press another button on the electro-matic food preparator and get him something else.

JOLEEN

But shopping. What about shopping?

JANE

What about shopping? I shop for clothes; but, er... Oh, I see, food shopping. That's a thing that became passé in the early 21st century.

JOLEEN

Alright; let's move on. Norman, would you care to tell us what your plans are for preparing healthy meals for yourself?

"NORM" FROM 'Cheers'

You gotta help me with this one. They told me to stay away from bars. So where am I gonna pick up those little bags of chips and peanuts I eat?

JOLEEN

Well, chips are a healthy snack. Peanuts are a good source of healthy protein. But you'll have to think about buying things like milk, bread...

NORM

Oh, I got that all set. I don't need milk 'cause I won't be thirsty. And bread; why, don't you know that they call beer the "liquid bread of Germany?"

JOLEEN

(Frustratedly sighs and writes something in a notebook) Norm, now don't you know that you won't be having beer?

NORM

Yeah, I know. One day at a time. But I can always have a couple tomorrow...

JOLEEN

Let's move on. Mr. Spock, what do Vulcans keep in their cupboards, if you will?

"MR. SPOCK" FROM 'Star Trek'

I refuse to participate in this intercourse. I possess knowledge far more advanced than any human life-form and will not humble myself to the degree that I'm being asked. The mere fact that these humanoids need be instructed on self-care to the degree of finding life-sustaining nutrients proves the fact that my intellect surpasses theirs exponentially.

JOLEEN

Where was your superior intellect when police stopped your Corvette because you were weaving all over Santa Monica Boulevard doing about 90 miles per hour, never mind that your blood alcohol level was 0.21, Mr. Spock?

SPOCK

I refuse to answer that question on the grounds that the answer may tend to incriminate me.

JOLEEN

Lucy, why don't you tell us - will you be using a list to remind you? Or will you just go to market and create your meal plan around what's on sale?

"LUCY RICARDO" FROM "I Love Lucy"

Oh, I'll just have Ethel help me. Ethel helps me do everything. And she keeps me company when Ricky's out at night leading the band. (Pauses - tears well up in her eyes) Awwwwwwwh! They wouldn't let me say this on television in the 1950s but I'm gonna say it now. Ricky's a fucking two-timing, cheating bastard. And he beats me. NOW YA WANNA KNOW WHY I DRINK GIN MORNING, NOON AND NIGHT, IT'S 'CAUSE OF THAT FUCKING SLIMY PUERTO RICAN!

JOLEEN

Lucy, now calm down. That's an issue for group therapy. This is a nutrition class. And Ricky's from Cuba, not Puerto Rico.

LUCY

(Sobs quietly to herself, mumbling obscenities punctuated with phrases like "jive-ass punk," "Spic," "Greaseball," and "Perez Prado wanna-be.")

JOLEEN

Would someone get Lucy a tissue? There, there, dear. It's gonna be okay. Remember, you can't change Ricky, you can just change yourself. Now then, Mr. McMahon, why don't you tell us what your nutritional plan will include.

ED McMAHON FROM "The Tonight Show with Johnny Carson"

I hear vegetables are a good source of nutrition. So I'll start putting olives in my martinis from now on. But really, folks, talking about vegetables, I'd look at the poor farmers and I used to think that there wasn't any money in vegetables. Well Claus Von Bulow changed my mind about that! HA HA HA HA HA.

JOLEEN

(Now is becoming increasingly agitated. Her once patient demeanor is crumbling.) Ed, ED! What do you plan to eat when you get out of here!

ED McMAHON

Zha-Zha Gabor's pussy! HA HA HA HA!

NORM

Oh, that's funny. That's really, really funny!

"KRAMER" FROM 'Seinfeld'

(To NORM.) I thought that was wacky.

JOLEEN

Mr. Kramer, why don't you tell us some of the things you'll put on your grocery list so you get enough of the five food groups?

KRAMER

Let's see. I don't like supermarkets. I'll just order pizza delivery and tell 'em I want five different toppings. I hear Domino's has a deal.

JOLEEN

(Regains her composure.) Beside pizza. What else do you think you'll have in your pantry?

KRAMER

I don't know about pantry. Let's talk bedroom. I betcha I can nail Zha-Zha before McMahon does! I hear she hit a cop. I like an aggressive woman.

JOLEEN

Why don't we hear from one more of the ladies. Mary, why don't you tell us what you'll have on your shopping list?

"MARY RICHARDS" FROM 'The Mary Tyler Moore Show'

(Cluelessly.) Er, uh, I guess I'll just take the last donut from the coffee room, like I always did. You know, I don't really like to step on anyone's toes and (continues nauseatingly humble/cutesy rambling).

JOLEEN

(Assertively and in a deliberate fashion.) Mary. MARY! I want you to think, and think hard. Why don't you start by telling us what some of your favorite, nutritious foods are.

MARY RICHARDS

(Pregnant pause.) Er, uh, coffee, I guess. And brownies. Chocolate brownies...

"AL BUNDY" FROM 'Married... With Children'

I'll eat anything except the franks and beans we had for lunch (passes gas loudly).

"ROSEANNE" FROM 'Roseanne'

(Passes gas loudly). Yeah. That sucked. Anyone got a Twinkie?

JOLEEN

(Pulls a large pistol out of her handbag and shoots herself in the head.)

(Silence for over a minute)

LUCY

Oh... dear.

ROSEANNE

Shit. I'f I'd've thought a that think of the ratings I'd have gotten.


SciFiQuest 2107

a/k/a The Checklist Diet

Now that the recovery people have had their say....

