Sunday, February 15, 2015

I heart meal planning

This morning, as I was cooking bacon for breakfast, I got a text from one of my sisters living in California. We got to talking and she asked me how my day had been going. I told her it was good; I’d planned the meals for next week and that I was currently “makin’ bacon.” She asked about the meal planning thing and I shared with her why I started planning meals for the week.

I know that meal planning is not new. I have some friends who plan meals and one of them even shared a chart she uses for her meal planning. I finally started trying this out too and, oh my gosh, it has been a HUGE help!

As I explained to my sister, planning meals for the week has helped take the mystery out of what to make for dinner on certain days. I cook meals 4 days a week, we get fast food on the 5th, and my husband is responsible for dinner on the final 2 days. (When it’s his turn, he usually gets fast food.) And I just got tired of asking myself on Mondays or Wednesdays, What the heck am I going to make for dinner tonight?

By planning meals, I’ll KNOW what will be for dinner on a certain day.

This has also helped us plan our grocery shopping better, too. We can shop in advance for what we will need for certain meals. At minimum, we get the basics we’ll need for breakfast – like cereal or doughnuts – as well as the basics for lunches, like cans of soup, noodles, lunch meat, etc. But when we know what will be for dinner ahead of time, we’ll also be sure to get the needed hamburger or chicken or…whatever else will be needed! This way, we won’t have to make an unexpected run to the store to get a pound of hamburger or shredded cheese. We’ll know we’ll need it and we’ll be sure to buy it on either Sunday or Monday.

Additionally, I will review Jesse’s lunch menu for the coming week and decide how many lunches he’ll be taking to school, thereby adjusting the grocery list for the number of days he’ll take a lunch. I know what he likes and doesn’t like, so this helps us prepare for those days he won’t buy lunch at school.

The meal planning has another benefit. I’m able to determine if we have a certain kind of dinner too often, not often enough, and to add variety. Ever since I started planning meals, no one has complained, “We’re having chicken AGAIN?” (Apparently, screaming at them “YOU’LL EAT IT AND LIKE IT!” doesn’t necessarily mean they will eat it. Or like it.) So that helps to ensure there is more variety in the meals we have for the week.

Also, if somebody says “I want meatloaf” or “I want spaghetti and meatballs” but we don’t have the things needed to make them, I can add those meals to the menu for next week.

And, finally, planning meals means I can try out more recipes, because I can set aside one day to try out a new dish then shop for the ingredients we’ll need for it ahead of time.

Of course, the meal plan for the week is not set in stone. Sometimes I’ll have to move a meal to another day and switch it with that day’s planned meal if I don’t have time to cook a certain meal or if we were not able to finish the weekly grocery shopping and get everything we needed. But for the most part, the meals I plan out for the week are the ones we will eat. My husband once asked why we were having fast food on a certain day and I told him that was what was on the menu (though I should’ve said “meal plan” and not “menu” because “menu” was not entirely accurate).

Planning the meals for the week has definitely worked out great for us. I like that it causes less stress and we can prepare our shopping trips accordingly. It also takes the mystery out of what’s for dinner!

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