Family meal planning is a cornerstone of our lives now, but it was a process to get here. Before kids, my husband and I only cooked 2-3 times a week. We ordered takeout whenever we felt like it, had little regard for a food budget, and made grocery store stops practically every other day. Eventually we started to notice that we were both gaining weight and our bank spending reports were taking an unnecessary hit in the “Food/Drink” category. It was clear that we weren’t making wise choices when it came to eating, but we were content and lacked the motivation to make any major changes.
Finally, five months before Goose was born, we had a serious talk about what type of family we wanted to be. We knew that we wanted to model healthy habits and that we did not want her to develop preventable diseases or body issues because of what we were feeding her. Children have no control over the food they’re given and we definitely wanted to provide the best options for our kids.
So we picked up a few cookbooks and I dedicated more Pinterest space to recipes that are realistic for us. At first we just tried any recipe that looked remotely appetizing, but we now have a list of about 45 meals that are consistently simple and tasty (I’ll share a few with you each month).
These cookbooks are where most of our ideas are from:
1. One Pot: 120+ Easy Meals from Your Skillet, Slow Cooker, Stockpot, and More
2. Food Network Magazine 1,000 Easy Recipes: Super Fun Food for Every Day
3. Cooking Light Comfort Food: Home-Cooked, Delicious Classics Made Light
I set aside 15-20 minutes every Saturday morning to plan our meals for the entire week and all of the ingredients we’ll need. Sometime during the weekend we’ll make a family trip (kids, too) to the grocery store and get everything we need all at once.
Here’s how meal planning has made a difference for us:
We eat mindfully.
This simply means that we are more aware of what we put in our bodies. Thought has gone into each meal so we’re not desperately grasping for the fastest thing we can chew on. We’re making sure that we have a balance of all food groups (even dessert) and that the kids are exposed to variety. And since Goose has tried many different types of food, she is not a picky eater at all. Her favorite things to eat are bell peppers, cherry tomatoes, and avocado!
We aren’t necessarily aiming to be overly health conscious, but by default, many of the meals we prepare ourselves are more nutritious than the restaurant version. When we make food in our own kitchen, we can control the amount of salt, butter, oil, sugar, or other ingredient that’s used excessively in commercial food. We don’t deprive ourselves of anything, but moderation and substitution are key.
We spend less money on food.
If my husband buys lunch at work, he easily spends $10. If he does this everyday for four weeks, that’s $200 a month just spent on his lunches! That doesn’t include the days we stopped at Starbucks in the morning for coffee and a muffin or ordered super nachos for dinner. All of those little things add up quickly!
When we meal plan, each meal is large enough for all of us to have dinner AND lunch the next day. We just put leftovers in reusable containers at night for my husband to take to work and for Goose and I to pull out of the fridge whenever we’re ready to have lunch. This way, no one is buying additional food during the day or spending unnecessary money.
The money that used to be spent on food can now go toward family trips and outings or we can just save it for a rainy day!
We have more free time.
The last thing I want to do when I finish a long day of work is stop at the grocery store. Or even worse, have an endless back and forth debate at 5:00pm about what we’re going to eat that night and scrambling to put something together. Those are precious minutes that could be spent relaxing with my family. When you plan your meals and make one mass grocery trip, you already know what you’re going to eat and no additional time or conversations are required.
Since we plan our lunches in advance, too, no one is having to cook in the middle of the day or make a trip to buy food. That’s especially nice for my husband who can relax during his breaks instead of rushing to get food. For me, that means I can be more attentive to my girls in the middle of the day.
Give it a try!
Family meal planning has been the best way to make sure my husband and children are healthily nourished and it has allowed us to save so much money and time!
If you’re sitting there thinking there’s no way meal planning would work for your family, you’re wrong! This is something we did even when I was working full time and commuting everyday. Yes, it takes some time to compile recipes and incorporate it into your routine, but it works if you’re willing to put in a little effort in the beginning.
Also, don’t feel obligated to cook EVERY night. That’s not realistic. We still allow one or two nights of flexibility in case we have dinner plans with friends or just want some In-n-Out after a busy week. The goal isn’t exclusive homecooking, just more of it.
Do you meal plan? Comment below and tell me about it! Do you want to learn more about how to get started, how I make our menus, or ways to manage your time? Leave me a comment with your question!
Check out some of our favorite recipes: