If you’re like most people, you shop for food on the way home from work.
You’ve had a long day and you want to get home and put your feet up. But, you have to get some food. Throughout your day, you’ve made a bunch of decisions, important or less important ones.
Now you have to decide what to eat too. It’s too much! You don’t want to do it and you buy the package of prefabricated crap food that is closest to you at the time.
This is not uncommon or irrational behavior. Ever heard of decision fatigue? Your brain is only equipped to handle so many decisions in a day. Why waste energy after a long day on something so silly as deciding what food to eat and serve your family.
The answer to that question is that you shouldn’t. Make a meal plan during the weekend and save your mind some energy and cause less stress.
In this article I go through 5 other benefits that comes with making a solid meal plan. I also include a good way to organize the meal plans to make things easier for you.
It’s been said again and again. Don’t go to the store to shop for food when you’re hungry and never go without a list.
Your meal plan will make the basis of your shopping list.
The reason why you should never go shopping without a list is simple. If you have a list, you’re less likely to buy things that you don’t need.
If you go to the store and only have an idea about the things you want to buy, you’ll end up getting a load of things you don’t need. When I do this I usually end up wanting to buy snacks and other crap too.
When you have your meal plan set and a shopping list based on that, you can focus on where the things are located in the store. My pro tip is to go fast when you’re shopping.
Don’t walk around and look at things because it’s fun.
Be intentional when you’re shopping. Walk from one item to the next.
With the meal plan it’s easier for you to plan both your shopping and your finances. Let’s connect this to your budget. Imagine that you budget $600 for food each month.
That gives you a weekly budget for food of $150. When you make your meal plan you keep this number in mind so you don’t plan to overspend.
If you don’t know the price of stuff by heart, go to the store you usually shop in and jot down the price of things you need.
It will make your planning in the future much easier.
I already brushed on this in the previous section, but I’ll expand the thinking a bit here.
It’s as I mentioned before, faster to do the actual shopping when you know exactly what you need. You’ve planned everything out at home and you even have a sort of map in your head on how to walk when shopping.
Provided you go to the store you usually go to.
When you go shopping without a meal plan, you walk around wondering what groceries to get for the food you might cook this week. You might have to go back and forth in the store since you don’t know exactly what you need.
With a meal plan you have prepared yourself for shopping in several ways. As with the suggestion in the previous section about going to the store and writing down prices, I also suggest going to the store to learn where everything is.
You can then do your meal plan at home, in peace and quiet to later shop in a fraction of the time it takes without a plan.
You get off work and have about 35 minutes until you have to pick up the kids at school. But on the way you have to stop and get something for dinner tonight.
You have no idea what to get. Should you order pizza instead?
That might sound familiar to some, I know it does to me. This is partly why a meal plan is important and why you should meal plan for your family. Not only for the sake of eating healthier, but for your own health.
You need to stress less. Your life is busy enough as it is with everything you have to do. Let’s remove one stress factor by creating a meal plan.
Make your meal plan weekly, unless you have a big pantry and fridge where you can keep several weeks of food. Anyway, let’s assume you do weekly shopping (the idea still applies if you go less often).
You sit down with your spouse and in a best case, your kids too, and plan the week’s meals on Sunday morning. When you’re done, go to the store and get the shopping done before lunch.
You’ve now gotten all the weekly shopping out of the way and you can spend a stress free week, at least in the shopping part of the week. Yes, I know that sometimes you run out of things and you might have to fill up on something.
A big benefit of making a meal plan is that you can eat healthier food. This is related to some of the things mentioned in previous sections.
When you have a meal plan that you have already shopped for, you will avoid having to buy something prefabricated that contains who-knows-what.
With a meal plan, you will make most of your family’s meals from scratch and you know what you put in the meals. Some of you are thinking that you don’t have time for that, but it doesn’t have to take longer to cook than waiting for the pizza to arrive.
If you want to take the healthy part to another level, you go for organic and ecological food. It’s more expensive, but your body will thank you in the long run.
The great thing about a plan is predictability. When you’re going to cook on Friday evening you don’t have to worry about not having all the ingredients for the meal.
When you plan meals this way you know what to use for each meal. A great tip is to keep the ingredients for each of the meals separate from each other so you don’t mix them by mistake.
You can do this with small bags or baskets, or similar, in your pantry and fridge. Mark the containers with Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, Saturday, Sunday. This way you have even more order in your plan.
A while back we discovered a great tool, or application, actually. We were looking for a shared calendar for our family so we could plan our weeks easier.
You know how it goes, if it’s not on the calendar, it’s not going to happen. We found an app called Cozi that we use for planning our entire life now.
Cozi looks like a calendar at a first look. But if you look a bit closer you have lists that you can share and a recipes section. When I look at Cozi’s home screen in my application now, I can also see that they have a “card” that says “Healthy Eating Starts Here”.
It gives you the option to join a service (for a cost, but with a coupon for 20% off) that offers personalized meal plans based on your weight loss goals. That’s serendipitous!
Honestly, though, we don’t use any kind of service like that. We plan our meals ourselves and add them to Cozi.
When we make our meal plans in Cozi we first use the recipe function. We add the webpage of the recipe to have the full description of how to make something. Then we add the ingredients.
When the recipe is done, you can import the ingredients to a shopping list. Voila presto! Meal plans in a few minutes.
The great thing is that anyone in your family can add a recipe they like to the recipe function. Then, when you have the meeting to plan the menu, that person can add the finished recipe to the week's plan.
Yes, it does take some time to add a bunch of recipes to start with, but it saves time later. Also, there’s a bunch of recipes already in Cozi that you can use if you want to.
Cozi changed our way of planning our weeks. Not only our meal plans. For the sake of full disclosure, I want to say that our family is not using the Cozi gold version yet. We only use the free version, but we’ve been talking about upgrading for the monthly calendar view.
It's always good to hear how other families handle stuff, to learn from each other. Does your family use a meal plan or do you have another system?
Manage Your Family's Money - FREE Checklist
Take Control Of Your Money Today With This 16 Step Checklist!