The gardener no-plan meal planning method developed over years out of the necessity to combine planning meals with using what grows in our garden.
It is a process and I don’t feel like we have arrived yet. But we are getting closer to growing what we eat and eating what we grow.
Meal planning is overrated
Growing up I didn’t even know there was such a thing as a meal plan. We often had beans on Saturday and noodles on Monday. And maybe my mom had other tricks to get us all fed. But I do not recall her ever sitting down and writing up a plan. For the matter, I don’t even recall her using a recipe book or grocery list. We ate what we grew and what was in season. You can read more about how people lived simple yesterday here.
Fast-forward to modern grocery dependent life and the flow of information on the internet. It seems like if you don’t plan meals and make a proper shopping list you waste money and will never feed a family properly.
This is just not true. People have lived without meal planning for generations, simple from the garden to the table. It can also be done today.
I was very encouraged by a young, enthusiastic blogger who also uses the no-plan approach to meal planning. If you need more encouragement to No-plan meal planning after reading this, head over and read her post. Well worth it.
Gardens do not grow according to meal plans
Getting food from the edible garden is very different from a grocery store. Whether you grow your own garden or are part of a CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) you will notice that gardens do not grow according to our meal plan, they grow in compliance with weather conditions.
As a new food gardener, you might find it very difficult to plan meals around what is ready to harvest. However, making meals from homegrown vegetables is the ultimate goal. If we don’t eat what we grow, there is no point in growing it.
For me, it was helpful that I like to be flexible, spontaneous, and creative. There are so many options that I would want to make on Monday night, that a meal plan feels like a limitation. Plus sitting down and imagining what that day would look like and what I should cook is just to much to ask for, believe me, I have tried multiple times. And even the book Plan It, Don’t Panic: A Complete Meal Planning Resource didn’t turn me into a planner.
Years ago my daughter made me a beautiful handmade menu planner. I love the look of it, but the planning part didn’t work till I came up with a simplified version to use the peace of art in my kitchen. You can read more about it here.
No-Meal planning is great for using what you have
Gardeners, homesteaders, and people who like to shop in bulk, often have a well-stocked food pantry. There are always foods that need to be used up. There can often be an overflow of one product (like zucchini), that needs to be dealt with regardless of whether you have planned it or not. I find the no-plan method works best for using what you have or what happens to be available in the garden, on sale at the local farmers market or grocery store. Things don’t ripen when we plan to use them, they ripen when the conditions are right. I write more about this in the post on how to feed a family on a budget.
Stephanie Hafferty writes in No Dig Organic Home & Garden:
“There is a sense of achievement, a connection with the past, sharing the pleasure of your homegrown abundance with a good meal. Far from being limited, seasonal cooking is liberating and inspirational. Deciding what to make with that week’s harvest is fun.”
She continues on to tell how she plans the menu for the course days at Homeacres in the morning of the day after harvesting what is available. She says: “It is exciting deciding what we will eat, a flexible decision which also reflects the weather and other considerations.” If Stephanie thinks it is fun to do a no-plan menu for a large group just so she can use what is available, how much more so it is preparing food for a family.
No-Meal planing works great if you have a daily meal theme
As I have already mentioned, it seems this was the method our grandmothers used. Back in a day cooks often had less variety to begin with, and would make the same meals over and over again. Today we sure don’t have a shortage of variety nor recipes to encourage variety, but we can still theme those recipes. We can have a great plan for the No-plan approach to meal planning.
Our meal theme has changed over the years multiple times, all depending on what our schedule was like and what we loved to eat. It’s a very flexible, but still helpful method of meal planning that isn’t one.
Here some ideas to theme up your favourite meals, our current menu planer looks like this: Soups and stews on Sunday, grains in yummy pilaf or topped with veggies on Monday, leftover stews and grains on Tuesday, wraps on Wednesday, pasta (including noodles, zoodles, and spaghetti squash) on Thursday, just because our son often comes to visit this day and he loves pasta, stir-fry or roasted veggies on Friday, and something special on Saturday, since we often do something special this day anyway. We do not follow it to the T, not at all actually. It’s just there as a help to be inspired.
You get the idea.
If you are a no-plan meal planner we would love to hear about your method to still get food on the table.
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