Wonder how “real” people meal plan? Check out how YOU can become a meal planning maven like us poor folks, no matter what your grocery budget.
Modern Meal Planning Made Simple
Living the simple life may seem like an unachievable dream to you right now. How could simplicity possibly ever describe your chaotic household and life? You take a look at your schedule, your responsibilities, your life and wonder how in the world it could ever be simple without sacrificing something important.
This post isn’t going to solve all of your issues. It isn’t magically going to make your chaotic life fall into a well-oiled machine that runs itself. There are too many facets and too many differences in how to balance it all for me to be able to cover it in just one post. But taking control of one of your basic needs, food, by becoming a Meal Planning Maven can help.
My focus is to simplify what I view to be the biggest, most important aspect of running a household. Food. Face it. We can decide not to take Joey to basketball practice. The bathroom can wait another day before we clean it. We can cancel the card game with the neighbors on Friday. We cannot, however, forget to feed ourselves or our family for too long. Food is a basic survival tool. Without food, we would surely perish. Simplifying this one basic necessity first and streamlining it will start the ball rolling to simplifying your whole life.
My life is anything but simple all of the time.
I have a full-time job. I have a husband who wants me to work and financially support the house, but still seems to think that elves are the ones cooking and cleaning and making the house function. (Ok, he really doesn’t think its magical creatures, but he cannot seem to grasp the amount of time I have to invest in the house in order to keep it the way that we are accustomed to.) I write my blog, garden, read, cook, shop, pay bills. All of the things that 98% of you all do on a daily basis.
Very rarely do I have to come home from working a full shift at work, standing on my feet, and wonder, “What am I going to cook for dinner?” Typically I already know the day, week, or month before exactly what we are going to be eating that day. It saves me a lot of arguing too.
Meal Planning Maven in action here!!
Have you ever seen those commercials when the couple is in the car talking about where to go eat dinner? The husband typically asks the wife, “Where would you like to eat” to which her reply is, “Oh, it doesn’t matter. I can eat anything.” This develops into a whole list of restaurants he mentions only for her to say, “Oh, well… I don’t feel like eating there.” The point of the commercial is to suggest a place where they will both be able to eat and be agreeable. But after this exchange, neither of them is going to enjoy the other’s company over a meal. It’s meant to be funny, but the reality is that this argument happens more than we like to acknowledge.
I can suggest everything we have in the house to my husband, only for him to decide he wants fast food (which I hate). The argument may seem to end there, but then it breeds resentments between us because he refuses to grocery shop so when he doesn’t want anything I have purchased, he’s (to me) saying that I never buy anything that he likes. The end of the argument is never pretty after all that.
Is this sounding like your household at all?
Maybe it’s not between you and your spouse but between you and your child. No matter who the argument is with, it starts with food and ends up causing way more hostility than necessary.
This is why being a Meal Planning Maven comes in very handy. When you involve the entire family in the planning, then if they want to act like supper isn’t something that they wanted, then you can remind them that they had just as much input in the plan as anyone else. It becomes a compromise. And if the day comes that they don’t want what they agreed upon when it was planning day, then you can tell them not to eat and shrug it off.
It sounds awful, sure, but if they agree to a plan and then balk at it once it’s implemented, they are acting out about something else. I refuse to play into such nonsense. Let them have cold cereal for supper if they don’t like what is cooked. You don’t have to let them go hungry, but they need to adhere to the plan for it to work.
There may be a power struggle in the beginning. Like any change in habits, it’s a learning curve. It takes some people a while to learn that while they may love the idea of spaghetti on planning day when the day for spaghetti comes it may not sound as good but they have to eat it regardless. Hence why you have to engage them in becoming meal planning mavens themselves.
Meal Planning Maven- Habits
This is where the changing your habits to remembering that food is above all else fuel. We eat to live, not live to eat. We are in a new era of food advertising and food “pushing”. The big companies tempt us with all kinds of great looking food to get us to buy it because it looks so good. But the reality is that we just need enough food to sustain us until our next meal. If you don’t feel like spaghetti, but that is all there is to eat, if you are truly hungry from a physiological standpoint, you are going to eat it. No starving person will ever turn down the only food available if they are truly starving.
