Let's Talk Meal Planning

Thanksgiving is next week.

NEXT WEEK? (and if you’re reading this via my Tuesday newsletter, that means it’s THE DAY AFTER TOMORROW!)

This year is the final year of hosting in this house; this time next year, our plan is to be living on board, with the house sold and all possessions disposed or stored (mostly disposed of.)

A great dining room for hosting a feast!

A great dining room for hosting a feast!

Thanksgiving is prime for meal planning. Lists of dishes, groceries, provisions to buy. Planning for sleeping arrangements and activities. Like most meal plans, it involves more than food and extends to timing and refrigerator space.

Thanksgiving shopping list - the first one.

Thanksgiving shopping list - the first one.

A lot of people stress about meal planning. I see this question asked over and over again: what’s your plan for going cruising? How can I feed xxx people for a cruise of xxx days? Tell me what you cook!

Meal planning on land is stressful enough for most of the families I know. Is it a mental block? A worry about getting it wrong? A lack of confidence in kitchen abilities, imagination, scheduling?

Add in some unfamiliarity with a galley, or thinking about seasickness, and reading endless blogs (maybe even mine) talking about how important the provisioning thing is . . . stress overload.


I used to meal plan like a crazy woman. I’d write out every meal for the week and craft the grocery list against it, ticking off ingredients and even marking out what page in what cookbook a given recipe came from. This made me feel accomplished.

And then, week by week, I’d end the week with half the groceries unused. Half the recipes unmade. I’d change my mind about something to make, or a meeting would run late. A family member would have a crappy day and need their favorite comfort food, stat.

In short, my week ashore began to look more like my weeks cruising.

An impromptu night at anchor? Yes, we can!

An impromptu night at anchor? Yes, we can!

Not that cruising is endless careening from crisis to crisis. Far from it. Instead what I mean is that cruising meal planning winds up being more “what do I feel like” and “what ingredients do I have on hand” more than “it’s Monday and I said last week that today was going to be tacos.”

I do follow a loose 4-part process to get myself organized in terms of cruising food stuff, particularly on short cruises (a month or less). Longer than that, the idea of checking the weather becomes a little less important. The other check points, though? Spot on.

  1. Think of special events you’ll need to celebrate. Birthdays and anniversaries. Halfway marks or getting past a brutal section of coastline. College applications submitted. What kinds of activities might you be doing - long hikes with lunch schlepped in a pack? Stargazing? Socializing with guests or new friends?

  2. Think of the weather. Is it going to be snowing and icing? Rain and fog? Sunshine? Humid steamy days?

  3. Think of what items you need to use up. That ziplock bag filled with cooked pasta, the leftover pizza toppings, the yogurt that’s about to go off.

  4. Think about what kinds of grocery stores you’ll be able to visit. Are you enjoying secluded anchorage time with the nearest store 20 miles away? Is the town tiny with only a gas station for emergency rations? Are you at a dock with access to a car and endless superbly stocked stores? Are you in a place (and a time) with an accessible farmers’ market?

Once you answer these questions, you’re well on your way to meal “planning” and provisioning with ease.

And if you want more ideas? I’ve got a handy dandy guide on Cruising Meal Planning Made Simple you can download!