I know what you’re thinking: “Ain’t nobody got time for that…she’s crazy”! It’s OK, that’s exactly how I used to feel about meal planning too.
The truth is, you really can save yourself a lot of time, stress, and money by mapping out your weekly meals in advance. I started pre-planning our weeknight dinners about four months ago, and now I stare at the fridge in pure confusion at 4 o’clock if I somehow get off track and don’t plan for the week.
Before our son was born I used to visit our local grocery store 3-4 times per week. It was easy to just stop and grab the black beans for taco Tuesday that I forgot on my big Sunday shop. Flash forward to baby, and now I have to change myself and a tiny human out of our pajamas, brush my teeth, pull my dirty hair into a bun, throw on some moisturizer, strap the babe into his car seat, warm up the car, and pray that this trip will be meltdown free. Not quite the same. Truthfully, some days, it really isn’t even an option to get out to the grocery store. This is why meal planning can be so revolutionary as a momma.
Below are my top five reasons to start incorporating meal planning into your life. Don’t get too focused on nailing it right away- last minute takeout, cereal for dinner, and resorting to Delissio are all part of the process :).
Free up some time
I now visit the grocery store once per week. I go in armed with a very specific list which I don’t stray from, and I’m in and out in under half an hour. No more wandering the aisles, peacefully dreaming up meal ideas as I go. That’s no longer realistic.
On top of the time I save shopping, I’ve taken the guesswork out of my afternoons because I’ve already saved all the recipes I need and spend zero time browsing Pinterest wondering what I can make with what I have on hand. I already have everything I need.
Save lotsa money
My first step each week is looking through the flyers for my local grocery stores to see what’s on sale. From there, I start planning out my meals. If tofu is half off, we’re having a tofu stir fry. If whole chickens are reduced, its roast chicken and root veggies for us! I’ve found that this strategy has really helped reduce our monthly grocery bill.
Having a list prepared also helps me to avoid buying unnecessary items because I’m no longer disorganized.
Boost your health
It’s a whole lot easier to not eat an entire bag of chips if you don’t buy chips.
Planning out your meals in advance can help ensure that you’re eating relatively healthy throughout the week. It’s much easier to have willpower when browsing recipe books and Pinterest than it is when you’re in the frozen entree aisle, and as long as you follow the ‘stick to your list’ rule you should be safe.
Be a ‘mean green’ momma
It’s important to realize that your family’s food choices have an impact on the environment, and that a healthier environment means healthier people. When the health of the air, water, and soil which provide our food sources and sustain life are degraded this has a direct impact on human health.
That being said, I’m definitely not suggesting that you turn vegan and buy all local organic produce overnight. But meal planning can help you make small steps towards lowering your household’s footprint.
Two small ways meal planning has made our home more green are a) we now eat a vegetarian or vegan dinner once per week, and b) I no longer find myself pitching expired food into the garbage each week.
I wouldn’t have the first clue how to prepare yummy vegan meals without advance planning, but now some of our faves each week are plant based.
Improve your kitchen skills
Meal planning is also a great way to experiment in the kitchen and learn new skills! Taking the time to think about what you’ll be making in advance might get you excited to pull out that ________ (insert ‘must have’ kitchen appliance from your wedding registry that’s still in the box) and give it a whirl.