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You’ve heard other people talk about it. You might even know a few people who do it. But how – and why – should you get on that meal planning bandwagon?
Meal planning is really not all that hard! My husband and I started after we got married. At first, he hated it. He says I plan too much. (Is there such a thing?) He said we would run out of food. (We haven’t.) He said he would go hungry. (He hasn’t.) He said he wouldn’t like it. (While it took a couple months, he does now!)
You get home from work. You’re tired. Your spouse walks in a few minutes later. You look at each other, and someone says, “What’s for dinner?” Both of you shrug your shoulders. So one of you grabs a frozen pizza from the deep freeze. Or maybe you pick up the phone to order from your favorite restaurant. Or maybe – like us – you make tacos for the fifth time that month. Honestly – it’s pretty sad!
Here’s why we meal plan:
It’s easier not to think at night.
I don’t care if you work 12 hour days outside of the home or spend the day with your own kids. Chances are, by 5 or 6 o’clock when it’s time to think about supper, you’re tired. Yes, even too tired to think about what’s for supper! Then you get lazy and grab something quick. This can mess up your budget and that healthy lifestyle habit you’re trying to get into.
It’s easy to set ingredients out and be prepared.
We often get the meat out of the freezer the night before we need it. This way we don’t have to waste time defrosting meat the next day. It’s a small step, but it’s one more thing to keep us on the right track! It also saves us a little time.
You’ll save money on your grocery bill.
Let me guess, you sort of wander around the grocery store and pick up items you know you need, right? (That’s what I used to do!) Chances are that when you start to cook, you often find you’re missing an ingredient – which them means you have to come up with something else or you run to the store to get the item you need. (Which wastes your precious time!)
Knowing exactly what to buy each week (or month) will ensure you only get the items you truly need, therefore saving you money! Do we stick to our ingredient list 100% when we’re at the grocery store? No, but we do stay pretty close! It helps prevent those impulse buys that add up over time and it keeps some of the extra junk out of our house. This, in turn, keeps us healthier.
You’ll waste less.
Have you ever gone through your pantry and looked at all the cans down there? Unless you have a pretty good system in place or go through everything regularly, chances are you have some items that are expired. I’m not one to use expired food. (Well, maybe if it’s only by a few days or a month – but nothing too extreme!) So you basically just threw that money down the drain!
And don’t forget about the leftovers! How often have you thrown out leftovers because they went bad? When you meal plan, you’ll quickly learn if a recipe will last for 2-3 meals. Then you can plan your meals around it and not waste as much. (I recently shared this picture on Instagram. That’s what our fridge looks like close to the end of the month!)
We do still shop for essentials once or twice a week. By essentials I mean fruit, vegetables, milk, and bread. We buy all of these as needed. Actually, baby boy J and I walk up to our local grocery store 1-3 times a week to get out of the house, get groceries, and get our mile walk in. It works pretty well!
Ready to get started? Print out this free printable meal planning template. You’ll get three sheets – one for monthly meal planners, one for two week planners, and one for those of you who only want to plan one week at a time. (There’s nothing wrong with starting small!)
There are several ways to use this free printable. You can write out your meals for each day specifically, or make a list of all the meals you typically eat. Then simply cross each one off as you make it. This method is not as “rigid”, but it still helps you meal plan and shop more efficiently than using nothing.
Better yet – laminate and reuse this sheet over and over again!
I want to hear your thoughts? Are you for or against meal planning? Why? Shout them out in the comments below!