Welcome back to Menu Planning Month.
I decided to kick off this series by answering the question – Why?
Why bother menu planning? Why not just live – and eat – spontaneously?
The answer is two-fold. There is no doubt that my household runs much more smoothly when I menu plan. Five o’clock is far less stressful for me – and, in turn, for my family – when I know what’s for dinner.
When I know what’s on the menu, I can even prep ingredients or take something out of the freezer in the morning, practically eliminating that five o’clock witching hour.
But the primary reason that I advocate menu planning on this blog is because it saves money.
In fact, as a kosher keeper, I’m fairly convinced that menu planning can save you nearly as much as couponing! And here’s how:
1. Menu planning cuts down on last minute trips to the grocery store
Last minute trips are the kiss of death for your budget. How many times have you run out to the store at 5 o’clock to pick up something for dinner, only to spend $30, $40, $50 or more?
No judgment. We’ve been there and done that, too. But $50 is half of what we budget for the entire week, so to blow it on one meal – ouch!
When we menu plan, however, I don’t need to run out at 5 p.m., because I I know what’s on the schedule for every night of the week. Which means I’ve shopped for those ingredients – and have everything on-hand to put dinner together.
2. Menu planning reduces impulse purchases.
Not only are you less likely to make (costly) last minute trips to the store when you menu plan, you are also less likely to make impulse purchases when you’re there.
When you menu plan, you know in advance what food items you need to purchase in order to feed your family every day of the week. With this kind of advanced planning, you can trust that your list is comprehensive – so you are less likely to stray from it.
I fully admit that this benefit to menu planning might be more psychological than practical. Success breeds success, so once you see that menu planning really does save money, you are less likely to undermine those savings with spendy impulse purchases. Kind of like how once you’ve lost a bit of weight on a diet, you become far more motivated to sick to it.
3. Menu planning reduces food waste
If you buy a head of bokchoy to use in your stir-fry on Thursday, odds are – you will actually use that bokchoy. Which means you aren’t going to find it composting on the bottom shelf of your fridge several weeks later.
Even left-overs can be purposefully consumed with a menu-plan, which means no more “Honey, when was this tupperware from? Oh – ugh, never mind!”
When you menu plan, you buy your groceries with a specific purpose in mind. That purpose is what stands between you and moldy bokchoy or questionable tupperware.
4. You eat out less when you menu plan
When you have a plan, and the ingredients to implement that plan, right in your fridge, you are far less likely to give up on making dinner and head for the pizzeria.
Everytime you stay at home, rather than eating out, you are saving your family money. Menu planning allows eating out be a “treat” rather than the 5 p.m. default.
(If, like us, you don’t have kosher restaurants, you can still get tempted by costly convenience foods at the grocery store – see #1.)
So, why do we menu plan? Because I like to be happier mom with a calmer household… and because I love to save money!
What about you? Why do you (or don’t you) menu plan?