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The Case for Meal Planning

Still not planning your meals? Domestic CEO has 3 reasons why you should start right away. (Hint: It will save you time and money!) 

By
Amanda Thomas
October 24, 2012
Episode #034

The Case for Meal Planning

Jump on the mommy blog circuit, and you will quickly see that meal planning is a top topic of conversation. While it may seem intimidating to get started after seeing some of these women and the amazing dishes they create night after night, meal planning can be very easy to start and even easier to maintain. Plus, the benefits to your waistline and your bottom line far outweigh the emotional challenge of starting a new routine.

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Mr. Domestic CEO and I didn’t always have a meal planning routine. While we have always cooked a lot, we didn’t start planning our dinners until a few years ago. Now that we are in the routine, I can’t imagine going back. If you are still on the fence about starting a dinnertime routine for your own home, I thought I would give you my top 3 reasons for meal planning each week and put you over that fence. Here’s how to get started:

Tip #1: It’s Healthier

There’s something about writing your meals down on paper that forces you to examine your food choices. Right now, you may be grabbing a bite in fast food or chain restaurants most nights. It may seem faster and simpler. But once you write down that you are eating fast food 5 nights a week, and a box of mac ’n cheese and a frozen pizza the other 2 nights, you may start to realize why those last 10 pounds refuse to come off.

When I write out our meal plans for the week, I have a space for a protein, a vegetable, and a grain in each meal. This way, even if we have been running around all day, eating crappy food, we can at least make sure to get in some veggies and lean protein each night. And when we want to splurge and have a not-so-healthy meal, I’m OK with that because I can make the other meals that week healthier. If you are looking for more tips on how to incorporate healthy foods into your diet, pop on over to see what my colleague Nutrition Diva has to say.

Tip #2: It Saves Money and Wastes Less

Wasting less was the reason I started meal planning in the first place. I had what you’d call a “fridge of good intentions.” Over the weekend, I would buy a variety of vegetables and get excited about all the things I could make with them. But by Tuesday, some of them were already starting to go bad, and by Friday, there was fuzzy mold in my veggie drawer. I threw away so many vegetables that I actually started to feel bad. “There are starving children in Africa,” kept echoing through my head.

When I committed to not throwing out another vegetable, I realized that I would need to write down which ones needed to get eaten on Monday, and which ones could last until the next weekend. This was hands down my biggest motivation to planning my meals each week and has helped keep us on track ever since. Now, we do occasionally toss a veggie that is past its prime, but for the most part, between soups, stir-fries, and casseroles, we can find a way to use them all each week.

In addition to wasting less food, planning your meals will allow you to create a grocery list and shop just once a week. If you know exactly what you need to buy for the week ahead, you only need to visit the grocery store once, thereby cutting down on the amount of unnecessary extras you’re tempted to grab at the checkout counter.

Let’s just say that each time you went to the grocery store, you grabbed $5 worth of items that you weren’t intending to buy. That may not seem like much…unless you go to the store 5 times a week, as many people who don’t plan meals tend to do. That would add up to about $100 a month, or $1,200 a year! I don’t know about you, but I can think of way more fun things I could do with $1200 than buying random items from the grocery store!

Tip #3: It Cuts Down on Stress

If you are the primary chef in your home, you’re probably asked, “What’s for dinner?” at least 3 times a week. And heaven forbid you’re running late from work one night! You walk in the door from a hectic day only to find an audience of absolutely famished family members who were waiting for you to get dinner on the table. Or maybe your home is like mine where your spouse likes to cook too, but in spite of their best intentions, the spouse can’t see what you have planned in your head. I can’t tell you how many times I bought ingredients for a new recipe, only to arrive home late to find that Mr. Domestic CEO “improvised” a new recipe using a key ingredient.

Simply writing out your meals for each week can prevent every one of these scenarios from playing out in your home. After your family members get directed to the meal planning sheet or board a few times, they will get the hint that they don’t need to ask you what’s for dinner. And if you are running late, you can call another family member and have them get dinner started by using the plan and recipes you have bookmarked for the week. Just have everything written out by day, and you can direct them to cook Tuesday’s recipe on Tuesday night. It’s a very simple change in routine that will help improve your family’s communication, and save you all a lot of time and stress in the process.

If you are debating starting a new family dinner routine, I hope these tips were helpful in your decision. And if you’ve gotten a little slack in your meal planning, I hope they will help you get back on track. It is a little work each week, but the benefits far outweigh the costs of not doing it. Whether you start for financial, communication, or health reasons, a meal planning routine is one change that this domestic diva highly recommends.

If you are looking for more tips on getting started with your meal planning routine, check out my episode on How to Plan Family Dinners.

Have a question about anything in this episode? Or a suggestion for a future podcast? Send me an email at DomesticCEO@quickanddirtytips.com or post it on the Domestic CEO Facebook wall or on my Twitter feed.

Until next time, I’m the Domestic CEO, helping you love your home.

Woman Making A List and Tomatoes images from Shutterstock

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