I am not telling you how to raise your kids or how to deal with your husband. I’m just pointing out that if you truly want meal planning to work in your household you have to be ready to face some adversity. I know I have numerous times, and I can tell that even though my husband was eating it, he was doing it just to placate me. And he’s even snuck out to a fast food drive through after I went to bed because he didn’t get his way. (See? I deal with a petulant child too!! *wink*)
All About Routine
Be ready to stick to your guns. If you know that you are the one who is in charge of meals, both cooking, shopping for, or all of the above, then be ready to defend your choices and actions. Can they do better? Let them have a go of it. (If you do, please make sure that you have cold cuts and bread or even cereal on-hand for yourself when they get overwhelmed.) Never let someone bully you if they are the ones that delegated the task to you in the first place.
Enlist their help first, and if they fight it later, then have a family meeting to discuss it. Maybe the root cause isn’t even the meals to begin with. If you feel that you are being attacked over something as simple as this process, please look at the big picture. Maybe counseling is necessary.
I can’t fix your relationship with your family. But I can help fix your relationship with food and the time you have to prepare it.
So let’s look at meal planning….
What Is Meal Planning?
… And how will it help me?
We all have to eat. It’s just the law of nature. Planning ahead of time what you are going to eat at each meal can help to simplify your already busy and chaotic schedule. Instead of coming home from a busy and overwhelming day and having to waste time looking through your cupboards, refrigerator, and freezer to decide what you are going to cook for dinner that night, you already have a game plan and can get right to it. Sometimes, it used to take upward of an hour for me to finally figure out what we wanted and what ingredients I had in order to make it. We have even had the night when my hubby was craving something that I hadn’t planned for so I ended up making a trip to the grocery store.
Let me fill you in on a little secret:
Extra unplanned trips will kill any goal or idea of a grocery budget almost as surely as setting a $20 on fire. The extra trip not only costs you gas money, your precious time and a little bit of your sanity. It also turns that one item that you went to the store for into a cart of extras that were not in your budget but you picked up because they either sounded good or were on sale.
A sale item, no matter how good of a deal it is, is still costing you money if you don’t have a clear vision of its use and function in your home. I’ve gotten some great deals on things that were in upwards of 75% off and they are still sitting in my closet waiting for me to find a use for. The total of the items I am thinking of currently is only $10, but that $10 could have been used for a better, more cost effective purpose.
Meal planning is setting out a specified time frame and planning out every meal in advance. This not only saves time by not having to rummage each evening, but it helps you save money by being able to plan out every purchase at the store. Knowing what each purchase is going to be used for also helps save money by eliminating food waste.
Meal Planning Budget and Waste
Admit it, you have purchased food in the past and somehow you forgot about it and it was relegated to the back of the refrigerator only to be found again after its expiration date. We all have. It’s not a shameful action. According to recent studies, on average American’s waste 40% of the food they purchase. Let’s break that down into money so we can see just how much that costs us.
My average food cost per week is $120.
40% of that is $48.
$48 a week each month is $192
$192 a month is $2,304 a year.
So even if I budget my grocery money, without a clear plan for my food purchases (meal planning) I could in all actuality waste in excess of $2K a year!
Less Waste= Better Budget
Can you imagine the thought of taking $2K of your hard-earned money and just throwing it into the trash can? I’m sure you are appalled by the thought of it. In reality, you are probably doing close to that much damage to your budget now if you are throwing away food from your refrigerator with any regularity.
Meal planning can take that money that you are throwing away currently and put it to better use in your budget. Having that extra $2K a year could help so much in other areas. Debt payoff? Emergency fund? Saving for college? You name it, I guarantee that there is something that you could see that money going to that would benefit your family more than throwing it away. Isn’t becoming a meal planning maven sounding great right now?
So are you ready to set this all up and get started?
Check back next week for the first actionable step to becoming a Meal Planning Maven yourself!