Meal planning for the family is your key to saving more than just time and money
You have hundreds of recipes saved across several Pinterest boards and yet most nights you’re scrambling to figure out what’s for dinner, hoping you remembered to thaw something, only to realize it is going to be another night of ordering take out.
Yet, as many times as this scenario plays out you still don’t take the time to meal plan. I understand that the idea of meal planning for the week seems like one more chore that it is impossible to find the time to do.
Look, I get it. There are days when I feel like I’m lucky if I can find a spare five minutes to both shampoo and condition in the shower.
I understand the pressures of driving kids to practices, working, making sure bills get paid, taking pets to vet appointments, visiting with family, and somehow still managing to juggle homeschooling, laundry, housekeeping, and other varied family obligations.
But meal planning for the family doesn’t have to take hours and hours on end. Keep reading to see how easy meal planning for the family can be with the right tools.
Let’s Do the Math
In order for you to believe me that you do in fact have time to do weekly meal planning for the family, let’s look at the numbers:
- The average person who goes into the grocery store will spend at least 40 minutes shopping and checking out.
- The average family that does not do weekly meal planning will visit the grocery store 2-3 times a week. That means a minimum of 80-120 minutes a week spent in the grocery store.
- The average family that does not do weekly meal planning will spend 15-30 minutes making dinner from the groceries they got from the store just minutes earlier.
- The average family that does not create a weekly meal plan will find themselves going out to eat or going through the drive-thru between 3-5 times a week, ranging in wait times of 10-60 minutes. That means between 30-300 minutes a week eating out.
- The average person who does weekly meal planning for the family will spend 30-60 minutes planning recipes and writing out a grocery list.
- The average person who does weekly meal planning will go to the grocery store only once or twice a week, usually for 30-60 minutes.
- The average family who utilizes a meal planning menu will spend 15-30 minutes preparing dinner.
- On average, meal planning and meal preparation will take as little as 165 minutes of your week or just about two and a half hours.
Additionally, the financial ramifications are staggering as well:
- The average family of four spends $40-100 for each meal eating out, including fast food and pizza.
- The average family that goes into the grocery store without a list will spend nearly twice that of someone who prepares a grocery list.
- The average family that does not do weekly meal planning will throw away five times as much unused food as a family that created a plan for their weekly meals.
The reality is, failing to do your meal planning weekly will take up far more of your precious time and cost far more of your hard-earned dollar than you might realize.
Plus, not only will meal planning for your family give you more time with your family and more money in your pocket, but it will also help improve the health of you and your family.
Most families that do not do meal planning find themselves relying on prepared convenience foods or eating out, both of which are notoriously bad for your heart and your waistline.
Meal Planning How-To
Hopefully, this has convinced you that seeking out meal planning ideas and recipes is the key to your health, schedule, and sanity.
Let’s get into the “meal planning how to” tips that will get you on your feet and ready to go:
Put it on your calendar
This is the most important step of meal planning: Schedule the time to do it. Set aside an hour for yourself for the first few weeks while you get used to doing it.
As you get better, you will need less time. Putting this on your calendar will ensure you honor your commitment to you and your family.
Use the Internet
This isn’t too much of a stretch since you’re here right now. There are hundreds of forums, blogs, Pinterest boards, and meal planning apps out there that can help make meal planning easy.
Meal Planning Template
If you are more of a paper type of planner find a template that works for you (sign up to download my free one below).
Pro tip: Laminate your planner to save money and paper on printing.
Begin by filling out your family’s schedule- work, school, extra-curricular activities. Then determine how many meals you will need to plan for based on when you will be home. Make note of nights you need quick and easy meals and when you might be eating on the go.
Next, take stock of your fridge, freezer, and pantry. Make note of items that need to be used up within the week.
The last thing you want is to have to throw out spoiled food at the end of the week because it didn’t get used in time.
Now choose your meals. Check out Pinterest, The Food Network, The Pioneer Woman, or Whole 30 for your favorite recipes. Fill out your calendar with your meals for the week.
Lastly, make a list of groceries you need to be able to complete your meals.
Easy Peasy Lemon Squeezy!
Meal Planning Apps
If your entire life is scheduled within your phone then consider a meal planning app that simplifies things.
You don’t need to do all the work from scratch, use some of the knowledge of others who have done this before.
Here are two of my favorite meal planning apps:
- Mealime (free)
a perfect meal planning app designed for planning family meals the easy way. Mealime allows you to create profiles for people you cook for where you can list likes, dislikes, allergies, eating habits, etc. You can then search for recipes that match your criteria. Pick a recipe and it not only gives you the full instructions but it can automatically add the ingredients to your grocery list.
- Yummly (free)
a recipe sharing app featuring vivid images and a rating system to help you locate popular recipes online. When you are ready to make your recipe Yummly has a great set of videos to walk you through the steps.
Talk to your family
Meal planning can present a shift in family routines and values, and as such, it is important to discuss it as a family. If you share the values as a family, you are less likely to stray from it later.
Explain to the kids that you are going to see how long you can go without going through the drive-thru, make it a game. Explain that as a team, you want to save money and be healthy, all while getting to spend more time together.
Create a team goal and reward: Each month you successfully work together with meal planning, have a fun night out. Make it fun for everyone!
Meal Planning for the Week
As you look at other meal planning ideas and recipe sites online, you’ll see some ambitious families that meal plan for a month or longer.
Don’t get me wrong, this is great: It just saves more time and money.
However, it is important that you get in the habit of meal planning first, and not create unrealistic goals that you won’t stick to.
Just look at starting with meal planning weekly then consider expanding to monthly meal planning when you are more comfortable.
Benefits of Meal Planning
I know you’re busy, heck, so am I. However, the benefits of meal planning far outweigh the perceived inconveniences.
It’s true, meal planning for the family will save time, money, and promote great health. But let me leave you with this one last, and I would argue the most important benefit:
You’re setting an example for your children.
By meal planning weekly, you are showing your children how to prioritize your time, how to value your money, and how to live a healthy lifestyle.
You are showing them that their health, both physical and emotional, is important. You are modeling a lifestyle that is intentional, healthy and filled with love.
As I said, you really do have time for meal planning. And more than that? You and your family deserve it.
Do you meal plan for your family? I would love it if you shared your best meal planning tips below!