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Are you ready to hear about the one thing that has saved my sanity? Here it is:
Meal planning. Truly, it’s meal planning, and I’ll tell you why.
If you are looking for less stress and a way to stay within your food budget, then meal planning is essential. In Menu Planning 101 Part One and Menu Planning 101 Part Two, I explain the nuts and bolts of how to menu plan, but for today’s purposes I will share the why of meal planning.
Meal planning may seem like a huge undertaking at first, but it doesn’t need to be, and it does get easier each time you do it. I have been meal planning for several years, and although I was hesitant at first, I tried it the first time and have never looked back.
Prior to trying it myself, I didn’t really understand how putting the time and effort into creating a meal plan would ever result in me coming out ahead. However, I couldn’t have been more wrong about it.
I only create a meal plan for a week at a time because in order to stay within my food budget, my meal plan has to be created around what is on sale for the week. If I had a more liberal food budget, I would be open to trying to meal plan for a month at a time. Since the steps I take you through in Menu Planning Part One and Menu Planning Part Two include gathering all my recipes together, this would also take a decent amount of time to meal plan for an entire month at a time.
Let me share with you the five benefits I have come to greatly appreciate since meal planning has become a part of my life.
I have much less stress.
It seems so hard to believe that simply knowing what is for dinner ahead of time can save stress, but it totally does for me. I don’t know if your life is like mine, but I am constantly being pulled in several directions at once, which I compare to trying to keep a bunch of plates spinning at one time. Having to keep one more plate spinning in the form of figuring out what was for dinner more at the last minute was just so exhausting to me prior to my menu planning days.
I save money.
I save money, period. I save money because I am shopping sales, but I am also saving money because I am not tempted to grab a more convenience type meal when I am just to exhausted to think or cook.
I avoid having to make dinner the whiny, pre-dinner hour.
If your kids are anything like mine, you know exactly what I am talking about with this one. What is it about that time of the day from 4:15 until dinnertime when everything falls apart? Meltdowns, sibling conflict, complaining, BLOOD – ugh – it can be endless during this time of the day. Because I am not having to take the time to think about a meal and in most cases, make the entire meal because I have assembled it ahead of time, I am available to actually deal with these things rather than tolerate these lovely “episodes.”
I can easily dismiss the question, “What’s for dinner?” by telling my kids to simply go read the menu plan.
You would think they already know the answer to this question, but it still gets asked. I could only imagine if I had no menu plan to point them toward with a life like mine. Six talking kids who are home all day every day…ugh, the thought just makes me shudder.
I spend less time in the kitchen in general.
Because I know what I’m having for meals, I can be efficient much easier. For instance, if I’m chopping onions for one dish, I can look ahead to my meal plan and actually chop enough onions for the whole week – they can even be kept in the freezer! When I know what my meals will be for the week, I handle a lot of the prep work on Sunday night. I do things like cut onions or other vegetables, make salad dressings or sauces, or cook meat if I happen to run out of the meat that I keep in my freezer as I wrote about in Stress Free Freezer Staples for Last Minute Meals. Standing in the kitchen doing meal prep all at one time is a huge time saver because everything is all out at once.
It is hard to believe that this one thing has been so vital to maintaining my sanity, but meal planning truly has. Because it helps me stay within my budget, avoid the dreaded questions about dinner, head off that cranky pre-dinner hour or two, and greatly reduce my time in the kitchen, meal planning gives me so much bang for my buck in this one simple discipline. It will do the same for you!