Tips like these helped us pay off $127K in debt. You can read our story in Slaying the Debt Dragon: How One Family Conquered Their Money Monster and Found an Inspired Happily Ever After.
It can happen almost every week. We stand in front of the refrigerator and hem and haw, not wanting to fix dinner and/or not having what we need to prepare a meal. We hit the drive thru, devour quick fix junk food, or worse toss out fresh foods that have gone bad because we haven’t used them yet (doesn’t that drive you crazy?!). If this scenario describes you, you’re not alone. More people share with me their defeated budget battle stories about eating than any other category of spending. What is it about feeding our faces that leads us astray? After all, we need to eat every single day. Why is it so difficult to plan? I wrote an entire chapter about managing meals in Slaying the Debt Dragon because it’s such an important part of your finances.
Here’s the sobering news, friends. If you’re going to slay debt and be successful with money, you need to get a good handle on this area of your life. Here’s the good news friends, it’s not as challenging as you’re making it. Planning meals can be simple and even fun? OK, I know you’re skeptical but winning with money is ALWAYS fun. Let’s break down why you need to get your act together first, though shall we?
Struggling with planning is an ancient issue. The book of Proverbs says “Careful planning puts you ahead in the long run; hurry and scurry puts you further behind.” Proverbs 21:5 The Message. Hurry and scurry? I think I have a graduate degree in that, y’all. I know that when I plan, I am less flustered, I better manage stress, I love more fully. Meal planning is a simple seismic act that spreads to every area of my life. Being a better mom and wife are important to me and if I can do something as simple as plan meals to influence change in those areas, I’m willing to make the sacrifice of time that it requires – and honestly if you do it well, it doesn’t have to take too long.
Begin With What You Have
While all of us would love to have a grocery service that magically delivers healthy meals prepped and ready at 5 PM sharp, you’d be better suited to take a good inventory of the items you already have. The simplest way to begin meal planning is to open the cabinets, fridge, freezer, pantry – anywhere you store food and scan things over quickly. This incredibly simple strategy will help you evaluate what you have before you begin the planning process. Take special note of expiration dates and if you’re running low on staples.
Write It Down
It doesn’t happen unless it is on paper. You need more than a general observation about what you’re going to eat. It doesn’t matter if you use your smart phone or an old piece of notebook paper. But write down exactly what your family will be eating this week. Don’t forget to list lunch, breakfast, and snack ideas. I’m happy to share the free printable menu planner that I use every week to plan our meals and track our grocery lists.
Here’s what meal planning isn’t meant to do. Meal planning is not meant to make you a Stepford Wife. It’s not meant to control you or make you exert control over everyone in your family. Your written plan allows you to know exactly what you have on hand; however, it does not rule your world. Life happens. Sometimes you need to swap out a meal or a side dish to make your schedule simpler. Be flexible to let go of or alter your plan when you need to.
Consult the Experts
I’ll be the first to say you don’t need a fancy subscription service to meal plan effectively. You are capable enough to resource yourself for free – with Pinterest, books, and the the internet – to plan meals well. However, I get the fact that sometimes you hit a wall and you need some accountability and extra help. I’d highly recommend trying out a service like eMeals or if you read me regularly, you know I’m a big fan of the $5 Meal Plan. The best people to talk to when you’re planning meals actually live inside your own house. Survey your family to find out what they enjoy the best and what they’d like to see more often on the table, too. Love Costco? Don’t miss these great plans. Check out 20 Meals from Costco for $150 – Slow Cooker Freezer Pack.
Plan to Dine Out
Dining out is a luxury friends. It’s a wonderful, beautiful luxury. Other people prepare the food. Other people take out the trash. Other people wash the dishes. Why, oh why do we treat the process like a hassle. We overwhelm ourselves with choices and then end up not even enjoying the luxury. This is why it’s incredibly important to actually plan to dine out in advance. When you evaluate your weekly calendar, think through which nights might require a quick meal on the go. Or set up special dates to celebrate with a meal. Choose where you’re going to go. Look over the menu in advance. Decide what you will enjoy. Always make sure you have the budget to support the evening out. Bring the luxury back into your experience.
Let’s together strive to dump the hurry and scurry. Let’s plan meals well. Let’s enjoy the very good gift of eating and sustenance. You can do it!
What tips would you add for a first time meal planner or someone looking to bring some spark back int the menu?
My book is now available: Slaying the Debt Dragon: How One Family Conquered Their Money Monster and Found an Inspired Happily Ever After. You can also check out Inspiration to Pay Off Debt: 30 Days of Encouragement from the Queen of Free on Kindle.
This post contains an affiliate link. That means when you get a great deal or maybe even something for free, you also help our family pay off our mortgage early. And for that, we royally thank you!