Sunday, March 28, 2010

Living with Bipolar Disorder: 3 Tips for Easier Meal Planning

Do you try to plan meals? I do.  Before going grocery shopping, I think about what meals I'd like to have, what ingredients I already have, and which I need to buy.

However, because of my bipolar disorder, I can't usually stick to a weekly meal plan.  I have rapid cycling bipolar disorder and often my moods last just 1-4 days.  This often means that for part of the week my mood isn't feeling normal.  If I'm depressed, it's hard for me to get the motivation to cook a meal.

Here are my 3 tips:

1. Buy Heat and Eat meals to keep in your freezer. Even if you feel motivated to cook 7 meals a week, keep a couple of them in your freezer, just incase.

2. Use a recipe box to keep track of the meals you've cooked.  Write notes to yourself about the recipe. This will make it easier for you to tackle it when you aren't feeling as well.

3. Try using a crock pot. Also called a slow cooker, this lets you prepare the meal in the morning or the night before. You can prepare the meal when you feel well; not when you are hungry!

Heat and Eat Meals
No matter how motivated, happy, and energetic I feel while I'm grocery shopping, I try to buy some meals that are all ready to go.  The one predictable thing about bipolar disorder is that it's not predictable.  Heat and Eat meals are ones that I just put in the oven or microwave and then they are all done.  The downside is that these are not usually as healthful as the ones I make myself.  Often they have more salt or fat in them than I'd like.  There are a lot of things you can get of the heat and eat kind.  For example, frozen lasagna, frozen breaded fish and fries, corn dogs, frozen chicken nuggets, frozen pizza, etc.  I realize that I could also make my own home made meals ahead of time and freeze them, but I haven't gotten around to doing that.

A lot of the time it feels like when my mood feels normal, I use that time to do everything that I didn't get around to doing when I didn't have the energy, and well, cooking for many nights in advance is just not one of the things I end up doing.

Using a Recipe Box to Keep Track of Easy Meals
I also try to plan out a lot of easy meals.  These are ones that I actually make myself, but I don't find them hard to do.  I keep a recipe box and makes notes about recipes I've made so that making them a second or third time is even easier.  After making the recipe several times, it becomes MY recipe, and I know exactly what to do.  It makes it less intimidating and I might even attempt it on a less than perfect mood day.

Crockpot Meals
I have a crockpot that I like to use, and the minimal preparation required for making a pot roast in my crockpot is something that I can get done in the morning, and then it will be all ready to eat in the evening. This also holds true for many other crockpot meals.

My best time of day is usually in the morning.  I usually have the most energy and positive mood then.  My worst time is late afternoon/early evening.  Therefore, if I wait until my worst time of day, I am less likely to be up to making a complete meal.  So, the crockpot helps in the time shifting :)

Strangely enough, it seems like I'm always hungry for dinner right around 7pm.  I've tried moving around dinner time and having it earlier so that I could prepare it during a better time of the day for me, but so far, that doesn't seem to work well... I still get hungry later.

Dirty Dishes?
I read somewhere that one of the most common reasons for eating out was that all of the dishes were dirty. This makes some sense, as if you have to clean the dishes and cook food, that's a double big chore.  I try to avoid this problem by at least doing some of the dishes in the evening or morning so that they are ready for dinner time.  I also have accepted the fact that I can cook dinner even if the dishes are dirty. I just clean what I need.

All this said, sometimes we eat out.  Last night we had take-out chinese food, and it was just the perfect way to enjoy the evening.  No work needed, and lots of great food.

P.S. The Angus Burgers pictured at the right are sold at Costco and they are super yummy. They take 2 minutes to heat up in the microwave and come out just perfect (not rubbery at all!).  I don't know how they do it, but it is the perfectly addictive heat 'n eat meal.

Do you have any tips for meal planning?  I'd love to hear your thoughts!

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