Meal Planning for Well-Ordered Days

by Jimmie Lanley on August 31, 2011

This post is part of the blog link-up Well Ordered Days: Honoring God in the Details.

Meal planning makes a huge difference in our lifestyle and helps my home to be well-ordered. It might seem like a small thing, but it impacts so many aspects of home life.

calzone slices and sauce

1. Meal Planning is Good for the Budget

Planning your meals means you buy what you need based on a list. Impulse buys are decreased because you are searching for the things on the list rather than browsing the aisle for inspiration.

When I plan well, I make fewer trips to the store. That saves gas and, again, prevents those impulse buys.

With a plan, I can factor in leftovers, slotting them for lunches or dinners later in the week. That means there is less waste — less money thrown away.

Without a plan, there is sometimes a temptation to eat out which we all know is a budget killer. Eating out deliberately because you want to and can afford to is a glorious thing. But eating out because there’s nothing to eat at home makes me feel really guilty.

beef roast ready to go into the oven

2. Meal Planning is Good for Time Management

The initial investment of meal planning pays off richly in the absence of dumbly staring into a pantry or freezer wondering what would be good to prepare. Planning your week’s meals truly saves time in the long run.

Because you have a plan, you also don’ t have to worry about “what’s for dinner?” You can devote yourself to your homeschooling or other creative tasks wholeheartedly without the threat of dinner hanging over your head. (Of course, you do have to actually cook the meals. The plan doesn’t do that part for you. I have been known to become engrossed in a project and forget to cook.)

chicken & asparagus

3.  Meal Planning is Good for Our Health

When you make a weekly menu, you can look at the overall picture of nutrition. Are we getting a variety of vegetables and fruits? Are our carbohydrates limited and spread out over the course of the week? Is there a run of junk food due to eating at church events or travel that I need to offset with a super-healthy dinner of salmon and spinach salad? (Fortunately, my family loves that meal.)

If the meals aren’t written down, it’s easy to assume you’re eating healthy. But with a written plan, you can clearly see the reality of your diet.

Meal Planning Tips

  • Do plan both main dish and side dishes (and desserts).
  • Do take your menu when you go grocery shopping or create your shopping list based on the menu.
  • Do write down when you will be eating out.
  • Do plan for leftovers (if you usually have them) in the week’s meals.
whole wheat blueberry muffins

I still shop the sales, stocking up on items when they are at their cheapest prices, especially meats. The beauty of a well stocked kitchen is that I  can begin my meal plans with what I already have. In fact, I normally jot down what frozen meats are in the freezer before I even begin my weekly meal plan. I try to make meals around those options before buying regular priced meats. Using what’s in the freezer also prevents forgotten foods being wasted due to freezer burn.

I use an attractive meal planning sheet just because it makes me happy. You can use boring paper if you like, but if a pretty grid motivates you, I think it’s worth the printer ink.

I make a very flexible plan. Although my meal planning page indicates the days of the week, I flip meals around if I’m not in the mood to cook or eat something.

I plan my meals with my regular calendar in front of me. If I know a certain day will be hectic, I plan for a dinner with less preparation time. But if I know I’ll be home all day, I go for the more elaborate meal. If there is advance preparation to be done (soaking beans, setting up the crockpot, allowing a dessert to set overnight) I indicate that on my meal plan so I don’t forget.

How many of my readers make regular meal plans? If you do, I’d like to know how strict or flexible they are.

Be sure to visit all of the Well Ordered Days blog posts and add your own if you’d like to join in the theme. Just click on the image below.

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