3 Value-Packed Benefits of Meal Planning + Free Meal Plan Template
Somedays, there just isn’t enough time. From juggling the kids, to working, to keeping the house (relatively) clean, time seems to slip right past me. And, all of a sudden, before I know it, six o’clock’s arrived and my family wants to be fed. (Again! They want to be fed every day! What’s up with that!?) To be honest, unless I use a meal plan template and plan our meals ahead of time, I lose my mind. And there are only SO MANY TIMES I can feed my husband eggs for dinner before he starts grumbling. Sound familiar to you, too? If you want to start meal planning and grab this free meal plan template, then keep on reading!
Why Life Without a Meal Plan Template Just Doesn’t Work
Back in the day, I used to plan out weekly meals in my head before or even while I was grocery shopping. Strolling the aisles, I’d think “Oh! Tacos sound good this week!” Then, I’d tra-la-la my way to the taco aisle and gaily put tortillas in my cart.
(I wish there were a taco aisle. You get what I mean.)
That scenario? Just not possible these days. At all. Let’s look at why.
Meal Planning Saves Money
Not only did having two kids zap me of ALL MY BRAINPOWER, but it also drained us of any extra money in the budget. Those babies require all sorts of things, like clothes and doctors appointments and diaper cream. They are the cutest little financial drains I’ve ever met.
Plus right now, we’re a single income home while my husband’s looking for a new job. So we’re squeezing and pinching every single penny. I’m not saying we’re broke. We use our weekly budget template faithfully and have paid down our debt. But we don’t have disposable income left for eating out and we really don’t even have enough for wasting leftover. We account for every penny and purchase because we like to live our lives out of the red.
Sure, tacos are a great idea. But buying a container of salsa only to use the top inch, then throw it away uneaten two weeks later? Can’t happen.
Forgetting we have a pound of beef in the fridge? Can’t happen.
Having the crackers go stale in the pantry? Can’t happen.
I’m not saying it doesn’t happen. Dear heavens, we are far (faaaar!) from perfect. But more often than not, in order for us to stick to our budget, we can’t overbuy or waste food.
Meal Planning Saves Time
The other day, when my newborn was screaming, I tried to put her pacifier in her ear. True story. Then I stared down for a second, thinking, “Something about this isn’t quite right.”
Then, I drove around with the parking brake on for a solid ten minutes, wondering why the car kept squealing.
Sleep deprivation is real, you guys. Most days, I walk around muttering, “I used to be smart. I used to be smart.”
Not gonna lie, it takes me about fifty-seven times longer now to do the simplest of tasks. (This blog post? I started it in 2014. (Just kidding.)) The idea of strolling around the grocery store without an organized list, just hoping that I remember all the important stuff.
Hold on a second while I roll on the floor laughing. Oh, heck no. Like most occasions when I head to the store without a list, I leave frazzled and stressed, with a screaming baby on my hip, my credit card falling out of my purse, carrying three bottles of wine and a mango and wondering what just happened.
Even though planning meals in advance takes time, doing so ultimately saves time. Why? Because I only have to do it once for the week.
Meal Planning Helps My Wellness
Yes, yes, when I plan my meals in advance, the whole family eats much healthier. I’m sure you’re already super aware that when you eat at home, you eat fewer calories than when you hit a drive through.
And since I have about 35 pounds of baby weight to go, eating more healthy planned meals is a win.
But here’s the other advantage: meal planning also keeps anxiety down. Because I know what we’re going to eat well in advance, I don’t have the frantic “OMG, what’s for dinner” rush each night at exactly 5:55 pm. Having a plan helps my overall wellness because it keeps stress and anxiety at bay.
Using Your Meal Plan Template
The meal plan template includes two sheets: a weekly calendar with two weekly blocks and a grocery store list. My husband and I actually plan our meals together each week so we’re on the same page.
On the weekly calendar, we use one weekly block to plan the adult meals and another weekly block to plan our toddler’s meals. (Oh, how nice it would be if our toddler ate the same food we did! He just. will. not.)
When we plan our meals, we use the following tactics, which have made the process much smoother:
Meal Planning Tactics
We pick two big dinners to make for the week, then usually double the recipe to have lots of leftovers for other dinners and lunches. We try to pick a healthy recipe on Pinterest, flip through a cookbook, or fall back on one of our regular dinners.
When we make dinners, we portion out leftovers in meal-prep containers. For some reason, having the leftovers pre-portioned makes them much more foolproof. This way, we end up wasting less food. We bought these containers on Amazon (affiliate link), and they’ve held up great in the dishwasher. Here’s some other options, also pinned with affiliate links:
We bulk buy a breakfast item or two and either eat the same thing or rotate throughout the week. (Lately, I’ve been making these pre-made freezer burritos, which are awesome in the morning. I love hot breakfast.)
When we’re planning meals, we shop our pantry and fridge first to use up any items that will go bad.
We usually pick up a frozen pizza for a weekend night. It’s our way of going wild these days.
Before we shop, we decide on the week’s snacks in advance. We’ll pick things like 1 big bag of pretzels and 1 big back of apples. Otherwise, we would end up with 8 different snacky items that end up filling the pantry (and our waistlines).
Filling in the Grocery List Template
When we’re planning our meals, I have the grocery list sheet sitting next to me. As we’re planning our dinners, we’ll check the pantry before we add the item to our grocery list. This printable’s designed so that you write your groceries by section (dairy, produce, bread, etc.). Ideally, you’ll lap the grocery store more efficiently this way!
There are, of course, lots of grocery list apps you could use. But we’ve found that having the paper in front of us, checking items off as we walk the store, keeps us a little more organized.
If you haven’t already, head to the Home Beautifully Resource Collection to grab your printable meal plan template. This printable is also included as a freebie with the gorgeous 2018 printable planner. Check that out too, if you haven’t yet! Thanks so much for popping by, and I hope this meal plan template is as useful for your family as it is for mine!
As always, lots of love, from my house to yours!