This goddess began menu planning for a rather un-motherly (ok, selfish) reason …
I just wanted to be on stage.
In those days, I had a busy and brilliant life in the theater. I would do an average of one big musical + a Shakespeare + a straight play every year. As you can imagine, that’s a lot of evenings away from home.
Fortunately (by a happy combination of planning and luck), we lived right next door to my in-laws and Granny was just as happy to watch my TV in my lounge as watching her TV in hers. The only proviso was that the grandbabies were bathed, fed and ready-for-bed before I left.
Oh, and there had to be coffee and biscuits too … but that was the easy part.
What wasn’t so easy in the beginning was getting dinner on the table at a regular hour so that we could get all the other night-time-preparations done before 6.30pm … my deadline for getting-to-the-show-on-time.
So I began menu planning … plotting exactly what we four were going to eat for breakfast, lunch (including HusbandMuffin’s packed lunch) and, of course, dinner for the four of us.
I would then make a list of every ingredient required and stick to my list religiously. I’d do my ‘big shop’ once a week (without the kids … which makes it easier to “stick to my list religiously”) and then just pop in to the store for fresh-things like veggies and bread on Tuesdays and Thursdays on the way back from school.
These days, I still do exactly the same thing … but for different reasons.
Nowadays, menu planning is all about freeing up my time + attention for coaching and blogging and Intentional Nesting.
Seriously, angelface, not knowing what’s for dinner is one of the most stressful things that can happen in your day … ‘specially at 4 PM when there’s a hungry smallperson whining underfoot or you’re fighting traffic on your way home from the office or you’ve been online all day and omglookatthetime!
Also who needs the guilt-trip of getting drive-thru … again?
Menu planning gave me a way to do what I had to do (feed the kids), as well as what I wanted to do (be on stage) but the benefits didn’t end there.
In fact, even now that there’s just two of us in the house and I work online full-time, I still find menu planning an indispensable tool in my nest-management arsenal.
So here they are…
#1 : Menu Planning Saves You Money
Not only do you only buy what you need, but you also avoid all those impulse items that sneak into your cart when you’re rushing through the checkout aisle. It also puts an end to having four bottles of ketchup in the pantry ‘cos you’re never sure if you have any. Not to mention the savings on gas by not having to dash out to the store so often. And don’t get me started on the cost of eating out!
In my Battle Against The Grocery Giants, I also incorporated using coupons and in-store specials when planning my menus, but for those of you who cringe at the thought, you’ll be glad to know that you’ll see wallet-happy improvements even without them.
#2 : Menu Planning Makes Staying-On-Your-Diet Heaps Easier
Menu planning has been one of the key tools in my maintaining my girlish figure (ok, so not quite as girlish as, say, 20 years ago but still within the range I should be) and if you’re beginning a diet or even just a new way of eating (wheat-free, anyone?), then you need to strategize what’s going to be in your pantry and (probably more importantly) what’s not.
When the 7pm munchies strike, the keeping-you-on-track-benefit of having something available that curbs the cravings AND keeps you out of temptation is not to be underestimated. Many a resolution has been broken simply by a lack of preparation + forethought.
And as someone who worked in a mall for nearly five years, let me tell you that bringing food-court-avoiding lunches to work will show up very quickly on your waist and in your wallet.
#3 : Menu Planning Saves You Time
Besides cutting down on aforementioned extra trips to the store/drive-thru (do you really want to spend half-an-hour in the car at 5pm?), you’ll also spend less time in front of an open fridge door, dithering about what to cook, or speed-defrosting stuff in the microwave.
You can also prep ahead of time … a huge boon to those who work outside the home. Believe me, nothing beats walking in the door on a winter’s evening to the smell of something delicious in the crock pot.
#4 : Menu Planning = Less Waste
Part of the ‘saving money’ benefit is also that you’ll be throwing out less. No more squishy cucumbers in the bottom of the fridge (yuk!) or freezer-burned meat that you forgot was back there and now you’re not actually sure what it is. And as left-overs get incorporated into ‘tomorrow’s lunch’, you’ll be using everything you pay for. #score
Plus our land-filled planet will really appreciate this one.
#5 : Menu Planning = Less Stress
If you’re feeling over-scheduled + stretched as thin as a cracker, you need to plan your menus. Half an hour on a Sunday afternoon, and you’ve set yourself up for a week of easy-breezey family-feeding and a whole lot more breathing room for yourself.
Doesn’t that sound sublime?
Bonus Benefit – # 6 : Menu Planning = More Time For Creativity
Art? Novel-writing? Getting down + dirty with your toddler + finger-paints? Whatever delights you, there’ll be more time for it when dinner’s out of the way.
You might even try that new recipe ….
Menu Planning – It’s a simple strategy but don’t let that fool you.
It’s life transforming. Seriously.
Ok, so enough already … how do you DO menu planning???
You ask … I provide.
Menu Planning 101
(y’all didn’t think I’d leave you hanging, did you?)
If you want to do it yourself …
- Read this: My Secret Weapon Against Household Chaos
- Watch this how-to video I did yonks ago (6 mins)
(‘scuse the hair + messy chair)
- And here’s a quickie tip on how to cook once + eat twice
- (complete with blooper lol)
If you want to have it done for you :
I heartily recommend Leanne Ely’s Saving Dinner …
fabulous + customizable + you can even try out a week for free.
PS – this is not an affiliate link – I just love her service.
So there ya go, fabulous ones.
Here’s to a cheaper + easier + happy-mom-making way to feed the family,
PS If you google ‘menu planning’ you’ll find all sorts of templates. I just use a little whiteboard on the fridge.
(you can see it in the background of the main graphic)
Menu planning doesn’t have to be complicated to be life-altering.