Why Meal Planning Works

I put off menu planning for a long time. A long time. Had I known how much a ten minute exercise would save me in the long run I never would’ve started so late.

Does it work everyday? Almost always. Plans change or things come up, so you need to be flexible, but for the most part menu planning is a tiny bit of brilliance.

•  Your grocery bill will go down. Once you have meal planning down, you’ll notice you have more control of your shopping too. There are no sudden trips or duplicate buying. Most of my spending is on more perishable foods like produce or dairy. The bulk of my ‘shopping’ is from my pantry and freezer.

For instance, next week, I plan to take out one of the frozen turkeys I picked up for sale last November. Greg loves turkey, and this will provide many future meals.

• It’s healthier. You control how much fat or calories to allow. When meals are planned there is less snacking while you get the main course out.

• You can plan meals around the weather. In Texas, spring is unpredictable. One day the heater is on and the next it’s the air conditioner. I always check the weather forecasts to see what the week will bring. If it’s on the chilly side, I plan for a soup or stew. If it’s going to be hot, I try to use the oven less.

• You don’t have to be very specific. If it makes it easier for you, sort it by broader terms. You can have Mexican, Italian, or Chinese nights. Or you can go by type such as stew, soup, or casserole night.

• Allow for eating out once in a while so no one feels like the sacrificial goat on the altar of saving money.

These are my kind of sandwiches! Greg would insist on some meat.

I used to worry I’d give up on menu planning, but forcing myself to post it every Sunday has kept me accountable. Maybe no one at all looks at my menus, but I do, and it keeps me organized. We don’t argue about what’s for dinner because the decision was already made.

How far in advance do you plan dinner? Do you think your family eats out too much? I know we did, but it’s much more manageable now.

If I have any complaints it’s that I’m left with the majority of cooking responsibility. Greg helps (sometimes) but usually it’s just me, and that can be a lonesome job.


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  1. I’m finding that the more we plan, the healthier we eat. If we know what we’re eating that night, there’s a lot less hemming-and-hawing about what we feel like eating, who’s too tired to cook, let’s get takeout etc. If it’s on the menu/list and the ingredients are already in the fridge/pantry – done! 🙂

    • Madeline: In the past we were always arguing what to have for dinner. Then I discovered that Greg doesn’t really care if the food is already out. He’ll eat whatever I make.

      In one way that’s good, but that leaves me with all the responsibility for coming up with ideas.

  2. I’ve done meal planning for most of my adult life, so I can vouch for its convenience. I always knew exactly what I needed to buy, and boy, was that important while raising five kids on a poverty-level budget.

    Oddly, the last few years or so, I’ve sort of stopped doing it. I always get a CSA box, and I’m trying to eat more of a whole-food, plant-based diet. This means I tend to just cook a lot of beans, lentils, and whole grains, while munching my way through all the fruits and vegetables from the farm. At dinner, I give my husband whatever I’ve fixed, along with some meat. Since it’s just the two of us, it seems to work all right, but I do find it a little disorienting.

    It’s all in flux now though, because my husband has been diagnosed with kidney disease, and that’s requires a weird diet. At least it’s weird from my WFPB perspective, and I’m trying to figure it all out. It’s definitely bringing back the meal-planning skills.

    • Marlene: Oh, sweetie! I’m so sorry to hear about your hubby. Any time you have to modify a diet because of illness or disease it becomes a struggle. You’re organized though, so I know you’ll find a system that works for both of you.

      And sorry about your comment getting stuck in moderation. WordPress usually tells me if a comment is being held up and now it’s not. So sorry!

    • Jenny: That picture changes every time the page is refreshed. That’s my favorite picture of Nana though. She’s a hoot with the goats. She’s not afraid of the goats with horns, but somehow the Nubians have chivied her into thinking they are dangerous, so she keeps her distance from them.

  3. Hubby and me were just talking about meal planning the other day, LOL. I’ve been doing it for over 10 years now At times in certain seasons it was tedious, but I was glad I stuck through with it. Now it gets done in about 15 minutes, then add another 10-15 minutes for writing out the shopping list and good to do. I kind of go with a theme. I need meals for Saturday, Sunday, a meal to last 2 nights on Monday, and another meal Wednesday. Thursday since we watch the little one is either leftovers or TV dinners. Friday we go out. Like I mentioned before, we don’t plan breakfast or dinner since hubby is gone those 2 meals and I have my routine of what I eat. It certainly does make it so much better to meal plan. Like you said, we are flexible. If something ends up lasting an extra meal that I didn’t think it would, we are one up ahead for the next week 🙂


  4. Betty: I wish I had started this sooner. We’ve wasted too much time and money on indecision.

    Although I do a menu plan for all three meals, dinner is the only critical one for us. Many times we skip lunch or do a lighter breakfast. It’s just nice to have it on hand in case we can’t decide.

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