Brandon Bosses You Around # 1 (Minimalism, Mental/Emotional Health and Meal Planning)

Invariably in an initial session, I tell clients some version of “Therapy isn’t just me telling you what to do, it’s something you and I build collaboratively”. (Generally I phrase it as ‘Therapy isn’t just some guy with a degree and a fantastic beard telling you what to do’ and, of course, it gets the small amount of awkward pity laughter that a lame, dad joke of its kind should get). My approach to therapy assumes that within each of us exists a self-healing mechanism and that if you and I create in our sessions the “right conditions”, as Carl Rogers once said, that self-healing mechanism takes over and does most of the work for us. My assumption is that you already possess everything you need to be happy, healthy and successful. My job as a therapist is not to teach it to you but rather, to help you tap into the resources that are already there; to help you remove the stumbling blocks that are in the way of the hidden power you undoubtedly possess. The therapist, on one hand is always working hard but in other ways, does very little.

Having said that, today I’m going to break my own rules and tell you what to do. Or more appropriately, I’m going to tell you how to do it. Okay, how about this; I’m going to tell you how I DO IT and hope you’ll do it too. Better? Consider this the first in what I plan to be a series of blogs in which I prove to you that I practice what I preach and where I show you a version of how you might practice it too. There will be a tad less philosophical fluff in this series than there normally is and and in it’s place more concrete suggestions for actual behavioral change. Also, the blogs will be shorter. Yay you. Keep in mind these are MY VERSIONS. They may not work for you in the form presented and they may not work at all. Likely, however, they will work if you take the basic idea and modify it for your own life. So, here it goes. Brandon’s soon to be not so secret guide to meal planning!!

Most people’s first reaction to Brandon’s Meal Planning is “WHAT THE FUCK? YOU PLAN YOUR MEALS A YEAR IN ADVANCE?” Yes, yes I do. Sure, it sounds a bit extreme but it’s actually not. It’s a bit of work up front but after that, it’s terribly simple and makes life so much easier in so many ways. Furthermore, meal planning/prepping is one of the ways I practice minimalism. For me, part of minimalism means eliminating waste; wasted time, wasted effort, wasted thoughts, wasted feelings, wasted money…the list goes on and on. With my meal planning/prepping I avoid several pitfalls; when you come home from a long day at work, you don’t have to cook. You just warm up. You don’t have to come up with some meal idea and hope you have all the ingredients, you just warm up your food. You don’t have to come home frustrated and angry and hungry just to find that you don’t have any food because you forgot to grocery shop, you just warm up what’s already there. You don’t have to come home to an empty pantry and decide to eat at McDonalds instead, and spend unnecessary money and calories, and support a horrible corporation, YOU JUST WARM UP THE FOOD THAT’S ALREADY THERE. Meal planning and meal prepping are ways to simplify your life, create less waste and overall reduce precious time and energy on food, leaving more available for mental and emotional growth and development.

Here are some facts to help create a framework:
1. There are 52 weeks in a year
2. I see clients 4 days a week
3. I eat mostly vegan meals (by the way,just because it’s vegan doesn’t mean it’s healthy…something I’m working on)
4. Due mostly to my dietary preferences, my wife and I cook separately (formerly, we grocery shopped separately as well but we currently do grocery pickup, which will be discussed at some point)
5. My wife and I alternate weeks on whose responsibility it is to take our daughter to school and prepare her lunch.
6. We generally eat out Friday night, Saturday lunch and Saturday dinner
7. We have a fairly strict written budget that we track fairly meticulously (notice all the ‘fairly’s’ in there)
8. We grocery shop every 2 weeks, with the occasional in between trip for small items.

With these parameters in place, I then move onto a simple formula for meals:

Lunch and dinner consist of:
1 vegan/vegetarian main course
1 vegan/vegetarian side dish
1 fruit
Weekly -X 4 for lunch, X 5 for dinner
(Sundays I mostly wing it for lunch)

Breakfast consists of:
Saturday-Wednesday: Cereal with berries and almond milk
Thursday – Peanut butter and jelly sandwich
Friday – No breakfast (Just a weird quirk of mine. I hate breakfast and breakfast food so I allow myself to skip it on Fridays as a treat.)

