I’ve been meal planning now pretty consistently for over four years. I’m not sure exactly when I started. It was sometime after my daughter was 6 months or so, but sometime before my son was born (they are 18 months apart). I remember having a meal plan and a list barely a week after he was born, and my parents helping me get the shopping done.
In various seasons, I let meal planning go — usually late in pregnancy or soon after a new baby was born, when I was unable to cook or know what my schedule was going to be day to day. Every time I do, I’m reminded why I shouldn’t! Meal planning is so helpful.
If you haven’t considered it, or have thought about it but haven’t taken the leap yet, here are 10 reasons why you should!
1. Saves Money
Want to save money on groceries? Write a meal plan. I found that I might save up to 40% over when I don’t buy a meal plan (or I might choose to save less, but get higher quality/more expensive ingredients sometimes). The dollars stretch further when you’re intentional about what you are going to eat and you plan around what you have that needs used, and using similar ingredients multiple times. Almost everyone I’ve talked to has been shocked at the savings from meal planning.
2. Saves Time at the Store
If you have a meal plan, you will also have a grocery list. Shopping is simple because you know exactly what you need when you walk in. You don’t have to wonder if you’re out of this or that, or if you might like to eat such-and-such this week. You already know, so shopping goes more quickly.
3. Saves Time in the Kitchen
No more scrambling to pull together a meal and taking way longer than it should! Plan easy meals on days when you need them (and know you have what you need on hand, or even do prep work in advance), and more complicated meals when you have the time. Do prep for multiple meals at a time because you know you’ll need it. It really adds up!
4. Expands Your Food Choices
When you’re sitting down to plan meals, and there’s no the-family-is-hungry-now pressure, you can be more creative. You can consider what’s on sale, or new ingredients that you’d like to try. I know if I’m thinking about something last-minute, I’m going to go for “the usual.” I’m not going to think about including salmon, or quinoa, or other healthy but less common ingredients. When meal planning, you can decide to incorporate these, and you might just find something new your family loves! (And maybe save money by trying some of those new things too!)
5. Cuts Down on Frustration
I absolutely hate realizing it’s 5 PM and I have to get dinner on the table…and have no idea what I’m making. Ugh! I think many people feel the same way. When you know at 8 AM what is for dinner, you can plan in advance and the evening hours are a breeze. It’s a tough time of day for many, and not having to think about dinner really does make things less frustrating.
6. Improves Your Diet
If you’re making a plan ahead of time, you can specifically choose to incorporate a number of different foods. Instead of basing meals around chicken every night, you can plan to have a mix of chicken, pork, fish, beef, vegetarian, etc. It’s easier to buy and use more vegetables if you have a plan for them. When you look at the plan as a whole, you can see before you shop that the plan is a good mix of foods and a healthy omnivorous diet, instead of relying too heavily on a few favorites.
7. Gets Kids on Board
The more involved kids are in the meal planning process, the more likely they are to want to eat healthy foods. Let the kids pick meals for the plan. Offer them some new or unique choices, read cookbooks together, or ask if they’ve found something they’d like you to recreate from a friend’s family or other place. Let them help you shop, and prepare the foods. They’ll love it!
8. Cuts Down on Waste
It’s easy for food to go to waste without a plan. Those carrots stuck in the back of the fridge, the leftover mashed potatoes…they can be forgotten until they can’t be eaten. But with a plan, those carrots can be added to a pot of soup, and those mashed potatoes can be mixed with eggs and fried into patties for a new side dish. Plus, you don’t buy more of something you thought you were out of, only to find you had plenty!
9. Increases Creativity
When you have some unusual odds and ends left, and the budget’s a little slim, creativity really shines. What can you do with a small amount of barley, some stock, and a few random vegetables? What about those leftover apple peels? Food that might have been trash, can become a new meal or snack. Or foods that might have been ignored in the pantry might become a feature of a new recipe you create!
