Plan Your Meals and Feed Your Family in a Whole New Way

Money and Career

Post written by money and career columnist Dustin Riechmann of Engaged Marriage.

There is incredible power in the simple act of planning our family’s meals.
On the surface, it may seem like meal planning is restrictive or even boring.  However, like budgeting, it can actually be quite freeing when it’s done correctly and with a spirit of improving our marriage and family life.
Simply knowing what you’re going to eat at least a day in advance can have a major impact in your day-to-day life and your long-term success.
Let’s take a look at three key areas that will improve when you adopt meal planning as part of your busy life.

3 Reasons You Need to Plan Your Meals

1. Money
If you’re anything like most families (including ours until last year), you have a LOT of room for improvement financially in the food department.  In our case, we used to eat carryout restaurant food much too often, plus we wasted groceries on a regular basis.
We shopped for what we thought we needed during each grocery store trip, but without a plan we inevitably found ourselves opting for the “convenience” of takeout/delivery and (at the same time) letting groceries expire before we actually used them all up.
Plus, our grocery shopping trips weren’t organized to take advantage of sales and store discounts since there’s no way to know this information without some foresight, planning and guidance from a service that tracks it.
When we started planning our meals a week in advance, we saved an average of $317 per month on our food bill!  This may seem extreme, but I challenge you to take a hard look at your budget (you do have a budget, don’t you?) and see if there isn’t some major fat to be trimmed.
2. Health
Speaking of trimming fat,many of us could certainly use some help in eating healthier and in more reasonable proportions.  Again, meal planning can be a real help in this area.
When we sit down with our spouse and plan out a week of meals, we inevitably make better food choices than when we’re faced with last-minute decisions with a hungry stomach and cranky kids to deal with.  Once the food is purchased and the meal is set, it’s much easier to actually follow-through and eat well consistently.
Meal planning also allows us to avoid most last minute dinner “emergencies,” which means there’s no reason to run through McDonald’s or order pizza because “we don’t have anything to cook.”  Simply planning ahead for 5 nutritious, properly portioned dinners each week will make most families much more healthy.
3. Quality Time
A generation ago, there used to be a standing, unbreakable rule in most families that dinner time was spent together.  Unfortunately, with the busyness of our lives today, this regular quality time has been lost.
While meal planning alone won’t reschedule our priorities, it can certainly be a big step in right direction.  Rather than each family member doing their own thing, dinner planning encourages a family to eat the same meal, at the same time.  When Mom has dinner scheduled for 6:00 p.m., Dad knows he can’t just hit the drive-through on the way home.
Like budgeting, meal planning won’t force a family to change their behaviors and commit to better priorities, but it provides a wonderful framework to make it happen.

Meal Planning Services

There are many great meal planning options online that can cater to your particular needs.  In our house, we actually use a combination of two different services.
We love E-Mealz for planning our dinners and maximizing the savings on our grocery bill.  We also use the full custom nutrition calendar through our membership with Team Beachbody, which makes it easy to plan every meal of the day and balance our food choices with our exercise plans for a complete picture.
Regardless of whether you choose an inexpensive service like these or an old-fashioned pen and paper, you should give meal planning a try.  Do it for a week and see if you feel the value it adds to your marriage and family life are worth the “trouble” of planning ahead to save money, shrink your waistline and spend more quality time together as a family.
I think you’ll wonder how you ever managed your household without it.