Some days I look back on the past fifteen years and wonder–
1) where did the time go AND
2) what did we do before we had kids?
Those first four years of marriage, I taught in a church and school and my husband was in college to become a veterinarian. I really try to focus and think about what our life looked like then, but it’s difficult!
One thing I know for sure? I knew nothing about cooking. Hamburger Helper was regularly on the menu. Cereal for breakfast. Sandwiches for lunch. Dinner was made by the person home from work/school first, and there was not a plan…
Fast forward to the present date, and you will find a mom crazy about meal planning. Now, sometimes I get tired. I don’t do it perfectly. Some weeks we are barely home, and I only sketch out a few ideas, but, overall, I really love to have a plan.
My foray into menu planning began right after I had my oldest daughter. I began to realize, “Hey! Someone is going to have to feed this girl!” We ran into problems once I found out she was allergic to both milk and eggs, and it was then I decided to get intentional about planning our meals. I had no idea how to cook without milk and eggs, so it was essential for me to have a plan–and plenty of recipes!
Here are a few reasons why I think it’s so important to menu plan:
Benefits of Menu Planning
1) It saves you money.
It’s 5 pm. Do you know what’s for dinner? If not, you’ll either head out the door to pick up some take-out or make a quick trip to the store to pick up something easy. Money is spent, and it’s probably more than if you’d taken a little time to plan. I am convinced that most people can easily cut their grocery budget with just a few tricks, and menu planning is a big way to do so.
2) It can help you stay healthy.
Forcing yourself to think through and write down your plan can be life-changing. Not only will it help you save money, but it can help you make wise decisions about what to eat. Instead of picking up the quickest boxed meal on the shelf, you will have thought through, pre-planned and purchased what you need to make a healthy meal. Now obviously, you can still menu plan and put not-so-great foods on your menu, but most people make more health-conscious decisions when they plan ahead.
3) You make fewer trips to the store.
I’m convinced you spend less money when you stick with a list and make fewer trips to the store. I usually go once a week, but I have some friends that only go every other week or once a month! I, personally, prefer to spend my time in other ways besides at the grocery store, so planning ahead and knowing what I need makes sense for me!
4) Meal planning saves you time.
I’ve heard quite a bit of grumbling about menu-planning:
“I don’t have time.”
“I’m way too busy.”
I just don’t buy it. If nourishing your family is important to you, you will find the time! It’s like anything in life–your priorities dictate where you spend your time. Feeding my family well and keeping our spending under control is important to me, so I take a few minutes each week to sketch out a plan.
I have found when I don’t have to spend all day worrying about what I’m going to make for dinner, it actually frees up time for me. For example, maybe I throw something in the crockpot on Monday morning and my Monday afternoon is easier. Or I know we’re having chicken with butternut squash on Thursday, so I can pull out the chicken on Tuesday and let it defrost in the refrigerator.
5) Menu planning is flexible.
There is no *right* way to menu plan. Some people are more spontaneous and hate being tied to a rigid plan. In that case, have a list of ideas and plug them in according to how you feel that day or the night before. Some people are more rigid in their approach and like to have a whole month planned at a time (that would not be me). More power to you! I’ve found that my method of menu planning changes during various seasons. Flexibility is definitely beneficial for me!
While not exhaustive, those are a few of my favorite reasons for menu planning. Do you have any other reasons why you do (or don’t) menu plan?
Next week, we’ll dive into the “how” of menu planning.