10. Others Can Help Out
Sometimes things don’t go according to plan. Sometimes people get sick, or you’re away from home longer than you anticipated. With a plan in place, someone else can step in! An older son or daughter, or husband can start the meal. I know my husband is willing to cook if I plan things he knows how to make, and he knows what I want. He doesn’t like it when he doesn’t know if I have a plan for ingredients or what he can or can’t use, so with a meal plan there’s no issue!
Those are just ten reasons why you should start meal planning. There are probably many more!
How Tradishen Can Help
We’ve been working on a new site for a few months now, named Tradishen. We’re just about ready to launch now! The site will be live on October 31st.
Tradishen is a database of over 350 real food recipes (and growing!). We’re picky about what we have there — we want only 100% real food, no compromises — so over time, we’ll add hundreds more. We’re planning to develop partnerships with real food bloggers we trust to provide more options.
On Tradishen, members will be able to view and save their favorite recipes, and this is absolutely free.
We’ll also be offering two levels of premium membership. Level 1 is $10 per month, and offers access to the free features, plus the ability to create your own meal plans; create, edit, and print grocery lists; and from time to time, access special deals. Level 1 will also get new features as they are added to the meal plans and grocery lists.
Level 2 is $15 per month, and includes everything in Level 1, plus you have access to designer meal plans, that we create for you. We’ll have a “regular” and a GF/DF option for those with allergies. While most meal plans include 4 – 5 dinners, 1 lunch, and 1 “other” (snack, condiment, dessert), we’re including 5 breakfasts, 5 lunches, 5 dinners, 1 snack, and 1 dessert. That’s five full days of planned meals. Not only that, but we’re creating plans that use similar ingredients through the week and re-use leftovers in new meals so that you save money. You will also have the ability to change the designer meal plans, so if your family doesn’t care for one of the recipes, you can easily swap it out for any other recipe on the site. That’s how I plan, and so that’s how we’ll plan for you.
All versions of Tradishen are specifically designed to be mobile-friendly. If you have a smart phone, you can access your meal plan or your grocery list on the go — no need to print it. If you find the store if out of a key ingredient, or they have a big sale on something, you can adjust your plan and your list immediately.
Tradishen goes live in just 4 weeks! If you pop over to the site today, you can enter your email address to sign up for our list (very minimal emails, I promise — I haven’t sent one yet!) and you’ll get one week FREE of level 2 premium membership.
We created Tradishen to be exactly what we wanted, a service that we will actually use. Once it’s finished, I’ll be using it to plan my own meals. I’ve never used a service before because I’ve never found one that really fit my personality. Tradishen does. 🙂 It’s customizable enough to be what I want it to be, and organized enough that I’ll spend less time thinking about my meal plans — which is great because I currently spend way too much time on them! I try to remember meals we haven’t had in awhile or get new ideas, and now, I’ll just have to search my favorites and plug them in, quickly and easily.
I love that I won’t have to try to recall what recipes I like, or search for old meal plans, or check a bunch of sources for recipes, or even type recipes in anymore! A simple click will add it to my plan. I’m serious that sometimes I spend all day trying to put a meal plan together (with interruptions) because of all the different things I try to check. I try to balance beef, chicken and fish main dishes, for example. Tradishen allows you to search based on main ingredient, so now I can click and easily see all my options for each and plug them in. For those with allergies, it allows you to search for recipes that are ‘free’ of selected ingredients. It is just going to save me so much time.
Maybe it’s silly because we’re the ones working on this, but I’m getting kind of excited myself to get to use the new software! 🙂
If you haven’t had a chance yet, would you please do me a favor? We are in the middle of doing our annual reader survey right now. Only a very small number of our readers have responded yet (about 250, and more than 100,000 visit the site each month!) and we’d really love to hear from you! The answers to this survey are helping us to plan upcoming series, challenges, and even advertising.
To sweeten the deal (because who really loves doing these things?), we’re offering two weeks of FREE premium membership to Tradishen! That’s on top of the 1 week you’d get for entering your email address. Three weeks is long enough to decide if it’s for you and if you want to continue. Also, that’s not a contest — every single person who fills it out gets the two weeks free.
So, please, please, please, I’d love it if you would click here to fill it out!
Do you meal plan? What’s the biggest benefit you’ve noticed?
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