I can't claim anything for this, even authorship, but it was featured in a major women's magazine (Real Simple), and has served me well for about five years. About all it does is give you a good-enough, varied, moderate healthy diet, that almost everyone will like. It's adaptable to almost any style of current cuisine, and every doctor I've run this by has liked it. Its biggest virtue is variety. Most meal plans, including the USDA's, tend to eliminate say, red meat in favor of turkey. The problem with this is that eating turkey-as-hamburger, turkey-as-bacon, and turkey-as-turkey tends to become monotonous as a lifestyle and causes all the problems of a mono diet and culture. Think of how our greater reliance on fish and seafood has caused environmental problems, as cod, sole and swordfish have become "fished out". Food sensitivities can be exacerbated by eating only one or two protein and carb sources, as well. By getting nutrition from as many protein and carb sources as possible, you can greatly improve your odds. Plus, it's more fun!

The Diet

Every day, eat at least this:

Spread out over a week, try to eat at least three servings of each of these: Every week, try to eat this:

This isn't the only food you should eat, merely the outlines. Most of the rest of what people eat (other veggies, herbs, pasta, tropical fruits, fungi, clear soups, seaweed...) are free foods, and can be eaten at will (as long as you eat the good stuff). You can also have up to 1 ounce of dark chocolate a day, a glass of red wine, and/or a cup or two of tea (black, white, green, mu, herbal) with noncaloric sweetener to treat yourself. There's nothing you can't eat, per se, but there is a "wicked list":

Try to eat these less than once a week, and in moderate portions:

  • Pizza
  • Tacos, burritos, hamburgers (beef, non-lean), ground beef with full fat
  • Ham, spam, pate, processed meats, hotdogs
  • Nondiet salad dressings
  • Cheese spreads, soft cheeses
  • Doughnuts, pastries, pie
  • Cake, cookies (yes, that means the lowfat, low sugar, whatever kind, too), candy bars (even the granola/good for you kind)
  • Cream, sour cream, premium ice cream, cream sauces and soups (lowfat versions OK)
  • Anything deep-fat fried, in any kind of oil or fat
  • Potato chips, snack foods (even the low-fat kind), non-air-popped popcorn
  • Soft drinks with sugar, sport drinks, fruit punches
  • Any kind of coffeehouse concoction (espresso with sweetener and/or plain coffee and whole milk, OK, though), milkshakes, power shakes
Our anorexic friend would find a million reasons not to eat this much. I'll admit it's humdrum: there's little in it that you can embrace as an ideological imperative (although it's rather Slow Food, and pretty much bars even "organic" proprietary meals), it's not too different from the way Americans ate 50 years ago and it won't dramatically shrink you into a size 00 overnight. But remember, you can pretty much eat everything you used to, and the requirements will goad you into eating a lot more kinds of food. Remember, variety!

Implementing the plan:

Keep a version of the list at all times. I like to have one copy on the door of the fridge, one on 3" x 5" index cards, and one in the household book. If you want to experiment with laminated versions and/or actually checking off the items, you're welcome.

You can eat anything, anytime! Salad for breakfast, cereal for dessert, and if you're still hungry, you can just see what you haven't eaten yet. Mostly, though, I find I pick any old cereal that says "whole grain", and rely on that, with milk and fruit as breakfast. Dinner is Beef/Pork/Lamb on Monday, Chicken on Tuesday, Pasta/Cheese on Wednesday, Fish (as in dinner out at the Japanese place) on Friday. Saturday I generally cook a steak, Sunday I make a roast (chicken, usually, although I've been known to switch off and make Saturday a Potluck night, doing a little beef on Thursday (like burgers) and making a roast beef Sunday) both of which I use for leftovers. Thursday night I eat anything I feel like, which is usually stir-fry, stew or similar leftover catchall, or something from the Wicked List. Technically, you should have protein, starch, and at least two veggies for dinner, however.

This leaves a few remaining meals of beef, chicken, fish, eggs, beans and so forth, which I save for lunch, snacks, and appies. Getting all three veggies of the triad isn't too hard: if I find myself really up against a day when I'll only have MickeyD's around, I pick up one of those veggie/dip plates (with broccoli, carrots, and pearl tomatoes) at the super and nibble on that. It's not too hard to eyeball frozen meals and dining-out dinners with a food-plan eye: a few paltry shreds of carrot on chicken with rice mean you'll want to supplement with a salad, an evening eating sashimi means a side of pickles (or a wicked tempura!)

What the Wicked List does, more than anything else, is to break the habit of simply reaching for mindless consuming and to retrain the eater into regular meals. It's easy, especially when you've been listening to enough advertising, to want to try the latest proprietary food ("Enjoy, rich, decadent Chocolate Pedophile Rapist! Tastes forbidden...and Good For You, too!"). Led along by the "it's healthy! it's heart-smart! it's on the latest diet!" hoopla, you vaguely feel you can, should, and are entitled to eat a whole package every night, little wotting that the reason why they can cut way back on whatever is because it's full of sugar, starch, and other empty calories. By simply making not-so-healthy foods a once-in-a-while treat you actually stop wanting them so much, since you've gotten used to eating other things.

Holidays with other people cooking aren't that much of a problem, I've found, as long as you a) decide what is and is not, the holiday (that is, you can pig out on Thanksgiving but not from Wednesday night into next Tuesday) and eat lightly until The Meal is upon me, b) don't take home, or at least ditch leftovers that aren't on the plan and c) find whatever's on the plan, eat that first, then take a portion of whatever wickedness is around. By the time the day (weekend, week, whatever) is over, I feel happy to go back to the familiar grind anyway. If I have to cook for other people on a special occasion, I put in as many good things as I can, but even if I have to burn every slot on the Wicked List in one meal, I never use any of those shortcut recipes from the well-meaning. Life's too short!

Bon appetit!

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