Meal planning is not only my favorite “chore”, but something that has revolutionized the way my home works. When I am consistent with my meal planning I’m happier, I’m less stressed, and I’m more efficient. More of my time is spent with my family. We have more money in our pockets, more time on our hands, and less stress to deal with. What used to be a stressful time of day is now one of my favorites.
Meal planning has done so much more for me than simply knowing what I’m making each night. The benefits have far exceeded any expectations I had. Meal planning can benefit anyone at any life stage. I am passionate about it because of the impact it has had on me and my family. Here are just a few of the reasons why I LOVE meal planning!
The “Witching Hour” is MUCH more bearable
If there were no other ways that meal planning helped me or my family, this reason alone would keep me going. When the clock strikes 4:30, it’s as if a switch is flipped, and my children begin to gradually melt down. (Okay, sometimes it’s not all that gradual.) Everyone is tired, hungry, and cranky. Just when I need to begin preparing dinner, my four kids begin to need a LOT of parental interaction and intervention. I’m putting out fires while trying not to start one in the kitchen. It’s stressful. It’s loud. Dealing with four tired and crabby kiddos is hard enough, without having to try to come up with a game plan for dinner.
Since I started meal planning, the “witching hour” is much easier to deal with. I know what I’m making for dinner, so I don’t need to waste time staring into the pantry trying to pull something together. Because I knew what I was making, I likely got a lot of my meal prep done earlier in the day. I’m not stressed from having to piece together a meal from whatever is in the fridge, and have more energy and patience to help the kids.
We eat a wider variety of foods
I tend to get pretty comfortable in my rut. Tacos. Spaghetti. Some kind of casserole with chicken in it. When I’m rushed at the store and in the kitchen, I stick with a handful of things I know. While it’s not bad to do what you know and stick with foods you are comfortable with, you never know what you are missing out on either. I LOVE that meal planning prompts me to try new recipes and foods – even dishes I would never have thought to prepare.
It’s fun to eat foods from new “genres” and try new recipes. While we don’t love every recipe we try, we’ve found some new family favorites. Will you?
I get to indulge in my love of cookbooks, recipes, and food blogs
I am just a tad bit obsessed with cookbooks. I cannot leave a thrift store without at least one in my cart, and ask for new ones every year for my birthday and Christmas. I could spend hours browsing through cookbooks and looking through online recipe pages. Now, spending time online looking at food blogs, browsing Pinterest, and looking through my countless cookbooks counts as being “helpful.” Win win.
It saves money
This is a big one ladies. Meal planning saves money!! (And lots of it!) Because I make a detailed list of exactly what I need, I don’t spend money on things I don’t. I don’t haphazardly throw things in the cart. I stay on or under budget every month and we eat really well.
It removes my stress
It’s 5:00. You haven’t started dinner. Your six year old just asked for the fourth time what you’re making for dinner. Your four year old is rifling through the pantry for a snack, certain you’re not going to get dinner on the table in a timely fashion. You’re tired. You’ve already put in a full day with the kids. You are DONE. Sound familiar? That’s me when I take a break from meal-planning. It’s crazy stressful to me to not know what I’m making for dinner. It’s very easy for me to get caught up in work, helping with homework, or playing with the kids, that 4:30 comes without much warning. Knowing I have a plan in place, and the ingredients on hand to make that plan happen is a HUGE relief for me. I never have to worry about running out of food. I don’t have to try to piece together random things to make an edible meal for the family. I can enjoy the afternoon.
I am excited to cook dinner
When I meal plan, I truly do get excited to cook. I look forward to making new food and trying out recipes. Because I’m not stressed and because I have everything on hand, cooking is fun again
Bringing back breakfast
While I’ve been meal planning for 7 years, I recently started planning breakfast. Even though our mornings are slower-paced, there still seemed to be mornings where one or more kid didn’t eat breakfast. I rarely ate. On the way out the door, my son would say, “I didn’t eat breakfast,” and I’d have to give him a cereal bar to eat in the car. I made pancakes once in awhile, but let my independent kids grab cereal or yogurt in the morning. Since I started planning breakfast, I get up and make breakfast each morning. We eat together – at the same time every day. It’s a routine, and it helps the day start off on track. It’s healthier. It’s happier. I enjoy our time together. Whether we’re eating Eggos or homemade coffee cake, it’s extra family time – and that’s a win.
I’m with my kids – not my pots and pans
Bottom line – when I meal plan, I get to spend more time with my family, and less time with my stove. Don’t get me wrong, I like my stove -but I love my family. And, as much fun as it is to spend a ton of time in the kitchen trying to throw something together, it’s MUCH more fun to play a game, read a book, or hang out with the kids. More time with the family and less time in the kitchen is a big win.
No Crazy Casseroles
I’m not sure if you’ve ever experienced this, but when I’m not meal planning, at the end of a grocery cycle, we’ve had to eat some “creative” meals. I’ve had to stare into the pantry and wonder “What can I do with a can of cream of mushroom soup, some canned tomatoes, and rice?” I love not having to figure out what to do with a random piece of protein and a few canned goods. I love the relief of knowing we’re not going to run out of food. Not ever. When I meal plan, I KNOW that for three weeks, I will have EVERY ingredient I need to make those 21 breakfasts and 21 dinners. No running out. No frantic trips to the store. No crazy casseroles.
It promotes routine
I’m a big believer in routine. I think structure can revolutionize a home. It brings order to chaos. A meal plan is not magical, and a routine won’t suddenly occur with the onset of a plan, but it helps. When you’re meal planning, it’s easier to establish a dinner-time routine. You can start to prepare the meal at the same time. You can eat at the same time. Your time can be used more efficiently because you have a plan in place. When you’re not stressed, frantic, or hurried, order can come together. Kids can thrive. Stress can melt. It’s a step.
Do you have another reason you love meal planning? What has been the biggest benefit for you? How has meal planning positively impacted your family? Leave a comment and let me know! Happy planning!