Can’t believe it’s already almost August! This summer has FLOWN by for me, with most of May and June focused on getting married and all the planning that came with it. We’re back from our honeymoon now, and settling in to married life. I love it!
As unbelievable as it may sound, I actually enjoy cleaning and organizing, so having our own little place has been a lot of fun. I’m sure there will be days that I don’t feel like cleaning the toilets or vacuuming the carpets, but for now I am thoroughly enjoying these little chores. I haven’t had my own place since 2010 when I lived down in Dallas, so it’s fun to jump back into that – and this time, with my hubby.
This first month and a half of marriage has been full of discoveries regarding grocery shopping, meal planning, and budgeting. My inner nerd has come out in full force, as I pore over budgeting blogs and scour the weekly ads for the best deals at each grocery store. One week Dierbergs thought they could get me to pay $2.99 for strawberries. Little did they know, this girl reads her Aldis ad every week and got strawberries for $1.89 on sale. Aldis, 1. Dierbergs, 0.
I quickly realized about a week into married life that meal planning is a life-saver. I’ve always coached my clients to meal plan as much as possible, because it helps you avoid impulse trips to Five Guys or eating chicken pot pie every night of the week. And now I’m seeing just how much meal planning helps with budgeting, too! When I don’t have a meal plan for the week, I find myself wandering around up and down the aisles, with no idea what I’m doing. Every few steps, I take something off the shelf, look it over, try to think of a meal I could use it for, and then inevitably decide I have no use for it at all. Or, I panic because I don’t have any kind of plan and just start grabbing random things that sound good to me at the time and stuffing them in my cart. By the time I get home and start putting groceries away, I realize that nothing I bought will go together for a complete recipe. It’s not easy to make dinner with a can of kidney beans, California raisins, and macaroni noodles. Believe me.
So, the discipline of meal planning has become my friend in the kitchen. It takes a few minutes at the beginning of the week, but it’s so worth it in the end.
The way I see it, these are the top 5 benefits of meal planning:
- Save money by only buying the things you need for the week
- Avoid ending up with random foods in your fridge that don’t go together. (see example above with raisins and kidney beans)
- Enjoy a variety of foods throughout the week and avoid getting bored with your meals.
- Eat healthier! By actually cooking a meal instead of scrounging around in the pantry for junk food, you can ensure that you get at least SOME veggies in your stomach every night!
- You won’t have to eat PB&J every night til the cows come home. (Although my husband insists that he doesn’t mind if we eat PB&J all the time, I’m pretty sure he’s just being kind. There may or may not have been one night last week where I started crying because I was so exhausted and didn’t want to cook anything for dinner…that might have prompted his PB&J comment. Maybe.)
As you can see, meal planning definitely has its benefits. However, there can be some pitfalls to this process, if you don’t know what you’re doing. (i.e. the first 3 weeks of my married life) Even though I’m rather a newbie to this whole process myself, I thought I’d share with you my tips for streamlining the meal-planning process. (that was a mouthful)
Tips for Awesome Meal-Planning:
1) Figure out which day you are going to grocery shop each week. Then, work on your meal plan a day or two beforehand. I like to meal plan on Sundays because I can look at our calendar for the week and figure out which nights I will be cooking vs. which nights we will be eating out, eating on the run, or be at a party with food.
2) Plan ahead for which nights you will have time to cook vs. which nights you will be rushed for time. If I have evening clients around dinner time, I like to do a crock-pot meal or a casserole that I can make ahead of time. This keeps us from eating at 8pm, which is what happened the first week of our marriage… oops.
3) Try to mix up your flavors and foods. This is pretty simple: don’t make chicken every night or green beans with every meal. Try a variety of meats, veggies, and flavors. As a general rule, I like to do a pasta one night, fish one night, and then fill in with chicken and pork meals.
4) Don’t make it too complicated. As much as it would be fun to mysteriously conclude, “There’s a fine art to meal planning,” …there really isn’t. It’s simple. Which is good. Pull out your cookbooks, search “dinner recipes” on Pinterest, or find a few cooking blogs you love. Ask your friends for their favorite go-to meals, and put together a binder full of your best creations. Don’t be afraid to try new things. If it’s awful, at least you can say you tried something new. If it’s amazing, then you’ve got a new favorite recipe to add to your repertoire. Can’t go wrong with that!
In closing, here are a few of my favorite resources for meal-planning inspiration:
Happy Meal Planning!!