Something that has made the biggest difference for me in my role as a homemaker is learning to meal plan. A few years back, meal planning was something I'd never even heard of, but I am so glad I have started implementing it.
The benefits of meal planning are fantastic because meal prep runs smoother, we eat healthier, we eat more variety and I save money at the grocery store (although it's hard to tell these days with rising food prices!)
Let's talk about the benefits of Meal Planning.
Meal Prep Runs Smoother
When I meal plan, it reduces the frequency of my uninvited dinner guest (Stress!) that has a knack for showing up about 4 pm each day. If I have my meals planned out, then there's a slight possibility that I may have actually thawed the chicken and I know for a fact I will have all of my ingredients on hand ready to toss together into a nourishing meal for my family.
We Eat Healthier
When I plan out our meals I'm able to choose fruits and vegetables that are on sale (usually those in season) and creatively incorporate them into our snacks and meal times. Meal Planning helps me to take the time to look for new meals that our healthier for us and it allows us to expand our pallet amongst those healthier food choices.
We Have Variety in our Meals
Our overall selections are more varied so that I don't fall into the rut of fixing the same thing over and over. Of course, if there's a family favorite I'm more than happy to have that meal rotate in more often, but I love the variety that meal planning offers.
It Saves on the Grocery Bill
Meal Planning helps streamline grocery expenses because I'm only buying what we actually need for the meals (plus snacks, toiletries, etc.) and it allows me to plan our meals based on store sales so that I can buy our food at lower prices.
I don't know about you, but one of the most challenging things I face as a homemaker is feeding my family healthy foods without spending a small fortune every month. We live on one budget and with the rising costs of food it can get overwhelming trying to figure out how to keep the family fed without compromising food quality.
When trying to decide whether or not you should buy organic produce, use the EWG's 2015 Shopper's Guide to help you decide which fruits and vegetables you should buy organic and which ones aren't as crucial.
When I do sit down to work on my meal plan I always have my store circular near by and I check out the sale lists on websites such as Bargains to Bounty. I also take advantage of our local stores' online coupons and deals.
Feeding your family well can be a daunting task these days so don't underestimate the power of prayer when it comes to staying on budget and looking for deals. I love it when He alerts me to deals that I didn't know about or I find items on sale at the store that I wasn't already aware of.
After looking at the store circular for the upcoming week, I then try to base my meal selections on those bigger items that are on sale (for example a roast, chicken, etc.).
By shopping the sale ads or buying in bulk at Costco you can also save money and time down the road by doing freezer meals. I'm not a marathon girl when it comes to anything. I burn out rather quickly so I'd rather "sprint" and make a double batch of a meal once in awhile and freezing a portion of it instead of spending a whole day doing freezer meals. This method works much better for me.
How I Do My Meal Planning
Lately I only plan for about 7 days' worth of meals at a time. At other times I've done two weeks at a time and for awhile even did a month's worth of meals at once. The purpose of meal planning is to serve you, not the other way around. If it's not working, try revamping it. I've certainly switched mine up here and there and that's okay. Personally, I don't like to be constrained to a schedule that says every Monday must be a Casserole, every Tuesday must be soup, every Wednesday must be pasta, etc.
In the past I followed a schedule like the following one. It gave me structure and freedom within the plan. These days though I just pick meals that sound good to me and that somewhat correlate with what's on sale.
"So Happy Together" Sunday (a meal that is a little more "put together" for Sunday lunch after church)
Mexican Monday (anything from Tortilla Soup to Tacos, etc.)
Tried and True Tuesday (a family favorite recipe)
Worked-Over Wednesday (a.k.a. "leftovers")
Thought-out Thursday (maybe a new meal or one that involves a little more time to prepare)
Freedom Friday (I can do whatever type of meal I want)
Simple Saturday (very basic recipe)
There are a ton of ideas out there when it comes to meal planning. You can print off a meal plan calendar or what I like to do is consolidate my meal plan and recipes all in one document on the computer. I have the days listed, the name of the meal, and the ingredients and recipe all in one spot.
A lot of my meal planning is done on-line so all I do is copy and paste the recipe and source into my Word Document. If it happens to be a recipe from my recipe box then I just list that meal and paperclip the recipe card to my meal plan.
Once the meal planning is done I print it off and keep it in the kitchen. I love doing it this way because I simply copy and paste the ingredients into my grocery list on the computer and it saves me time.
If you're looking for some meals to get you started on the right track, be sure to check out my Recipe section and here's a link to an entire month's meal plan.
I hope you give Meal Planning a try!
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