I seem to write this very same post once or twice a year, and it always follows the same pattern: Something causes me to stop planning my weekly dinner menu, and after a while I reach a point where I really want to save money. That means any kind of eating out really stresses me out, because cooking at home is so much cheaper, but then figuring out what to make for dinner really stresses me out, too. And that’s when I realize that I really need to get back on the wagon and start planning my menus again.
In this case, the whole hospital crisis last month and its aftermath really shook up our routine. It was all about survival, and as Marc and I always do when there’s a crisis, we spent for survival. Which isn’t to say that we spent frivolously – rather, we made a conscious decision to spend money in order to reduce the stress of our situation. In this case, it meant a lot of spending on fast food, take out, and toys. Plus, we have all of those medical bills to pay.
But it’s pretty much all behind us, and I have no excuse not to be menu planning now.
So to help motivate myself (and maybe you too), here’s a list of the tremendous benefits of menu planning:
Reduce the temptation to just grab fast food or takeout. It’s easy enough to plan my menu so that on those days when I arrive home from work after a long day, dinner is something that takes less than 30 minutes to get on the table.
More time. Because I can plan for quick and easy meals, I can spend less time in the kitchen, and more time on other things (like blogging!).
Save money on lunch by taking leftovers. Leftovers make a great brown-bag lunch, but there usually aren’t any if we’re picking up fast food or sandwiches on the way home. And since lunch is usually at least $5 each, we’re talking big savings here.
Reduce the stress of deciding what to make for dinner. Normally this doesn’t stress me out so much, but it’s increased since I really want to make food that’s inexpensive and makes enough for leftovers. If I’m planning ahead, I can plan for leftovers. Leftovers = less stress.
Waste less food. When I don’t plan ahead, I inevitably end up buying food that I don’t use before it goes bad. That’s bad for our bottom line, and bad for the environment too.
Eat healthier. It’s no surprise that we eat much healthier when I’m cooking than when we’re picking up food on the way home. My family – including me – deserves to eat healthy.
More variety. Without a plan, I tend to fall back on the same meals over and over again. But when I’m thinking ahead, I can pull out new recipes, or old favorites that I’ve forgotten about.
The kids are more adventurous. This goes hand in hand with the last point – when I’m regularly serving new dishes, the kids get used to it and are more willing to try new foods. It’s so exciting to watch their palates develop and their sense of adventurousness come alive.
Be a better mother. After the last point, I had to say it – it’s awesome motivation!
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