Meal Planning Tips

I originally starting meal planning as part of my food addiction healing process. Learning and implementing new strategies for reducing unnecessary stressors in life is a necessary part of any addict’s healing journey. Stress is a trigger for addicts and although we can’t eliminate all external stressors, we can minimize them. This was tedious and hard at first because there were so many new things to learn.  I had to be patient with myself while I tried new things to see what worked best for me. I consulted people who were good at organization and planning and this article is pretty much the result of everything I learned that works for me (and now my family, as it turns out). I learned that being disciplined with planning led to a lot more freedom and curtailed unconscious eating patterns.

Why meal plan? Believe it or not, taking the time to organize meals for the week ahead can be a huge time and money saver as well as a stress reliever. Families are often looking for pockets of quality time together while also wanting to eat healthy meals. Involving kids in the planning process and inviting them to participate in meal prep to the best of their developmental ability can build in some of that quality time. In my experience, planning ahead leaves more time to spend with family members outside of the kitchen too.

Making it a family experience also takes the pressure off of the one person in the family who usually does this task by themselves in many families. It also helps other family members to see what goes into planning for meals. Kids who participate in meal planning also tend to eat meals their parents prepare because they are involved in the decision-making process. This is a good way to have conversations about what comprises balanced nutrition while also negotiating having meals now and again that might not be as healthy (i.e. pizza nights). You may also want to negotiate agreements around meals.  In some families, each older kid picks a night to plan a meal and cook it (with help if need be) each week.  In our family, we have an agreement that whoever cooks doesn’t do the washing up and kitchen clean up (provided the chef cleans as s/he goes!).

Grocery Delivery Services

Depending on what your budget is like, we recommend considering a grocery delivery service.  Delivery fees (if they have them) are usually minimal. We use because we eat local and organic at our house.  The food is almost always high quality and if something is not up to par, getting a refund on your account is easy. We’ve also sourced out local organic farmers to get our meat and poultry from in bulk, as this is cheaper than buying smaller portions from Spud; they deliver right to our door in the winter and in the summer, we pick up our order at the closest Farmer’s Market. However, if you are not particular about local and organic, Save On Foods has a delivery service too, for example. Perhaps your favourite store does too.

We’ve found that home delivery actually saves us money because we don’t pay for delivery and we don’t have to spend gas money to get to the store. Also, because we meal plan, we know exactly what we have to buy so it saves us money and we eat healthier (no food waste and no impulse shopping in those nutrition-less middle aisles at the grocery store). We only do one Costco run a month to purchase bulk items and things that are cheaper to buy there that we use all of the time (i.e. toilet paper, diced tomatoes, chicken broth).


*Pick a day to meal plan for the week that is consistent and works for you and your family.  We do this on Sunday and enter our order on Spud on Sunday too.  Then, we don’t have to think about it for the rest of the week. Keep your meal plan up on the fridge for the week so all your family members know what’s on the menu each day.

*Keep your pantry stocked with items you use frequently to minimize trips to the store. Organize it in a way that makes sense to you so you can find things quickly when you are cooking.

*Keep a grocery list on your fridge. When something runs out, write it up and put it through on the next order.

*Keep on the lookout for new recipes so you don’t get bored of what you are eating.  We ask friends for their favourite recipes often on FB, for example. We keep a file on our computer with links to good sites.  We also bought some good and easy recipe books containing foods we like to eat.

*When you plan for meals, make extra so that you can freeze part of it. That way, if you have a busy week, you can pull out a frozen meal before you leave for work in the morning and all you have to do is heat it up for your family at dinner time. We keep healthy frozen pizzas and samosas we buy from our local Halal place on hand too.

*We go out to dinner once a month to try something new foods.  We build this into our budget because it’s inspiring and it is nice to take a break from cooking now and again (even though I personally enjoy cooking).

*Look for meals that “cook themselves” like crockpot meals or ones you prepare and then throw in the oven–especially on days when you know you’re not going to have a lot of time to cook. Set a timer and walk away! In the summer, we barbeque pretty much everything on the grill (i.e. vegetables, corn, fish, meat, potatoes, etc.). We like barbeque because it is often quick, tasty, and healthy.

Some Favourite Recipe Sites

100 Crock Pot Recipes

Oh She Glows: Great Vegan Recipes


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Being of the Earth

*This article first appeared in the April 2018 edition of Pagan Pages Magazine.