In order to construct my meal plan document, I simply found about 20 or so recipes on the internet that I thought I’d really enjoy and that were relatively simple to make. Then I did the same for side dishes. Then I copied and pasted the ingredients and cooking instructions for each meal and side dish onto the bottom of my meal plan document. (An obvious but easy to overlook trick is to not write down all the ingredients and instructions but to just copy and paste them from the internet onto the bottom of your meal plan document. It saves a ton of time). At the first of the year (usually around December actually) I start with a blank form and randomly plot down meals and side dishes from the lists I’ve created. For example, starting out the form would look like this:

WEEK 1
Dinner-

WEEK 2
Dinner-

WEEK 3
Dinner-

Then, randomly pulling from the list of meals at the bottom, I’d place meals in the slots:

WEEK 1 Chickpea Sandwich
Dinner- Veggie Burrito

WEEK 2 Cheese Pizza
Dinner- Trader Joe’s Lasagna

WEEK 3 Asian Tofu,
Dinner- Pablano and Mushroom Fajitas

Again pulling from the list of about 15 or so recorded at the bottom of my meal plan document, I add a side dish for lunch:

WEEK 1 Chickpea Sandwich, Side of the week- Trader Joe’s Rice/Broccoli/Cauliflower
Dinner- Veggie Burrito

WEEK 2 Cheese Pizza, Side of the week- Trader Joe’s Lentils
Dinner- Trader Joe’s Lasagna

WEEK 3 Asian Tofu, Side of the week- Trader Joe’s Jaipur Vegetables
Dinner- Pablano and mushroom fajitas

The finished version of the form looks like this:
52 WEEK MENU
2019

WEEK 1 Chickpea Sandwich, Side of the week- Trader Joe’s Rice/Broccoli/Cauliflower
Dinner- Veggie Burrito, Tortilla Chips, Banana

WEEK 2 Cheese Pizza, Side of the week- Trader Joe’s Lentils
Dinner- Trader Joe’s Lasagna, Vegetable Soup, Grapes

WEEK 3 Asian Tofu, Side of the week- Trader Joe’sJaipur Vegetables
Dinner- Pablano and Mushroom Fajitas, Corn Chips, Peaches

With this plan, I only need to prepare and cook 2 meals and two side dishes per week (Since I’m home for most dinners on this plan I can easily just slap something together like canned green beans or canned soup as a side dish). Super simple right? The remaining slots that aren’t accounted for are usually are filled with restaurant meals and a grocery store pizza on Friday. Now, you may say that you can’t eat the same thing every day. First of all, I’ll say bullshit. You’ll be fine if you don’t get endless variety. Don’t be such a spoiled and entitled, whiney American. Secondly, it’s not nearly as bad as you think. Third, the time, energy and money you’ll save doing it this way will be worth a bit of epicurean boredom. Furthermore, YOUR VERSION of MY meal plan could have slots for 5 different meals each week, or 2 different meals or 7 different meals, etc. And finally, for my lunches at work, I try and simply view food as fuel. I don’t have to love it (even though I usually do). It’s just nourishment that I need to get me through the day.
Repeat this process for all 52 slots on your document and TADA, you’ve got yourself a meal plan buddy! You’re well on your way to less waste, less mental and emotional clutter, more time, more money and a happier, healthier, more minmimalistic and therefore easier life. Now go out and produce your own meal plan. In the next blog, I’ll discuss grocery shopping in reference to the meal plan above. Stay tuned!

Before I post the unrelated book and song, I’d like to give a very RELATED plug to a new colleague of mine, Judi Fallin Natareno. She’s the lead consultant at Clutter Free Families. Find her on Facebook at @ClutterFreeFamilies and give her a like!

Unrelated book recommendation: The Millionaire Next Door by Thomas J. Stanley – I’m sure I’ve said this a few times but this book really has changed my life. Really. You should read it.

Unrelated song – One of the weirdest bands I’ve ever seen. I give you PPL MVR!

About Brandon Peters, LPC

Brandon Peters began his career in mental health approximately 11 years ago while pursuing a bachelor's degree in psychology from the University of Arkansas. During his training he worked as a psychiatric technician at the Piney Ridge Treatment Center for adolescent sex offenders in Fayetteville, Arkansas. He later relocated to Houston, Texas and obtained his master's degree in counseling from the University of Houston. Since then, he has worked with clients in residential treatment, psychiatric hospitals, school based therapy, home based therapy, support groups and outpatient therapy. He has worked with children as young as 4, adolescents, and adults in areas such as individual therapy, group therapy, family therapy, case management, play therapy and crisis intervention. Brandon Peters now owns and operates a private psychotherapy clinic conducting individual, group and family therapy and specializes in Existential Therapy. Additionally, he is a board approved LPC Supervisor.
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1 Response to Brandon Bosses You Around # 1 (Minimalism, Mental/Emotional Health and Meal Planning)

  1. Pingback: Brandon Bosses You Around Part 2 (Minimalism and Grocery Lists) | Brandon Peters, LPC

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