I know meal planning can seem very overwhelming and honestly it can be if you let it, but it doesn't have to be. I've been meal planning consistently for about 5 years and let me tell you it has made a difference in my grocery budget, my time and my sanity.
So why meal plan?
- It quells the "Mom (or Babe) what's for dinner tonight?" chorus that you hear each day. I finally got sick of saying "I have no idea". This gives them a definitive answer and they don't need to ask again. Check one for my sanity. :)
- You no longer have the "5pm panic" of what's for dinner. We've all been there...the kids are whining, your stomach is growling, nothing sounds good and your husband is headed home from work and you don't have a flipping clue what you're going to make for dinner. Meal plan to the rescue!
- By having a plan and sticking to it (sometimes that's the hardest part, can I get an amen?) your need to eat out or order takeout will lessen. Now don't get me wrong, I love to eat out as much as the next girl but it is so dang expensive!! Eating at home is so much cheaper, and typically healthier too.
- Make a list of your family's favorite 25 meals. If you're struggling with that many, try 15. If you can't find that many, then you need a date with Pinterest. :)
- Grab your calendar and see what's happening that week. Take into account what activities you have going that week. For example, if you know that you won't have much time to cook a dinner one night, utilize the Crockpot that night.
- Decide what day you're going to grocery shop. I always grocery shop on Sunday. I love to grocery shop, but I loathe grocery shopping on Sunday because everyone and their dog is at the store, but it's the only day I can go without my kids, so I'll take it! I start my meal plan for the day after I go shopping, so my plans run Monday-Sunday.
- Take a quick inventory of what you already have in your cupboards, fridge and freezer. By utilizing what you already have on hand you're going to save yourself money and time at the grocery store. You can shape at least a few meals based on what you already have.
- If you're on a budget, which a lot of us are, pull out your sales flyer or look online at the ad. Get a feel for what is on sale that week, then look back at your list of meals and see if there are a couple that you can pair with items on sale. Obviously, you can't buy everything on sale, but every bit helps. If this step overwhelms you skip this step for now and just get planning meals consistently under your belt.
- Decide what you want to eat this week. Just start by planning 5 dinners and work your way into 7. We usually eat out one night a week and sometimes end up eating leftovers another, so plan accordingly if you do too. And also, consider the season of life you're in. If you have a bunch of little ones or teenagers in a bunch of activities, don't plan elaborate dinners that will take all afternoon to cook. Once you get the hang of it, and if needed, plan breakfast and lunches too.
- STICK TO YOUR MEAL PLAN!!! I can't emphasize this enough. Also, be thinking about if you need to pull meat out of the freezer, etc... When I first started I would put a note next to the meal on the previous night to pull out ground beef (or whatever it is) for tomorrow. That way you're ready to go and don't have to bail on your plan.
- Give yourself grace. Remember it is going to take time to get the hang of things. Life happens, kids get sick, unexpected company comes to town, etc... Even if you only stick to your plan 3 days a week, that's progress. Just by having a plan you'll be leaps and bounds ahead of where you were before.