5 Reasons You Should Be Meal Planning


5 Reasons You Should Be Meal Planning — a Modern Mrs.
I am a huge advocate for meal planning. In fact, when asked how we save money on groceries, the first thing I mention is that we plan our meals. It makes that much of a difference! My journey with meal planning began in 2009 when I was laid off from my job. I had $100 in my checking account and, of course, we were out of everything. I had to get as much food as I could with that $100, and make it stretch as far as I could. We had officially become a one income family, and I wasn't sure if we could make that work. I was presented with this challenge, and I was determined I would prevail! At that time I was able to purchase two weeks of groceries for that $100, and it was all thanks to meal planning (and a few coupons).

Now, a lot has changed in seven years — the size of my family, store prices, policies, etc. — but my process is still the same, and the first step in my process is planning our meals. My husband is paid bi-weekly, and while I used to shop for two weeks at a time, we are now living in a smaller home (with a smaller fridge and freezer), so I now shop weekly. I don't plan our breakfasts or our lunches each day, considering most days that consists of cereal and sandwiches, so our meal planning is primarily for dinner. I know some people that meal plan every meal, but that doesn't work for us for several reasons. Even with only planning for dinner, doing so saves us a ton of money!

With that said, let's get into the five reasons I believe you should be meal planning:

1) Meal planning saves money.

Is there really any other motivator? Of course there is, and I'll get to them shortly, but you have to admit saving money is probably the prime motivator. It's nothing to sneer at either, especially in our still-shaky economy. If your family relies on one income like mine does, every penny really does count, and meal planning helps eliminate unnecessary purchases.

For example, when I plan our dinners, I first go and check our fridge, freezer and pantry to see what we have/need to prepare those meals. Whatever we're lacking goes on the list. I have a strict "if it's not on the list, it doesn't get bought" rule, so I better hope I don't forget any ingredients! Knowing what meals you'll be making eliminates the splurge buys while at the store, or the "I can't remember if we have [insert condiment here], so I'll just get another" scenario. You know what you'll be making, you've checked your stash, and you're ready to go!

2) Meal planning saves time.

I am notorious for forgetting to thaw meat out... that is, when I haven't done a meal plan. When a meal plan is in place, I know ahead of time what is on the menu, so I can set aside the designated protein the night before. If I wait until the morning, the odds are higher I'll forget, but I'm still way more likely to remember when I have a menu staring me in the face. (I like to put mine on the fridge.) When I know what needs to be thawed, and know what I'm making with it, I've saved time in two departments.

  1. I know exactly what I'm making, what I need to make it, how long it will take me, etc.
  2. There's no surprises, and no eight o'clock dinner because Mommy forgot dinner had to sit in a marinade, or bake for 45 minutes.
Which takes me back to reason number one; meal planning saves money. If you know what needs to be done, you get it done, and you aren't left defaulting to ordering takeout. (You know, unless you're just so exhausted from adulting, in which case, you get a pass.)

3) Meal planning promotes variety.

Similarly to how you can only have pizza so many times before you're just sick of the sight of it, when you're left guessing what to make for dinner, you usually wind up making the same meals time and time again. Or, you're going to the store on a whim, and are left in a confused cloud of choices in front of the 1,000,000 options resulting in purchasing a "safety meal." Every family is different, but our safety meal (otherwise known as uh-oh, I forgot about dinner) is usually premade stir fry. It works, but it's not exactly a winner.

With a meal plan in place, you and your family can sit down together and decide what you want to eat. I usually break out the recipe box, Pinterest board, and bookmarked recipes folder to look for meals I either haven't made before, or haven't made in a while. Then, I ask my family if that's something they'd like to have. I usually try to incorporate one new meal per week and one oldie-but-goodie that's not part of our usual rotation. However, we usually wind up with several new meals, because I'm always trying out new recipes. In any case, this step avoids the same meal every week dilemma I had growing up. We always ate the same things every week of every month of every year... unless it was a birthday or holiday. Stop the cycle. Meal plan. Save yourselves!

4) Meal planning makes kids happy.

You heard it from me, folks, and I kid you not. (No pun intended...) When you include your kids, they're much more likely to try new foods. L loves insists on being involved in our meal planning process. She wants to have a say in what we're eating, help shop (when she can), and lately, even help to prepare the meal. If the menu has already been approved by your kids, or they're at least on board with the idea, you avoid the moans and groans of hangry kids who don't like what is being presented to them, and the subsequent dilemma that usually follows — allow them to eat something else, or send them to bed hungry? (We send ours to bed if she doesn't eat. Trust me, it doesn't happen often, and she's fine.)

5) Meal planning encourages healthy eating.

With the elimination of repeat takeout orders, premade safety meals, or a meal loaded with starches because you didn't have any veggies, and the added savings, extra time and interested kids, you can create delicious, healthy and exciting meals you wouldn't have considered otherwise!

For example, I remember the first time I made Bruschetta Pesto Chicken Casserole. My family loved it, but it wasn't something I would have thought up myself, nor would I have had all the necessary ingredients on-hand. Meal planning allowed me to find the recipe in my bookmarks, designate a day for it, purchase everything I needed to make it, and have enough time to prepare it to enjoy at our regular dinnertime. And, what's probably most important, we now have a new, healthy recipe to add to our regular rotation! Kid approved!

Are you convinced? Give it a try! Meal planning really is a wonderful thing! It may be hard to remember at first, but once you get into the habit, it will become natural, and you will enjoy it. There are even tons of cute and free meal planning menus and lists available online. If you are willing to spend a few bucks, you could even get customized printables, such as those made by Jen of I Heart Organizing. (Check out her Etsy shop!) Hers are so darn cute!

Good luck, and happy meal planning!

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  1. Great post and advice. Thanks so much.

  2. You're very welcome! I'm glad you think so.

  3. TRUTH!! I did a terrible job planning this week and went waaaaay over budget. Now, I need to stretch our grocery trip an extra week to make up for the overage. Oops!!

  4. You can always stall too. "If you had to guess, or explain it, what would you say?". Its one of my favorite games to play with T because he's so imaginative.

  5. Ahh! That's the worst! Casseroles are great for situations like yours. I know you'll figure it out, though. ♥

  6. I try that sometimes, but I don't want to give her false information either. I figure if I truly don't know the answers, it's always best to fess up and figure it out together. I'm learning something in the process, too. I just hope she doesn't think back on those moments and wince with embarrassment....

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