I don’t have enough fingers to count the many times this question comes up in my house. Fortunately, the answer has progressed significantly over the last few months. Meal time for us used to be painful; rummaging through the refrigerator and the pantry for ideas, almost always at the last minute when someone was already starving. My husband and I decided to stop that and put some sense into the “what’s for dinner?” dilemma. We have instituted a weekly menu planning and I’m happy to say it’s been three months and we are rolling and loving!
It means that between Sunday and Tuesday (depending on how much food we have left over from the previous week) we sit down and plan two or three big meals to be cooked throughout the week. We always plan to cook each meal for more than two servings, that way we have leftovers that can be easily modified and mixed for quick lunches or dinners, as needed. From each meal we jot down a list of ingredients and then combine them into one big list, along with any other items that are always kept on hand like breakfast items, condiments, snacks, etc.
Why it works:
Planning the meals takes 30 minutes tops. Figuring out what to cook each day with no plan in mind was taking us probably 10-15 minutes a day. Do that the math, and we are saving at least 20 minutes each week, only counting weekdays! You still have to go to the store, but going with a plan is a whole different story. Taking the time to plan the meals gives us the opportunity to spice things up a little; we open cookbooks every now and then, search online and try new recipes as much as we can.
Pretty much everything we buy, we use. Before, our grocery shopping list was just that, a list. We had gotten used to buying the same things over and over regardless of whether we were cooking with them or not. That means less waste and less money down the drain.
Sometimes out of frustration we would dine-out or order-in just because no one wanted to cook the same old boring meal. Now cooking is an event in itself and we spend less money eating-out.
You are probably thinking “who has time for that?!” or “I really can’t plan on a Monday”. Whatever the situation, there’s always a way to make things work for you. If you work in an office full-time, then plan your meals during the weekend and only plan two dinners since you’ll be having lunch outside guaranteed. Even better, include in your plan lunch for some days of the week and take it to work – a healthy and wallet-friendly alternative.
Just like you I was skeptical at first, but the results have proven me wrong; mealtime in this house is nothing but good times now! Give it a shot, you will not be disappointed.