How menu planning changed the lives of one Ontario family

Chantal Garneau and her family eat the same thing every day and it doesn’t suck.

Not only that, but this type of menu planning has slashed her family’s food budget and eliminated food waste from their lives.

If that weren’t amazing enough, she says they also have more energy and time, feel healthier and calmer, and Chantal rests easy knowing everyone is getting the nutrition they need to thrive. And menu planning has somehow even made the children more helpful in the kitchen. You read that correctly: helpful!

Like many of us Chantal used to periodically make plans for her family’s health and nutrition, but for all the usual reasons those resolutions would be abandoned before long. She consulted friends (who were nutritionists) and did her own research, but often found the food guide to be vague, tricky, — even contradictory. Discovering the Beachbody system was a game changer — portions were measured clearly (in cups), and charts spelled out how much to eat depending on weight and activity level.

Chantal and her finance, Allan

 

Using Beachbody’s measuring system and her own (well-researched) dietary understanding, Chantal’s menu began to take shape. But what started as an exercise in providing adequate nutrition to growing boys and her physically active fiancé ended up an act of liberation. Completely removing the guesswork from grocery shopping and meal planning was a revelation. “I didn’t realize how stressed I was before, or how much energy figuring out dinner took until it was missing.”

Like top-performing CEOs and leaders who wear the same thing every day to reduce ‘decision fatigue,’ Chantal and her family enjoy the safety and predictability of knowing what to expect. And because the foundations of their meals are nearly identical, the whole family — including the kids — can get dinner started with confidence.

“There’s room for creativity, and there is also the solid foundation and security of knowing what to expect — and having the ingredients. I may be running low on one of the potential additions, but I know I have 100% of the basics, and that is relaxing.”

The family shops every four days and knows precisely how many bananas to buy, how many apples. They spend $175 a week to feed four. Every two weeks they spend an extra $100 at Costco.

“Financial stress is one of the main causes of marital trouble, but with this system, expenses that were variable before become fixed, constant. And often during a big Costco week there will be a little extra money, and we’ll get a pizza that night for a treat, but it’s coming out of the food budget. We’ve been saving a lot of money, and our energy levels are up.”

At this point you may be wondering what on earth they’re eating all the time.

“We consistently eat the same thing for breakfast, and dinner is almost exactly the same every night.”

Breakfast is some version of oats with cinnamon and homemade applesauce, but there are seasonal variations, too. “Sometimes we’ll have yogurt instead of applesauce, or cherries, or peanut butter.”

The base of their dinner is a mix of quinoa and lentils, with — as a general rule — dark green and orange vegetables added part way through cooking. Sometimes Chantal roasts a seasoned head of cauliflower to serve on the bed of quinoa and lentils. Once or twice a week they add meat, too. Sometimes she swaps rice for the quinoa. The variety comes from the selection of vegetables, how they’re cooked, and different spice blends – combinations used regularly are mixed in bulk and readily on hand. For dinner Chantal eats one serving, her partner and the 17-year-old eat two, and the six-year-old almost a full serving. No waste.

Annoyed by all the packaging on store-bought applesauce, Chantal started making her own by roasting nine apples in the slow cooker for nine hours then blending them, skins and all. “It’s ridiculously easy.” She also started using frozen vegetables a lot of the time, “they’re often from Canada, taste better, and there is less food waste.” In fact, when Chantal uses fresh produce, she uses the entire vegetable in one meal. No more mouldy half heads of cauliflower lurking in the back of the fridge.

In the end, lentils and quinoa most nights may not be for everyone, but Chantal insists it’s not as boring as she feared it would be — and no matter what our tastes we could all probably simplify our meal routines and enjoy the benefits. “Originally humans were probably eating primarily the same things every day with small seasonal variations. Maybe my body feels and likes that predictability still.”

If you’re curious and would like to give one of Chantal’s recipe’s a try, see below:

1 cup dry green lentils

1 cup multicoloured (rainbow) quinoa

4 cups of water

2 cups of frozen kale/spinach

1–2 cups frozen peas/corn (optional)

1 head of cauliflower

2 tbsp of coconut or avocado oil

Spice mix (makes enough for 6–7 meals)

4 tbsp nutritional yeast

3 tbsp garlic powder or granules

3 tbsp onion powder

1 tbsp mustard powder

1 tbsp thyme

2 tsp himalayan salt

1 tsp black pepper

*mix spices in a small mason jar and store for future use.

1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees

2. Chop cauliflower into florets

3. Drizzle with oil and cover with 2 tbsp of spice mix

4. Place cauliflower on baking sheet and cook for 30–40 mins (depending on how caramelized/crunchy you prefer)

5. Combine green lentils and quinoa with 4 cups of water and bring to boil. Reduce heat and simmer for 20 minutes

6. Once water is absorbed, remove from heat, transfer to a large mixing bowl, and add 2 cups of frozen kale/spinach and (optional) 1–2 cups frozen peas/corn, stir well so the heat of the lentil/quinoa mix warms up the frozen vegetables

7. Divide quinoa/lentil mix onto plates (this usually makes enough for 3 adults, one child, and one lunch for the next day)

8. Remove cauliflower from oven and place on top of of quinoa/lentil mix

Enjoy!


The Whole Family Happiness Project is a group of moms exploring our connection to our individual purpose, our family happiness, and the happiness of the world around us. Got a story to share? Come chat with us on Facebook.

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