Welcome to the Meal Planning 101 Series! I’m so glad you’ve decided to stop by and take a peek. Meal planning may not be exciting but it sure can be satisfying to know what’s for dinner, and to know that because you made a plan, you were able to save money on your food bill. Maybe even enough to pay for a vacation. That could be exciting!
If you need some convincing, here are some of the most significant benefits to having an effective meal plan:
Meal Planning helps you stick to a budget:
- The biggest money you’ll save by having a meal plan will come from not eating out “by default”. You won’t get to the end of the day and realize that you don’t have time to put anything together. You’ll check your plan in the morning and do any prep work that needs to be done, like starting something in the Crock pot, or defrosting a casserole.
- A detailed shopping list helps you avoid impulse buys.
- A detailed shopping list keeps you from buying random groceries and coming home with not enough specific ingredients to make meals for the week.
- Making a plan for the week allows you to plan for the items you have in your fridge that might otherwise not get used up. That alone can save you a lot of money. By taking a quick peek into your fridge, you can plan your meals around what’s there, instead of letting that go bad while you plan and buy for seven other meals.
- You can plan for seasonal ingredients, which are generally not only healthier, but less expensive.
- You can cook in bulk, which can save you money in several ways. (See the series on freezer cooking for more details on that.)
Having a meal plan just brings peace of mind.
There’s just something so comforting about knowing that I’ve got dinner planned. I don’t know how many times the question “What’s for dinner” runs through my mind. If I don’t have a plan, I’m stressed every time I think of it. If I do have a plan, I’m comforted all over again each time I remember that dinner is under control.
Meal planning makes me more intentional about the quality of the food I serve.
If I don’t have a plan, I just throw together whatever I can find. The meals tend to be rather boring (chicken casserole again?) and lack the diversity that a healthy diet should include. When you put a meal plan together you can see the overview of what you’ll be serving over the course of the next week. You can see when you’re serving a lot of one food group at the expense of another. (And while we’re talking about food groups, I just want to make sure you’re aware that corn is a grain. Not a vegetable. Just sayin’.)
We’re more likely to eat as a family when I have a plan.
Maybe it’s just us, but when we have leftovers or some simple (boring) meal I threw together out of whatever happened to be in the fridge, we’re not as inclined to eat at the table. When the family is left to “forage” as my husband calls it, we tend to eat at different times, and probably in front of the TV. Not that there’s anything wrong with that once in a while, but I don’t want to make it the norm. Cooking a real meal doesn’t have to be complicated. With a meal plan, you can do it with the same effort as it would take to throw together something boring. And the family will come to the table for a “real meal”.
So let’s make a plan!
Have I talked you into a making a meal plan? I hope so. I truly don’t know another homemaking strategy that brings more peace of mind, contributes better to the health of your loved ones, and helps you stick to a budget than meal planning does.
Stick with me for this series and we’ll go through the process of creating an effective meal plan, step by step.