Here’s the thing: meal planning is hard. I don’t mind thinking about what I want to eat tomorrow, but thinking about the day after that, and the day after that…sooner or later my head starts spinning. I’ve tried planning weekly, bi-weekly and monthly. I’ve tried planning with charts, color schemes, and lists. I’ve tried planning everything from three meals a day to just the main protein we’d be consuming. I’ve tried planning from the couch. I’ve tried planning from the table. I’ve tried planning while standing on my head! (Maybe that’s going a bit too far…)
Every once in a while I put down my notebook in lieu of flying by the seat of my pants for a while. And, you know what? I always end up penitently crawling back to it.
I hate meal planning, but cannot seem to live without it. There are various reasons for this:
-Meal planning is hard. It takes works to go through and decide what a balanced menu looks like for your family. It involves taking responsibility for your kitchen and being thoughtful about what you are consuming, and how often. There are obviously a lot of variables involved in this, including likes, dislikes, food sensitivities, budgetary concerns etc etc. It’s like forcing your brain off of an easy chair and into a cross fit gym! (At least for me. I like my easy chair).
-Meal planning can go dreadfully wrong. Sometimes the plans that I make are super unrealistic (too many work intensive meals all clumped together making me feel like I’m spending way to much time in the kitchen). Sometimes I have to make last minute adjustments due to last minute scheduling changes. Sometimes that new recipe that sounded great two weeks ago doesn’t sound that great when it’s actually time to try it out. Sometimes I forget to pull the meat out of the freezer, and then I have to scramble around trying to either thaw it without a microwave or find a backup. This not fun.
-Meal planning can make you feel like you are in a culinary rut. This, of course, comes down to the plans you makes. But, if you have not yet collected a wide range of recipes that you enjoy, things can get kind of repetitive.
So, now that we’ve got that off of our chest – here’s why I need it in my life:
-You have sooo much control over your family’s diet. Worried that you are eating too much dairy? Go light on it next month. Would you like to incorporate more recipes with bone broth? Go for it! Want to learn how to make curry at home? Set aside a couple days to test out recipes! Basically, if you have food goals of any kind, meal planning is a way to make those happen.
-Budget budget budget budget budget. There are a lot of cheap, nourishing ingredients out there (think carrots, onions, lentils, etc), and planning your meals around them can help to bring costs down. Plus, shopping without a plan can lead to a lot of food waste.
-Extra time. Making multiple trips to the grocery store a week can cost you a lot of extra time and money. It feels really good to know that everything you need for the week is already in your fridge/freezer/pantry.
-More flexibility. Yes, I did say that unexpected schedule blips can mess up my plans. That, however, happens when my meal plans are not well thought out. I’ve found that the months where I plan to buy throw together ingredients (just in case) tend to go a lot smoother.
-More variety. Tired of chicken? Add in some turkey and fish! And etc.
Basically, every negative I listed has a stronger counter-argument. So while meal planning drives me crazy, I think it’s worth it.
What about you? What are your experiences with meal planning? Are there any pros or cons that I missed?