Would you believe me if I told you at certain times of my life I have honestly sat down and written out a family member for an entire month at one time? It’s true. It’s called meal-planning and it has been a HUGE help for my mental health issues.
What Is Meal Planning?
Meal planning is exactly what it sounds like! It is planning out your meals. You can meal plan for a day, a week, a month, or even a year or two (though that would probably drive me nuts). In essence it is just making a list or calendar of what you’re going to eat during that time frame.
Why Meal Planning Helps
What Should I Buy
The first way meal planning has been helpful for me is in the financial department. I absolutely despise making shopping lists. Money is always limited and trying to know what we should buy or what we should avoid is super stressful! Meal planning can help with this in two ways, depending on which method you use.
Make The Meal Plan First
If your primary goal is to save time, meal planning first is the way to go! This is generally my method as I never feel like I have enough time in the day. While I’ll give more details on how this works later, here is the basic idea: Write down all of the meals you plan to eat during the period (for me, it’s normally a week) as well as what you need to make those meals. Now you have your shopping list!
Meal Plan Based On Sales
If saving money is your primary goal, this is how it works: Find out what all is on sale for the best prices and then use those items to create your meal plan. This one is a lot more work but can save you a ton of money, especially when you also use coupons, and rebate apps on your phone!
What Should I Cook?
This is the MAIN reason I meal plan. I love sitting down and eating with my family. I hate standing in front of the refrigerator or pantry saying, “What should I make today.” I also hate when I know what I’m going to cook and then realize I’m missing an ingredient. The whole thing just causes extreme anxiety. Enter: Meal planning!
By having a plan of what you’re going to cook when, all of the guess work is gone. You have exactly what you need and you already know what you’re having.
Another benefit is also the fact that I can do some prep the night before or at least make sure I pull anything out of the freezer that needs to thaw out!
How To Meal Plan
I have honestly tried so many different methods of meal planning and they all have so many different pros and cons! In general my recommendation is find what makes it work for you and your family!
Week By Week
Some families enjoy having the same things every week. This is definitely the easiest way of meal planning in my opinion. Perhaps you have Meatless Monday, Taco Tuesday, Pasta Wednesday, and Left-Over Thursday. In essence you choose a basic main course for every day of the week and keep it the same.
Two Week Rotation
I think this may be my ultimate favorite because honestly we get tired of the same things every week. For this one, I will write up a two week menu and then alternate.
Make A List
At busier times of our lives I have found that rather than having a meal assigned to each day, it can just be helpful to make a list of the meals I plan to make. Then if we have a busy day, I can choose an easier to make meal and then just cross it off the list as I go.
Use Pre-Made Meal Plans
This is by far the easiest, but least used option I have found. There are loads of sites where you can get free or cheap meal plans you can modify to your family. While I would love this option, it does seem most are made for families of four and by the time I have to modify the recipes and change the ingredient lists, and all that, it just isn’t worth it to me. But if you have a small family, this could be great for you! Here are some places I have gotten meal plans from: