I have been a meal planner for a while now, but it has evolved over the years. Most of it, like anything is trial and error and coming up with your own system. I had mainly been planning weekly meals which I was finding wasn’t helping me keep within my budget, we were eating the same types of foods and it did not reduce my stress level at all. It was beginning to seem as if it wasn’t worth it.
But I decided to revamp my meal planning with those goals in mind. I made a 16 week meal plan. I mean really, there are left over days, and picnic with friends days so my 16 week meal plan is going to end up being much longer. I have enjoyed my new found plan, and I am going to share with you the 5 reasons my extensive plan has made my life easier.
1. Less Meal Repeats– My husband, bless his heart, can’t eat the same things every day. I can but he can’t. So it has been interesting for me to try to find a variety of meals (that fit my limited cooking skills) without creating more stress for me. I sat down with my recipe box at my computer and went through the recipes I use (or had forgotten about). I threw the rest of the “extras” away. I then made a list of all the meals I make and sorted it out into a schedule. I was surprised at how many meals I’ve made over the 9 years of marriage. A lot of them I make more often than others. I wrote out a 16 week plan to use each dinner once. So far (besides left overs) I haven’t duplicated a meal nor have I thought about what I am going to make.
2. Pair Dishes For Left Over Use– Once again, my husband isn’t a fan of left overs. (He’s really not a picky dude- but he is not a big eater… same with my son- but my family growing up eats everything in sight so it’s been different) If planned right you can use some left overs from one night and transfer/add them to another. For example, last night I made a chicken noodle skillet. Well I had some left over plain noodles in the fridge. Instead of tossing them when they get moldy (which is what happens normally) I added them to the dish I made last night! Less waste more $ saved!
3. Plan According to Budget– Hopefully you have a grocery budget. If you don’t have a grocery budget, I highly recommend setting up one. The first time I set up an extensive meal plan, I did not pay attention to the meals I was planning back to back. Some times I would have Shrimp and Flank Steak one week and then Tortellini and Salmon the next. Well, my grocery budget isn’t set up for those types of meals in two weeks. Once per week (minus the flank steak) maybe, but otherwise it broke the budget. This time around I made sure to have just one or two expensive dishes per month, with the middle of the road ones and some casseroles. That way I could afford to eat what I was planning. If planned right, with using left overs, my grocery bill has had a surplus at the end of the month!
4. Stock The Left Overs!– So yes, my family isn’t a fan of left overs. However, if I freeze the left overs that I can’t use in another meal, and bring them out later… my family thinks I made a whole new meal! Granted this doesn’t really fit with the “no repeats” but if the majority of your meals aren’t repeated, you don’t feel as if you are eating the same thing over and over. In my freezer right now I have some Fejoada, Enchiladas, and Spaghetti Sauce. I am beginning to work these meals into our week just one at a time. Tomorrow I will use the enchiladas and simply pair it with chips and a salad. Boom! Already made, and very cheap. Less waste, less money thrown away and most of all….
5. Less STRESS– I have found that having this extensive system has eliminated my DISDAIN for cooking dinner. In fact last night I thought, ‘oh I kind of like this’. Once I realized what I was thinking I literally shook my head…. Cooking dinner has been so stressful for all of the reasons above and not to mention it’s the time of the day where everyone is tired and cranky. I’d rather cook breakfast, but my husband commutes and the kids aren’t quite old enough yet to take over dinner, so I am stuck with it. I just make sure I take out what I need to thaw (if necessary) the night before or morning of and it’s good to go. I know what I have and I don’t worry about it all day. Who knows maybe I’ll like cooking some day!
Anyway, those are the five ways my meal planning has helped me in my home… both monetarily and sanity wise. What benefits does meal planning give you?
DISCLAIMER: My husband has never complained about my cooking. I do know my culinary skills are below par (even though he doesn’t say so). He just isn’t a fan of eating the same thing over and over and over… and when you have such few culinary skills like myself, you cook what is easy and at the forefront of your brain…. over and over and over…. 🙂 Until now….