The dreaded question I get daily: “Hey mom, what’s for dinner?”
I LOATH this question. Not just because I hate having to stop what I’m doing to figure out what the hell we should eat on the spot, but because all too often I just don’t have an answer and all of us are too hungry to even care. This is not an optimal situation with two hungry teenage girls staring you down, who eat very different things and can’t agree on anything, and a mom who is stressed out enough already.
The Solution: Get with the plan
Spending time once a week (best done on the day of the week you already devote to reviewing your planners and to-do lists) to figure out your meal plan and grocery list for the upcoming week will help you avoid this daily debate.
While I appreciate having choices I can have any time I want, the fact remains that having to figure out what to eat over and over and over again puts me in a really dark mood. So, I had to make a change. Meal planning was that change.
I’m not perfect at meal planning by any stretch, but I am learning how to get it to a plan that works. Below are the basics of meal planning and how it can benefit your family, in case you’re interested in getting food choices, groceries, spending, and food waste under control. While this is a top-level view of meal planning, it will help you get started taking back control of mealtime.
What even is a meal plan?
It is exactly what it sounds like: You plan out your meals for the upcoming week or possibly two, depending on your shopping habits, write out your grocery lists based on those meals, and in doing so, save time, energy, money, and food!
Decide on your meals.
What’s the benefit? It saves you time and stress.
Instead of having to stop, over and over again, to decide on breakfast, lunch, and dinner, you do all your deciding at once. In one sitting, you sit down with your calendar or planner and plan out all your meals at once. During the week, you just refer to your list and don’t agonize over yet another debate with your kids or spouse about what to eat that turns into a costly meal out.
Make a list and check it twice.
What’s the benefit? It saves you money.
After deciding on the meals that will work best with your schedules, cravings, or whatever else you like to consider, create your grocery list. Because you are shopping for groceries armed with a plan, you buy only what you need. No more money wasted on random items you can’t think of a way to use and end up throwing out. I personally utilize shop ahead services, such as my local grocery store’s “click ‘n pick” service, because not only does it save me time (they shop for me and I simply pick the order up). It saves me money as well because I am not tempted to impulse buy items that I didn’t go to the store to buy and blow my budget out of the water.
Prepare your meals.
What’s the benefit? You eat better and waste less food.
Because you have mapped out your meals and shopped for groceries with this plan in mind, you are less likely to waste food. No more impulse buying: “how adorable are these prickly pears– I’ll figure out what to use them for later.”
Where to start:
I found a blog that explained stress-free meal planning in very simple terms and has become my new go-to blog for all things food-related: thekitchn. They have a great beginner’s guide to meal planning that you should definitely check out. In fact, here are two ideas I got from thekitchn:
- Check your planner for your schedule for the upcoming week (any dinner dates? Late nights you know will be get something on the way home? etc.)
- Tackle dinners first, which are more fun and usually where we need more planning help
Stop stressing over “What’s for dinner?” Educate yourself on meal planning tips from the experts and put a plan into action.
Share your meal planning experiences with us. Leave your tips and questions in the comments below!
Get your free printable meal plan here: