So far, we’ve heard from Chelsea and Callie: two different and equally creative meal planners. Today, we’ll hear from Jewlz, as she tackles meal planning amidst her busy schedule and plant based lifestyle.

Who is Jewlz?

My friend Jewlz is someone who will crack you up and inspire you to be a better human all at the same time. She studied Industrial Engineering at Georgia Tech, and is a professional time and money saver. As a part of her job, Jewlz takes day trips to various storefronts and business locations to study their operations. The result is a series of recommendations that will improve customer service and save operating costs. As a result, Jewlz travels a lot and in order to maintain a healthy lifestyle, she has to plan ahead.

Jewlz enjoys a whole food plant based lifestyle, which motivates her even more to prep her own food, “I’ve been intentional about hosting more often or bringing food to share when visiting with friends. Every time I prepare a plant based meal, everyone loves it. It’s been encouraging to see so many people surprised to love this type of food (and my cooking). I find that most people want to eat healthy; they just don’t know how to shop, plan, and cook yet.”

The Idea Behind the Strategy

The thing that differentiates Jewlz’ methodology is that her planning revolves less around what she’s going to cook and more on when she’s going to cook. In fact, she often doesn’t think about what she’ll cook until she gets her basket. So despite a busy schedule, having blocked off Sunday afternoons and one or two weeknights every week, Jewlz knows her cooking time is accounted for when she’s making her life plans.

We live in a time and place where slowing down is counter cultural. Fast food, fast fashion, fast and furious. But, at its core, slowing down to cook is a thing that is not only good for our soil and our communities, but also ourselves. As Michael Pollan explains, “Cooking—of whatever kind, everyday or extreme—situates us in the world in a very special place, facing the natural world on one side and the social world on the other. The cook stands squarely between nature and culture, conducting a process of translation and negotiation. Both nature and culture are transformed by the work. And in the process, I discovered, so is the cook.”

Jewlz is a fabulous example of someone who could very easily opt to eat out all the time, but instead incorporates the joy she’s found in cooking into her busy week and into her community. Pssst, check out the Community Builder Meal Planning Strategy!

The Execution

1. See, touch, and smell the ingredients and see what inspires you

While she “wishes” she was better at planning ahead, this step seems to be a key part of the influence for her meal decisions. Since she only cooks two or three times for the whole week, choosing meals that she actually feels like eating is pretty important. Jewlz says, “I should be better about planning ahead more but I usually wait until I actually receive my basket and then I meal plan once I see the ingredients. I don’t know why seeing the ingredients in person is different than seeing them online, but it’s different once I have my basket.” I think this is a common phenomenon. Cooking and eating uses all 5 senses, so it only makes sense that deciding what to cook should as well.

2. Block off 2-3 nights of cooking

Like so many of you, Jewlz is super busy and doesn’t necessarily have 5 nights a week to devote to cooking. The key piece of this strategy is that it only requires 2 or 3 nights of cooking. While you could certainly do more than that, it’s not necessary in order to use all the ingredients, and have enough food for the week, “I usually only do 2-3 dishes and I make everything in a big batch and eat that all week.” When I talked to Jewlz, she knew she would be spending that following Sunday making the recipe that takes the most time, and the following Thursday night cooking her other planned meal. For many of our customers, having a time designated ahead of time to do the cooking can relieve anxiety about figuring when to “squeeze in” time to cook.

3. Ready, set, puzzle! Figure out how to combine the ingredients in a way that sounds good.

Rather than finding a slew of recipes that go with her basket ingredients, Jewlz asks herself how she can combine the ingredients in front of her. And she loves this part, “For me, it’s a game. Sometimes I even start with the harder ingredients and figure out how to use it and add other stuff in rather than the other way around.” Upon receiving her basket, Jewlz will usually take a lunch break at work, or an evening to plan out how she will use every ingredient in her meals, “Usually, it’s pretty simple. A soup is a really good way to incorporate a lot of ingredients. And then I make a lot of salads that have more toppings than greens usually. So, if I have a huge salad and a huge soup, then I might just have one random ingredient leftover. So for that, I’ll create a sauce with anything that’s left.”

4. Look up recipes for the ingredients you’re not familiar with.

Since the majority of the veggies are sautéed, baked, or put in soups, she doesn’t rely heavily on recipes. The exception is when there is a new ingredient that she’s less familiar with, “When we got ramps, I looked up good ramp recipes to see how people prepare them, but it’s really rare for me to actually follow a recipe.” For these times, Jewlz’ favorite sources for simple recipes are Minimalist Baker, Rawvana, Pinch of Yum, and Allrecipes, which usually have short ingredient lists and simple recipes.

Who is this strategy for?

Do you feel too busy to cook every night?
Do you love a good mental puzzle?
Do you feel better when you have a plan in place for the week?

If you’re one of those people who has to schedule outings with friends 2 months in advance, someone who likes to have a plan in place, or you just don’t often have a lot of free time, this one’s for you! Jewlz has busted the myth that you can’t be busy and also cook your own food. If scheduling time to cook on your calendar is what it takes, go for it!

To our beloved new-ish customers

We know that it is an adjustment (but an awesome one) to receive all your produce on your doorstep on the same day every week, so Jewlz offers this advice:

“When you’re customizing your basket, stick with all ingredients you know. Utilize the substitution feature to get things you feel comfortable with. Even if that means a lot of potatoes, that will help you get in the rhythm of cooking and thinking about your meals, while still having the comfort of only using familiar ingredients. Then start branching out and experimenting, which is really the fun part.”

We hope you’ve enjoyed learning from some longtime customers as much as we have. If you missed the other posts in the series, check out the Stocked Staples Strategy, the Community Builder Method, and a Low Waste Strategy in an airstream!