Color me reluctant when it comes to meal planning. It seems to take FOREVER because I can never think of anything I want to make. And so I often don't do it. But that leads to this type of typical scene at our house:
Random child: Mom, what's for dinner?
Me: I dunno. Go take a long walk off a short pier.
Yet another child: Mom, when's dinner?
Me: I dunno. Maybe sometime this century, if you're lucky.
All of the kids: Mom, we're hungry!!
Me: Me too!! *sobs in frustration*
I have said before (and it hasn't changed) that I REALLY Do. Not. Like. To Cook. In my ideal world, I might enjoy cooking if I 1) could buy all the fun ingredients that are ridiculously expensive, 2) did not have to cook to a deadline, and 3) could work uninterrupted and with my music blaring as loud as I want.
never rarely happen, certainly not all at the same time! So I tend to put off cooking dinner almost every night – except when I have a meal plan in place. Then it seems much easier to get going. Sometimes it seems the hardest part is just deciding what to make; after that, it's easier to have the motivation to cook, somehow. With a menu plan all of the mental hard work is done, and I can answer my kids with a real answer, and I am for some reason more motivated to get started earlier.
My biggest motivation for meal planning, though, is that it really does save quite a lot of money.
This is true whether I do it just for one shopping trip or whether I practice it over the long haul. There are three reasons for this:
1) I don't buy any more food than I need. The meal plan tells me exactly what I need to purchase at the store. Otherwise I tend to over-buy, just to make sure I'll have enough for whatever it is I might want to make, depending upon how the planets line up on a given day.
2) I use what I already have. When I plan meals, I tend to make them around what is already in stock in the pantry and freezer. Those ingredients are guaranteed, while planning meals around what I want to buy at the store can be a gamble. I don't know how many times I have had to change a menu on the fly in the store because they were out of a main ingredient that I needed. I don't really enjoy that…
3) There is no last-minute decision-making about what to have for dinner tonight. When I decide what to have for dinner at 5pm, then I tend to rely heavily on quick-fix foods. This means that the whole foods I bought, which are less expensive but take more prep time, may go to waste. Then it doesn't matter if they were less expensive; now I have just thrown money down the drain. Worse, I might make a quick trip to the store to purchase convenience foods (and let's not even talk about the gas needed for an extra trip) — OR EVEN WORSE, we make a foray out for pizza or to the drive-thru. This is NOT the way to stick to a budget, y'all.
Seriously, when I practice meal planning, I save $50-$100 dollars PER WEEK on my grocery bill.
But I still hate it! So that's when I start looking for ways to make it easier. I developed my Easy Two-Week Meal Planner last summer; and it's still my go-to meal plan, because it works well and can be used over and over again, ad infinitum.
I also go looking for suggestions from other people. Tomorrow's Ann-Notated is going to be a list of great articles from all around the web, all about meal planning. If you don't want to miss it, put your email address in the box at the top of the sidebar, and you'll get the new post delivered right into your inbox without you even having to look for it! (Now THAT's convenience!) :-)