How Menu Planning Saved My Sanity & My Budget
I always thought I did pretty good. Here I am, every week, coupons in hand, shopping the sales and trying to stretch my dollar. The problem is, there just aren’t enough hours in the day. I am a busy mom of 3 and before I know it the clock says 4:30 pm and every one wants to know the answer to the big question.
“What’s for Dinner?”
For some families this may be easy, but I feel like I am always cooking 3 different suppers. One dairy free, One Gluten Free, and one that every one else wants to eat. I had gotten so used to catering to everyone’s wants that I was making my self a little nuts.
On top of that, I hadn’t been paying attention but our grocery budget kept creeping higher and higher. Instead of just making what I had envisioned for dinner, I was trying to make everyone else happy. That is good in theory, but sometimes something has to give.
I knew had to return to menu planning, but that takes time. Time is something I didn’t feel I had. Menu planning is not a new concept to me, but I just wasn’t sure how it was going to work this time. With food allergies and picky eaters I get overwhelmed just trying to feed everyone. My problem was I was trying to hard to make everyone else happy and I had forgotten about making me happy.
I took a deep breath and ripped off the band-aid. It only took my about 10 minutes to make a menu plan for 2 weeks. The best part, I already had many of the items in the freezer and pantry. I of course made my menu with everyone in mind. There were meals that could be made to suit everyone’s dietary needs. I decided that no matter who whined or complained the menu was set in stone. So I added a small disclaimer to the top of my menu.
“This is the menu plan for the next 2 weeks. If you don’t like it, you can make a sandwich.”
Do you have any idea how good that felt? The freedom of not trying to be a short order cook. Not making myself a little crazy trying to make sure everyone else has exactly what they want. There will be a healthy meal on the table every night and they can eat it….or make a sandwich.
My 7 year old read the menu and laughed. Then she went around telling everyone all about it and the new “Sandwich rule”. Today I heard my son say he didn’t really want chicken & dumplings. My daughter chimed in and pointed at the menu “Make a sandwich!” ~giggle~ This may just work after all.
I hit the grocery store the day I made the menu plan. I purchased the last few ingredients I needed to pull off the next 2 weeks of meals, and plenty of ingredients for breakfast and sandwiches. 😉 I figure if I only go back for produce and milk before the 2 weeks is up I have cut my grocery bill by about 50% just by sticking to a meal plan. Plus that gives me time to hit the farmers market on Fridays and I can save even more on produce.
When I didn’t have a plan I found myself at the store every few days just to make sure I had what every one wanted. By making and sticking with the meal plan I know exactly which ingredients I need, and don’t have to by a bunch of extras. I can also create my menu plan around this weeks sales to drop my grocery budget even further. It also gives me the ability to stock up on sale items that I can use to make meals with for the next weeks meal plan.
It’s funny how we misconceive that being organized takes time. It took me about 10 minutes to make my 2 week menu plan, and another 10 minutes to make a grocery list. That is it. The amount of time it has saved me in the last few days has already surpassed that. Having set meals posted on the fridge so I know what needs to be prepared, defrosted, or cooked makes my life so much easier.
There are no more last minute “hurry up and find something to cook” dinners.
There is no more second guessing myself at 4:30 pm.
There are no more questions about “What’s for Dinner?”
There is plenty of time to cook and sit down as a family by 5:30 pm every night to enjoy a wonderful dinner together …or a sandwich.
For me, there is no going back. I have seen the light at the end of the tunnel. Sure there will be nights where we edit the plan. That is to be expected. Having a daily game plan for dinner has simplified my busy life in ways I can’t even explain. Try it for a week and see how it works for your family.
You can’t have a menu plan without a menu. You can find some great family friendly dinner recipes here on A Few Short Cuts and on our sister site Moms With Crock Pots.