Ever since I can remember, I had a connection to the Great Mystery.  I grew up in a Portuguese family. My paternal grandma was a devout Catholic.  She taught me sacred songs in Portuguese and encouraged me to pray to God.  I did this all the time when I was confused, sad, or upset and I always received an intuitive response that helped me get through difficult times in my childhood. Though they were mystified at why I wanted to attend mass with my grandma every Sunday, my parents allowed me to go and practice my spiritual beliefs. Even though I am no longer Catholic today, I have so much gratitude for the way my family validated my spiritual aspect and supported me in growing this in myself.

Considering the fact that I was born in urban East Vancouver, Canada, my family members did a wonderful job of keeping me connected to the land. I spent most of the daylight hours playing outdoors with friends. I come from a lineage of farmers and fishers. Portuguese people of my grandparent’s generation knew how to work with the Earth to grow and gather food and feed their families. My grandpa had a double lot in East Van, which he filled with edible and non-edible plants. Even though it was forbidden by bylaws, he even had livestock.  Every spring and summer, my extended relatives made a trip to Tofino to fish for weeks at a time.  We camped and the kids were responsible for cleaning gutted fish.  At the end of our vacation, the catch was divided equally among all the families that participated.  This gift from the ocean fed our families in the year ahead. Memories of Tofino are still treasured ones for me.

People often ask me how a Catholic Portuguese kid ended up being so steeped in shamanic and indigenous traditions. I am proud of my Portuguese heritage and the foundation my family laid for me.  Ever since I was a kid, I’ve been drawn to indigenous cultures around the world.  I couldn’t really explain this when I was young except to say that it made sense to me that indigenous people revere nature and seek to be in harmony with her. Indeed, some of my most healing moments in childhood happened while exploring the outdoors.  These experiences still guide me on my spiritual path today.

I was born on Musqueam territory.  When I asked one of the elders about my connection to my blood ancestors and also the land on which I was born, he saw no discrepancy between the two. I will never forget what he told me: “Jen, when you were born on this land, my ancestors adopted you as one of their own.  They have been guiding you ever since that day. You responded to their call.”  Every time I drive back into the rainforest from the prairies (where I live today), tears form in my eyes when I feel the energy of the land.  The ancestors always welcome me home. Sharing shamanic knowledge is my way of saying “thank you” and honouring my responsibility to the Earth and the ancestors who love me and are always there for me.

In fact, I’ve never met an elder in any indigenous tradition around the world who does not understand this interconnectedness. They champion diversity and actively look for ways to bring healing to their communities. Elders know that we are all relations.  In this statement, all sentient beings are included as relations: the plants, the animals, the rocks, the elements, and so on. This can be a hard thing for folks who have not grown up connected to the land to understand.  Most of us see our relations as objects that we are entitled to. We have forgotten our interconnection to these beings and their importance in our ability to survive and thrive here on Earth. I teach and practice shamanism because it reconnects people with this primal knowing.  When we know ourselves, where we came from, and why we are here, we are much less likely to harm ourselves, others, and the Earth.  Author and teacher, Anita Sanchez is of Mexican-American Aztec ancestry.  She answers the question of what it means to be of the Earth eloquently:

“In the beginning, everyone’s ancestors were indigenous…But for many of us who have been separated geographically and/or culturally from our tribe’s original ancestral traditions and instructions, we then don’t regard ourselves as indigenous…A truly indigenous person is one who has intimate connection with Mother Earth and who embraces all human beings in order to get along with them. There is a respect for diversity, which is part of the circle of life…We are all connected. Indigenous peoples listen to not only their minds but most importantly to their hearts, and to what Mother Earth is saying.”

Indigenous cultures all around the world have developed technologies that work to bring us back into balance with nature.  Many of these are ancient and have been passed down through generations.  Through ceremony, rites of passage, medicine wheel teachings, sacred dances, drum journeys, talking sticks, and medicine songs, people are brought back to their original state of wholeness.  Being human is a beautiful and challenging journey.  When we are in right relation to our relatives–human and otherwise–life is not as hard and lonely a journey. I pray that these traditions continue to bring people together–especially in the modern age where there are so many forces trying to divide and separate us.  I am grateful to all the elders around the world who continue to share this wisdom with future generations. Indeed, we are all indigenous to the Earth Mother.

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