“What’s for dinner?”

This question is a daily one, and it usually results in several others: “What do I have time for?”, “Didn’t we eat this last week?” and “Is it too late for takeout?” It can also result in last minute grocery store trips, impulse food purchases or large amounts of fast food. An easy way to avoid this is by planning meals. Take some time at the beginning of each week to determine what will be cooked when, and with what materials. It can be as simple as looking at weekly fliers from the grocery store and building meals around current items on special.

What can meal planning help you save?

  • Time: Instead of wondering what’s for dinner and hurrying around the house trying to throw something together, you’ll already know in advance. Plus, by assigning meals to certain days in advance, you’ll know what sort of time availability you have based on your own schedule. For example, if you work later on Tuesdays, it’s probably not the night to make lasagna from scratch that day.
  • Resources: By planning your meals in advance, you’ll know exactly what foods you’ll need to whip up a tasty meal. This will help your efficiency at the grocery store, helping you avoid impulse purchases and overshopping. Don’t forget to take inventory of what you already have as well. In addition, you’ll avoid unused food because you’ll be buying for the set amount you need for your designated time period.
  • Money: As easy as it is, constantly going for takeout or fast food can really add up in expenses (not to mention in calories). Planning ahead lets you set your own food budget and keeps portion sizes in mind. Buying certain meal items in bulk when necessary can help save a few extra dollars, and so can clipping coupons and using store fliers to track sale items.
  • Sanity: When coming home at the end of the day, the last thing you may want to think about is trying to come up with dinner plans. If you plan, that concern is already out of the way. It results in a few more minutes of calm and sanity in an otherwise hectic world (and you need all those minutes you can get!).

Keep your weekly, biweekly or monthly plan (whatever you decide) on your refrigerator or somewhere highly visible to remind yourself to stick to it and stay organized. If whole weeks seem like too daunting of a task initially, ease yourself into planning and start with three days a week and grow from there.

What tricks do you use to plan meals?