With school back in swing and all the various activities and to-do’s associated with this new season -your head may be spinning just a little bit. Okay maybe a lot. But, we want to help you spin a little less and encourage you to try something that has been very beneficial to our lives to save time and money–the (simple) task of meal planning!
I remember hearing people say these words before, but I would quickly tune out the conversation and write it off as something that people did to just fill time and have something to talk about. But then when life got really busy last fall, I did it. I opted to take on the thing that had seemed so unnecessary: I became a meal planner. I can confidently say now that it has been one of the best personal/family decisions and has saved me quite a bit of money and time usually spent stressing over meals. It has also encouraged me to try foods that I wouldn’t normally venture to experience.
The first perk of meal planning is that it is something that you can do as a single, or you can involve others in your family. It has given me a chance to talk to my husband about foods that he really enjoys and wants to try, rather than me making all the decisions about the menu. It also helps provide clear communication for the schedule for the week so that you can get on the same page about practices, meetings, birthday parties, etc. Some nights it will make more sense to eat leftovers or plan to eat out. You can write out the menu for the week and display it in the kitchen so everyone is informed and not always asking what’s for dinner. Or maybe you are like me and get home from work with a brain that doesn’t want to think anymore. It’s so refreshing to know that you have already planned out the meal and purchased all the items needed (so that in itself is another perk -less trips to the grocery store). I display my menu on a chalkboard in the kitchen, so it is easy to erase and start fresh each week (not to mention it’s great decor and a fun conversation piece!).
Another huge perk is the amount of money that it will save just by spending a little extra time to plan the food you are going to eat! I do my planning on Saturday and then go to the store on Sunday after church. But of course you can choose whatever time frame is best for you. When I am planning, I write out 3 columns. The first column lists the day of the week (easy enough), the second column lists the type of meal (ex. Korean beef over rice with side of asparagus) and the third column lists the items that I need to buy for the meal that I do not already have in the kitchen. If you don’t want to make your own, there are many free templates online. Try searching “meal planning templates.” I make sure to write the list in the kitchen, because I am often checking cabinets and the refrigerator to see if I have any items to use or substitute. Once the list is complete, I take it a step further than meal planning – I make a different list that helps me to navigate through the grocery store as quickly as possible (because I am always ready to get out of that arctic zone). This list takes all the items I need to get at the grocery store and organizes it by section: fruits/veggies, dairy, meat, dry goods, freezer foods, cleaning supplies and toiletries. This part of the process is not needed, but just an added perk if you are trying to be super efficient and not wander all over the store like I used to do. So, back to my main point, as far as savings, I am easily saving about $50 a week, just by planning ahead. Which over a month’s time is saving around $200 and $2,400 over an entire year!! Are you convinced now?!
The final point that I’ll make is that it can become FUN. Yes, I said it! Soon you will not be shaking your head and thinking this is just an unnecessary thing people do, but you will come to love it. For myself, it allows me to plan to try new foods and recipes I hear about instead of my tendency in the past was to buy the same things out of habit and laziness to think outside the box. Pinterest is always a good resource in times of quick planning, but it can also open up an opportunity to reach out to friends and family and ask them to send a current favorite recipe. Get creative, try new things and learn new cooking skills in the process -it’s a win all around!
If you cannot tell, I am obviously a big fan of meal planning and I hope you experience the freedom and fun of it all too! Comment below with any specific questions or tips and tricks that you know. Until next time!
Written by: Maggie Lechner, The Event Group Social Media Manager