Have you ever got off work for the evening, and realized that you had not utilized planning well for a dinner meal?
Now, maybe you have the night to yourself and it would be easy to slap a sandwich together quick once you get home and call it good. Although, some days maybe you figure you’ll just swing by a favorite stop and pick up take out for the evening.
Maybe you have kids though, and you feel you need to make something more than just a sandwich. And then sometimes, as everyone knows, there are just rough days at work and the best thing to do for everyone is to make it a simple “boxed Mac and Cheese” night.
Maybe you have worries with the grocery/food budget, or just plain aren’t happy with where they are at. Maybe you had to postpone grocery shopping by a few days and the household isn’t able to really fend for itself like everyone normally would.
The Benefits to Planning
While these types of nights happen to everyone, I have experienced major stressor’s in relation to not planning well. More money is generally spent – either in the grocery store, on fast food or ordering out, or even because the time hasn’t been given to shopping your cupboards – when planning isn’t utilized!
You can always plan and budget to spend as much as you want on the meals and food that you plan, but being in control of the money that is used on food is a powerful spot to be! Let’s start at the very beginning.
Finding the Right Meals to Plan that the Household Loves
Being able to meal plan, really takes knowing meals that the whole household will love and enjoy. Making sure that those meals are also easier to prepare – at least in the beginning so as to not deter you from achieving this planning – and that fit within your budget.
What foods are you willing to feed your family?
Does your household enjoy eating certain foods?
Do you want your kids to become more aquaited with a type of food or a variety?
Cookbooks, Pinterest, online resources, and friends & family members are all good ways to start building your reservoir of meals! Cooking is a great way to bring people and families together. Finding meals that your kids can help prepare could be a great outlet for you and meal planning would make that easier to accomplish as well! All of these things are important when thinking about how to confidently put together a meal plan for your household.
A Frequency thats a Necessity
Every household will be different. We all have different lifestyles, work schedules, needs, wants, and more! For my household, we have decided that grocery shopping once a week is ideal because we would already need to go for fresh produce. Plus, with weekly trips, we don’t have to plan out meals more than a week at a time.
Planning takes time. And time is valuable! Finding a frequency for planning and even the actual act of grocery shopping that works for your household is so important!
Maybe planning and shopping by paycheck is the best way for you. Maybe it is looked at as a weekly chore – like in my household. It is so nice to not have to worry about figuring out meals spur of the moment!
Knowing that we have meals enough for the week and everything we need and more is at home and waiting – and even prepped for the time to make takes so much stress off of me!
A Journey with Planning
Whatever is decided, it’s also important to realize that it’s a journey. It will take time to figure out a flow that works for your family, the meals that fit right, and more. If I’m honest, I’ve been trying – albeit slowly – since the middle of December to instigate this move in my household and it’s just now starting to flow well and be a stable way of operating!
Planning the Days and the Meals
With differing schedules, financial planning, food preferences, planning out not only what meals you will be making but when you will be making them is highly important!
With my Husband working the night shift, I work to take into account which nights he is home for dinner and others that he will need food to take with him. This impacts the meals that we have when and it’s an important part of our household.
Another part of planning is accounting for any leftovers that may need to be eaten. Again with my Husband on the night shift, I try to make at least 2 extra portions on top of what will be needed for that specific meal because he eats a couple of meals throughout his day (just as I eat during my day).
As for planning the meals themselves, sometimes, breaking up the meals by the time first is an easy place to start. My household only needs to plan out dinner, as we all work through the breakfast and lunchtimes. You may need to plan lunches and dinners. Creating a simple menu for easy lunches if you are working from home or have kids to feed could be an easy way to handle that mealtime.
Then going farther to breaking the meals up into dishes (main dish, side dish, salad, dessert) can make it easier to figure out what ingredients you need to buy and how they fit together. This can also help if you are looking at nutrients and getting a number of servings in or even deeper than that.
Shopping Your Cupboards First
You might be amazed by the meals you could throw together without spending any money! At least at the start of this journey. Especially if you are working to be more mindful financially for groceries, along with implementing meal planning, it’s important to know what you have in your cupboards and pantry.
Being a good steward is something that resonates in my life constantly. Along with good stewardship, using up what we already possess can make better use of the dollars that are designated to our food budget.
Eventually, my household will be at a place where we have enough of a stock that we are secure in the foods that we keep on hand, but also know that we are rotating everything out well and that we aren’t overbuying products that we already have, or aren’t in direct need of.
Writing a Grocery List
After you are aware of what you are in need of, it’s time to write it down! Having a paper list is the best plan of action for our household grocery shopping, but I also have a list in the notes on my phone for when I think of something that I am unsure of the need for. Then when I get home I confirm whether we do need it or not and put it on the paper/physical lists so that the whole house has access to it.
Making sure that the list has needs on it is important. I would say it’s even more important to write the wants down as well. This is because, when going into the grocery store it is sometimes very hard to be able to keep a clear head. If you are able to get 1 or 2 things that are a treat for the household, then the shopping list might not seem so much like a drag!
Having space in budget and health to do this is a privilege though! In my home, baking is something we enjoy so many of the wants are ingredients to treat recipes we love or want to try. It could be different for your household on that level too! Let’s dig into the grocery trip itself a little!
Tips for a Planned & Successful Grocery Trip
Don’t go on an empty stomach! This is one of my major goals with grocery shopping! And with my T1D (BlogPostLink) I also need to bring a snack. This way I won’t have to spend a couple of bucks on quick food due to low blood sugar. This happens often and avoiding it is so much better.
1. Keep your list in your hand.
The quote I repeat to myself while shopping is “Stay on Target, Stay On Target!” from Star Wars: A New Hope (Time Stamp – 6m53s). It’s not always easy to keep to your list, get in, and get out – but it’s worth it! And it sets you up for success through the rest of the week.
2. Creating a good list.
Having a guide is important in many areas of life, but I think the most applicable is grocery shopping! What happens when you go into the grocery store without a plan? I know that I get overwhelmed and can easily end up not getting anything that I needed. Or maybe I won’t get anything at all and then I end up just needing to go back! That’s just not good for my valuable time or for the budget either!
3. Being strategic in the store.
Just like being good about writing a list, being strategic in-store can save you from walking in circles. Passing that donut you want so badly 5 times is more temptation than necessary. Less temptation equals better outcomes!
4. Only purchasing what you have on your list.
Self-control is not for the faint of heart especially when it comes to yummy foods to eat! If you have adequately planned your meals though, your list should give you exactly what you need. This also creates the basis for home eating of your choice. Only getting what you have on your list also will allow you to keep to your designated budget if that is a goal of yours!
A Place to Begin: Your Planning Journey
There are numerous reasons one may begin meal planning. There are health reasons, convenience, financial and many other things that will influence meal planning for your household. One thing that I have learned while beginning this journey is that it can have a rough start. I have also learned that as you continue forward, it is one of the best things that you can do!
Meal planning has given me so much more peace of mind. With meal planning came relief from the stress that I would experience from not knowing what would be for dinner. Not having a plan created so many opportunities for bad decisions to be made. (Especially for me as a T1D that needed more than spur of moment choices).