Planning Meals: Better for Your Body and Your Bottom Line

Published: September 24, 2014

The School of Divinity is committed to financial well-being and forming ministers who engage finances responsibly. With support of a grant from the Lilly Endowment Inc.’s Theological School Initiative to Address Economic Issues Facing Future Ministers,  we have created a program, Financial Well-Being for Pastoral Leaders, to create a culture that shapes the habits and skills of pastoral leaders by promoting financial well-being for themselves and the communities they serve. One of the foundational elements of our program is formation, which aims at enabling students to focus on building financial competency through annual assessment meetings with the Office of Financial Aid, workshops and seminars, peer mentors, and technological resources. On the last week of every month, the Unfolding blog will feature posts from the student peer mentors. These are current students who have previous experience in the financial industry or who have made financial planning a significant part of their identity as a religious leader.

Divinity school keeps us busy. It can be difficult to figure out how we’ll get all of our reading, reflections, and research done, much less plan meals for the week. But, life never slows down and whether we are balancing kids, work, school or all of the above, we will always have to be intentional to hit the mark. My first year I was terrible about going grocery shopping and making healthy meals. Most of the time I’d eat cereal for dinner and a scoop of peanut butter for breakfast. And when things got really desperate I’d break down and go to Five Guys for a burger and fries. It was tough to study well without proper nutrition. I spent money going out when the cupboards were empty and I was hungry. And I gained a good bit of weight. Planning meals in advance would have helped me save money and eat better.

My second year things improved dramatically. I planned my meals for the following week making sure dinner would provide enough leftovers for lunch the next day. I started eating oatmeal for breakfast and I cut back on select choice beverages. The biggest change I made was to eat vegetarian 5 days each week. Instead of meat and packaged/processed boxed foods, I ate more beans, whole grains, eggs, and tons more vegetables. (This guy has more to say about it.) I started going to the farmer’s markets, which sell local produce at a good price. You can ask the farmers how unfamiliar vegetables are grown and how best to cook them. I even found out that there is a not for profit CSA in the area where I live! It took some adjustments, but with online cooking sites like: http://www.101cookbooks.com/ and http://smittenkitchen.com/ full of delicious recipes and good pictures, it didn’t take long until vegetarian cooking was easy and satisfying. I have more energy, I’ve lost some weight, and I save loads of money.

And by planning meals ahead of time and making a grocery list, it was easier for me to ward of the temptation to grab buy-one-get-one-free bags of potato chips or cartons of ice cream, saving me money and helping me eat well. Meat is expensive, not buying it meant that I was able to buy better vegetables and more fruit and still save money. I buy some things in bulk (at places like Whole Foods) and save on things like oatmeal. I still have a quart of ice cream in the freezer at all times and I don’t go without a good drink chilling in the fridge. But I am building better habits and it is good for my all around well-being. Here are a few more tips.

When it comes to food, being financially healthy isn’t about denying yourself all the things you enjoy, it is a matter of considering both price and worth. Some things may be really cheap, like broccoli heads at Harris Teeter for $1.99/lb., but are worth a lot when you learn that they are raised locally and are good for your health. Other things might be cheap, like frozen pizza, but then you realize that it has been shipped across the country (meaning it has a big environmental cost in oil) and it is full of unhealthy processed fats and carbohydrates, meaning it really isn’t worth even the little bit you are paying for it. And so it turns out that what is good for our body is good for our bottom line as well.

It is important to recognize that many folks are struggling just to put any food in their bellies. When those of us with the means to make choices about what we purchase support small farmers and local economies, we improve food environments and promote affordable healthy food for our communities. This too is part of our financial well-being.

PagePage and Watermelon
Third Year

Page traded a career in finance, where she saw how money didn’t make people any happier, for a calling to live a different kind of good-side-up life. Now she loves every day of divinity school, volunteers at a local organic farm, and uses her financial powers for good.