Meal Planning :: It's about making life easier

March 22, 2013

*** I guest posted earlier this week at Duchess of Fork, I thought I'd share it here for those of you who didn't read it:) No one is above reposting material when it comes to finding blog content lol. 

We are all so insanely busy these days on so many different levels. Everyone always has something they have to be doing, and something they should be doing instead of what they are doing right now. I for one am so guilty of this, when I am in one activity I am thinking about the next one, and so on. Life is just hectic for our generation. To simplify things on the food side of life I started meal planning. I’ve done it since college just to get the most bang for my buck, but it wasn’t until I was married and started teaching that the time crunch got to me. On days were I am only home long enough to let the dogs out before moving onto the next activity I can’t afford not to have some sort of meal plan in place. Our meals range from crockpot recipes and casseroles to things I can grill, and quick. I like to look at my schedule ahead of time and see what we have going on for the week, after that I get to meal planning. On nights I am home for good after work I cook, if I know the next day will be hectic I make sure I have leftovers. If I won’t be able to cook at all it is a crockpot heavy week. The list goes on, constantly changing and evolving based on our weekly schedule.

Meal planning can be as simple or hard as you make it. Simply put, it is just a grocery list with meals for the week attached. It saves time and money in the long haul, and really encourages you and your family to not have to go back to the store several times throughout the week. There are benefits, trust me. Here are a few:

 1. It checks one thing off of your daily list for good.
By meal planning I don’t have to worry about what I am cooking that night, I decided it days in advance already. I know that some Wednesdays I will have a faculty meeting that will run into church activities later in the day, so cooking isn’t an option. In that instance, I plan ahead and make sure I either have leftovers or a crockpot meal. By planning ahead I don’t have to think about it that day, when I get home everything is already done or I already have the items I need to make the meal. No time is wasted going back to the store, yet again. Or even worse, having that “What on earth are we eating tonight?” panic! It is all alleviated by planning ahead.

2. Meal planning saves money.
By writing out exactly what you need, and buying only what you wrote, you will save money every week. Yes, some weeks we get things that aren’t on the list, but overall I try not to. I don’t buy a ton of extra food just for the sake of buying it; I only purchase just what we need. With it just being the two of us it is easy for food to go bad before we get a chance to eat it. Not purchasing extra items allows us cuts back on waste. Nothing hurts my teacher/college graduate student income feelings quite as much as spoiled food. If you are a super shopper, clipping coupons can take meal planning to the next step. I’m not the best at it, but when I can use them I definitely take advantage of coupons.

3. It gives everyone a chance to say what they want for dinner.
I ask Jeremy what he wants me to cook every week, some weeks he has an opinion others he could care less. By asking family members what they want to eat it will cut down on impulse eating out. For instance, if you know the kids want pizza Friday night, make a pizza, don’t wait until the last minute and order out. Cooking at home saves money and is much healthier for your family. This leads me to my second point…

4. Cooking at home is much healthier.
I already said that didn’t I? Ha! By meal planning you can take time to think about healthier ways to cook the meals you love. When I run in the store on impulse without a list I never get the right ingredients and can hardly think about how I can replace certain foods. When planning ahead I can easily scour the web to find substitutions for foods I don’t want in our diet. Even “unhealthy” foods cooked at home are better for you than restaurant food. You don’t know how much sodium and fat is being added to restaurant meals, at home you can completely control that. Don’t want heavy cream in your pasta, substitute with Greek yogurt. Have a dairy allergy? Use lactose free foods. At a restaurant you won’t get the same substitutions, sometimes they will tell you they are and they aren’t. Can’t tell you how many times I’ve asked for whole wheat pasta and received white. At home I can control what goes into my food.

5.  Meal planning allows you to only go to the store once.
I make my meal plan over the weekend and we go to the store either Saturday afternoon or Sunday night. Luckily I’ve turned my husband into a stickler for this too, and we do our best not to go back during the week. Not only are you cutting down on impulse buying by doing this, you are also not wasting gas by driving across town for that bag of chips you suddenly decided you want. It will cost you more in gas to get that one miniscule item, than to actually purchase it. On rare occasion, the store we go to doesn’t carry what I need and I will have to go to another grocery store to get it; or like this week I completely missed a main lunch ingredient and had to go back. That probably only happens once a month tops. By making one big grocery haul a week you can save money at the gas pump & you aren’t wasting hours of your life at Wal-Mart.

After al l this talk about why you should be meal planning you are probably wonder how exactly I do it? What resources do I use? This is the fun part people…Pinterest is your best friend when meal planning. I used cookbooks for years, but have slowly migrated my meal planning to good ole Pinterest. Pinterest is your best meal planning friend!

Say it with me, “Pinterest is awesome for meal planning!”

Pinterest is great not only because you can pin recipes, but you can also categorize them. My mother has two categories for food, “Food I want to make,” and “Food I’ve made.” You can come up with more fun names than that, but the premise of the idea allows her to move recipes as she tries them keeping their weekly meals far from boring.

Aside from Pinterest, I also meal plan using my favorite blogs, recipes I’ve saved in Google Reader, cookbooks, and by blogging my own recipes just so I can go back and use them myself later. I personally am terrible at remembering what I put in a dish I came up with myself. If I think of something I really want to eat throughout the week I make note of it and buy it for the next week. 

Now, where do I create my lists? Well I made one for myself a while ago and just recently shared it on my blog. If you’d like to use it, it is available for download below. On my list I have a place for meals on one side and my shopping list on the other. The shopping list is categorized by frozen, meat, dairy, dry, miscellaneous, fresh foods, and so on. If you are looking for deals and like to use online and smartphone list check out On this website you can create lists online, and even log into your account on your smartphone app (available for iPhone and Android). From there you can edit as well as find coupons for what you need to buy as well as what you buy most often. The best part for me is that it actually has coupons for the grocery stores in my area, like Rouses. No one has heard of Rouses, except maybe southeast Louisiana natives.

If you have any questions or want to know more about where I get my recipes from feel free to email me at labrideblog {at} gmail {dot} com. I also post my weekly meal plans every Monday on a little post I call Meal Pinning Monday, I'd love for you to check it out for meal planning ideas.