This is a previous post from April 6, 2015, but I thought it was appropriate to share this again.
“So, what are we having for dinner tonight?”
Every time someone in my family asks me that question (usually, the husband), my blood pressure rises and I get really cranky. If you’re like me, it can feel overwhelming to be in charge of putting together a decent meal everyday.
Over the years, I’ve simplified my process and I’m constantly trying to improve on finding the right fit for my family. In this stage of our life, it makes sense for me to meal plan, especially since taking a two year old and a four year old to the grocery store is about as fun as being covered in fire ant bites. (Sigh. I got bit by them on my foot this weekend.)
Well, the first question you have to ask yourself: What are you having for dinner?
I think breakfasts and lunches are pretty straightforward, it’s dinner that throws most of us off, and we end up ordering a pizza, or going out to eat.
I meal plan up to two weeks ahead, but I usually plan about 10 meals. The rest are usually reheats or leftovers. But if you’re just getting started, plan for 3 or 5 dinners, and you can gradually work your way up from there.
When you meal plan, you can also make your food options a little easier based on themes (Mexican food, Chinese food, vegetarian night) and you can also incorporate other methods to help (crockpot cooking, freezer meals, turning a whole chicken into multiple dishes, pantry cooking).
Next, break down when to buy your groceries (every few days, weekly, monthly). There are a couple of approaches to grocery shopping:
1. Choosing what to eat for the week and buying groceries around it.
When you choose what to eat for the week, you decide what you want to to have. The pro is that you’re not relying on sales ads or flyers, and you’re buying exactly what you need in order to prepare your meals. The downside is that you’re spending more money because you’re not buying groceries at lower prices. For example, maybe that bunch of asparagus is $3.99/lb versus $1.99/lb if you bought it on sale.
2. Checking the sales flyer and menu planning around that.
The nice part about buying from the sales flyer is that you’re saving money on food you would make anyway. You can stock up, but you’ll need to make sure you have the refrigerator or freezer space to do so. But, if you don’t have the space to stock up, you’re limiting your food and recipe choices to what’s on sale.
But if you have a food budget, either option works if you can plan around it.
Of course, you can always go out to eat, or order in, but in our household, we’ve really cut back on eating out. (See above about the kids!) Aside from vacation, we probably average eating out about once or twice a month.
Instead, we take our kids out for frozen yogurt or ice cream once in a while, and sometimes Brian will go out and get some donuts.
After living in a rural area for over a year, that time period forced me to become a better meal planner because there was no where to go out to eat! In the end, I’m glad we didn’t have choices because we ended up saving a lot of money, and now, I would much rather stay at home than go out!
I hope this process inspires you to plan a few meals for you and your family, and please let me know in the comments what your thoughts are about meal planning. So, what are you having for dinner this week? 😉