One of the simplest ways to balance tasks in your life is to meal plan. Think about it: who has time for the unpredictability of choosing what you’re going to cook and serve on the very day you are going to eat it? Not me. I don’t have time for multiple trips to the grocery store each week. My budget doesn’t allow for it either. Multiple shopping days means way too many opportunities to exceed the budget.
Meal planning can seem too structured or overwhelming, but once you get the hang of it it is easy and the benefits far outweigh the feelings of structure or the initial time it takes to do it. It also allows you to make more intentional decisions about what you are putting into your body. Food is medicine for your body. It’s not meant solely for pleasure, but mainly to provide the fuel and nutrients your body needs to function optimally.
The best way to meal plan is to watch the grocery store and market sales. The same foods cycle around to being placed on sale about every six weeks or so. I would also suggest making enough space in your budget to purchase enough of a food item to last until the next time they go on sale. If you plan your meals around the healthy ingredients that are on sale, your budget will also function well.
Instead of spending hours each week running back and forth to the grocery store, I typically set aside a little time once each week to meal plan and then shop once per week. However, I do have to admit that I have forgotten my share of items causing a need for me to return to the store but I keep the return trips short and sweet because my time is precious.
Sometimes I plan for more than a week’s worth of meals depending on the budget or even our hectic schedule. There are times when we have so much going on that it’s necessary for me to take the time to plan before the busyness hits. I’ll plan enough meals to last until the schedule settles.
Planning meals not only reduces the amount of time you spend in the grocery store, but it can also decrease the amount of time you spend in the kitchen. For example, I make more space in my schedule by doubling a recipe or by setting aside time on another day to make meals ahead of time and freeze them for a quick and easy meal on busy days.
My kitchen system and my crockpot are my very favorite tools in the kitchen. If I plan ahead, I can prep foods ahead of time with the kitchen system. Even better, when the chaotic days strike I can take less than two minutes to pull a pre-prepped meal out of the freezer, dump it into the crockpot, program it to turn off and warm or cut off when needed, and not touch it again until I serve it to my family. It’s such a blessing to be able to have a meal slow cooking safely while I tackle other tasks. It’s an even bigger blessing to have more time to serve and spend time with my family. (I do have a pressure cooker, which I love to use for large batches of rice, beans, cooking whole birds in a short period of time. However, many complete meals do require a few extra steps when it comes to the pressure cooker, so I prefer my slow cooker, but I do have and use both.
Today, I’m sharing my printable instant download monthly meal planner. Please feel free to grab it below. If you find meal planning overwhelming, just fill in a week of dinners at a time. There is room for jotting down notes about your schedule or shopping, and also an area for you to jot down ideas for smaller meals or snacks. If you can tackle more, use the main area to plan a month’s worth of dinners or even all of your daily meals for a month.
I pray this helpful tool will benefit you as much as it has me, and that you find more balance and space in your day when it comes to making intentional healthy choices and freeing some time you spend shopping and cooking.
I’ve also compiled a cookbook of our most popular, healthy & easy recipes for helping you balance kitchen tasks. It will help you eat healthy while reducing time and money spent in the store and the kitchen. Enjoy the extra time in your schedule!