Oct 1, 2009

The Benefits of Menu Planning: Save Money, Reduce Stress, Raise Healthy Children & More

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! :D

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Mr Credit Card said...

I second that. Mrs Credit Card plans the menu. At the very least, your kids will grow up appreciating more food and will be adventurous in trying new cuisines, rather than just sticking to burgers, pizzas and fish fingers!

Also, the nutrition in foods served in schools is just terrible.

Tia @ TiaSavingCents said...

I could have written the first paragraph myself this month. Starting a new job and getting back into the routine of daycare and having to be out the door by 5am has been a big adjustment after 6 months home. I appreciate the motivation to get my butt back in gear and the company that I am not the only one who falls off the wagon. THANK YOU!

Julie said...

I, too, am getting back in the swing of menu planning. You can find my recent posts on Menu planning here
and here

I am enjoying your blog and subscribed.