Do you ever find yourself stressed and tired at 5pm on a Wednesday evening trying to figure out a healthy meal to make for you and your family?
I certainly have! And what I’ve learned is that our week always runs smoother if our meals are planned in advance! I’ve never regretted taking a little time on Saturday or Sunday to look at the week ahead, map out a variety of dishes, compose a list of needed items and head to the store. On the other hand, I have regretted the day to day method that leaves me overwhelmed and in a rut in the midst of a busy week.
Benefits I have found to meal planning:
1. We end up with great variety of colorful food throughout the week.
2. I can write down the plan for the whole family to see, so they know what to expect, or how they can help.
3. It’s more economical! I always save money when I go to the store with a great list and stick to it. We also waste less food.
4. We are less likely to go out to eat. This keeps our meals healthier, provides leftovers for lunches, and also saves money.
5. It’s more time efficient! I spend less total time driving to the store, being at the store, or thinking about what to make. I can also make better use of time with batch cooking or prepping food in advance.
There are many strategies that work well for meal planning. Here’s generally what works well for me:
• Using a printable meal/menu plan to lay out the week (there are many free PDF downloads online – similar to THIS one).
• Looking at the food that we currently need to use up in the fridge, freezer and pantry and composing meals with those foods first.
• Spacing out the types of protein/meat that we will be eating throughout the week for variety purposes (beef, chicken, pork, fish, turkey, lamb, etc.).
• Pulling in any new recipes I want to try and saving those for nights when I have a bit more time.
• Noting the busiest nights of the week and placing crockpot meals, leftovers, or mind-less meals in those slots.
• I usually start with dinners for the week and then plug in breakfast and lunch ideas.
• I make a thorough grocery list and stick to it.
While sometimes it can feel like putting in the time to prep and plan could be better spent, remember that food is one of the necessary elements to life, and good food is one of the necessary elements to quality of life. Food is our first medicine and that warrants attention!
Do you find meal planning beneficial? Do you have any tips or tricks to share that have worked for you?