Meal planning is one more task to add to your weekly chores. I get it, you are already doing so much that trying to find time to sit down and figure out what to feed these little hooligans, not to mention yourself... oh and your spouse, feels like it might be too much.
I didn't always meal plan. Back when we were first married we would wander the grocery store after work, pick up a few random things that sounded good for the next couple days, then head home and make something. Repeat a couple days later... and a couple days later... and then we would have all types of random food in our house that didn't really work together, not enough for full meals, and we'd be back at the store spending more money on various food items that would last us a few more days.
Oh my goodness.
The money we wasted on buying hundreds and hundreds of pre-packaged, single serving meals for our lunches. Yes, I was on Weight Watchers and having Smart Ones or Lean Cuisines with the points already listed made my life super easy... but we were making pennies and spending it all on food that we could have made for a quarter of the price!
Okay, I think you probably see where I'm going with this. But it's so much more than just saving money, you guys. SO MUCH MORE.
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Once our first kid was born I realized I couldn't run to the grocery store every couple days. My husband had Fridays off at his new job so we decided Friday would be our new shopping day and we could wander the stores together as a family. I would spend my week coming up with meal ideas and clipping coupons to keep us in our grocery budget. Yeah, we had finally created one of those, too. Having a kid made us make some good choices! ;) But again, this is deeper than just numbers in a budget.
Why should you meal plan?
Meal planning takes out meal time stress.
Oh those days of walking in the door at 5pm and staring at a fridge or cupboard with random items and having no idea what to pull together and feed us. Or even once I was home and taking care of the kids before I got really good at meal planning. I still had days when I couldn't come up with ideas and the kids were hungry.
Hunger makes the need to come up with any food plan significantly harder. The kids are cranky, you are trying to use any brain power remaining after a full day and there are questions being lobbed at you from every direction. Ugh!
By meal planning you know exactly what is on the docket each day. You can even have those meals prepped and ready when you need to start cooking or walk in the door after work. Goodness, you could even do something as unthinkable as a slow cooker meal that is finished cooking at dinner time so you don't even need to do a single thing but serve it! ;)
Meal planning makes you a good steward of your resources.
We all have finite resources. If we spend our grocery budget on junk and have nothing left for quality food to make meals from, we are not using those resources wisely.
Because I don't earn a real income, I consider meal planning part of my financial contribution to our household. I take the money Micah brings home and use it as wisely as possible so we can get the best options for our money. I plan meals that use similar ingredients each week to streamline our shopping and make sure the food doesn't go to waste.
Before meal planning I bought whatever sounded good and we would often find spoiled food in the fridge or cupboard that we had to toss out. With proper planning we make sure we are using what we are buying. Which leads directly to the next point!
Meal planning means less food waste
We plan for leftovers. Every week we eat leftovers on Sunday night (because I don't feel like cooking on my rest day) and on Thursday night (clean out the fridge before shopping day). Micah also takes leftovers most days for lunch and the kids and I eat leftovers for lunch at least once or twice as well.
Yes, this means I cook a decent amount per meal. But our kids are also somewhat young so they aren't eating huge portions. As they grow the amount of leftovers we have will significantly decrease... or I'll be making more per meal.
In addition to planning for leftovers, I can also make sure I plan meals that use the ingredients I'm buying. That new dish you found might sound super tasty but if it calls for an ingredient you don't usually use and might not use again, is it worth it? I hate digging through my fridge or freezer and finding something I thought I'd use only to see it's gone bad before I planned a use for it.
Meal planning means healthier choices
This one isn't as much of a default as the others because you do need to plan your choices but having a plan will often mean less trips through the drive through or for delivery. This doesn't mean we don't go out to eat - but we plan for it! It's not a last minute, spur of the moment decision.
Each time we've increased our grocery budget, we usually do so in order to have more room for produce. Often a third of our $100/week budget is spent on fruit and veggies with another good portion spent on eggs, milk, and cheese. I think we go through about 15-20 pounds of carrots each month because we keep several pounds cut up in the fridge at a time for easy snacking and a quick side for meals. Such a better choice than chips or fries… although we do eat fries sometimes!
Meal planning can save your budget
And yes, it can be a huge budget saver. Without meal planning there is no way we could stick to a $90/week budget for our family of seven. Now please don't look at that number and think you need to make it work for your family. NOPE, NOPE, NOPE. It's the number we've decided works for our family based on our needs.
We have zero dietary issues so we eat without restrictions. I make loads of things from scratch to save us a good amount. We eat simple foods that tend to cost less - beans, rice, carrots, apples, bananas, chicken, etc. We often eat the same meals or very similar meals on a regular basis.
When you know what meals you are going to make, you know exactly what you need to buy. You aren’t wandering the aisles and grabbing whatever sounds good at the moment and then trying to force those foods into a real meal. Or having to run back to the store to buy more food to make the meal you want each night.
Are you ready to start meal planning? Need a jump start on how to make a meal plan?
You are in luck! This great resource is now available called the Ultimate Healthy Meal Planning Bundle! This bundle is full of healthy recipes - no canned items, no “cream of” soups, but hundreds of meals in a variety of categories from slow cooker meals, to entertaining meals, to meals that take less than 30 minutes from start to table. In fact, there are over 1,000 recipes across 12 categories!
Not only do you get all these recipes, but you also get meal planning resources! The bundle comes with 30+ ready to use meal plans with shopping lists and prep notes! There are also 5 ecourses, 5 ebooks, and 4 printable packs and workbooks.
You could have almost your entire year of meals planned for you - especially if you use a few of the meal plans more than once! And no matter your dietary needs, there is a meal plan for you!
I’m super excited to share that the ecookbooks in this bundle features 16 of my recipes, several of which I’ve yet to share here on the blog! I love creating yummy food for families that use homemade ingredients. It’s significantly cheaper to make foods from scratch and is a huge part of why we can make our $100/week grocery budget work for our family of seven.