Making Meal Plans: Why I Make Them

A few people have asked me to write about how I make my meals plans. I got really wordy so I split it up into three posts about why I make meal plans, how I make meal plans, and how I find recipes.

Many people are surprised we meal plan. We don't have children so shouldn't we be living it up, eating out a restaurants, dining on take-out and just doing all those things that everyone thinks that people who don't have children should do? Well, I suppose we could. The truth is we never did eat out a lot. Restaurants get expensive really fast. We could easily spend as much for one or two meals at a restaurant as we do for our entire week of groceries. We don't have a strict food budget. We still eat out occasionally and we still will grab take-out, but we generally eat far better at home for a fraction of the cost it would cost us to eat out regularly. During university and for many years after, the budget was an issue and I'm used to making my own food. It really bugs me when we spend money on a mediocre meal out that I could make better and cheaper at home.

I could tell you I like to eat mostly homemade meals because it's cheaper or because it's how I grew up, which are both true. The big truth is, whether it's take-out, restaurant meals or convenience foods, I feel much better when I eat mostly homemade food. Processed convenience food often gives me an upset stomach, as does greasy food. I just don't see the point in spending more money on food that makes me feel bad. I used to have a job where, in exchange for our working really long hours during the peak of the season, our employer would buy us lunch and dinner. It was mostly take-out and deli food. While everyone else would bet on how much weight they may gain, I wondered how much I might lose. I'm not saying we never eat convenience food at home -- we totally do -- but we don't eat it every day and my body thanks me for it.

I don't follow a meal planning system. I didn't read any books about how to do it. I don't use a spreadsheet, which is somewhat surprising since I love me a good spreadsheet. I know that some people find it easier to have a pre-made meal plan sent to them and I get it the convenience of it. I really love food and while most people thing of me as a book blogger, back in the early day of the internet I co-hosted a recipe message board. I'm a foodie at heart. I spend a lot of time looking at recipes because I enjoy it so the pre-packaged meal plans don't work for me. It takes the fun out of it. Yes, I actually find it fun... most of the time. 

When I started, I didn't plan for a full week. I only mapped out meals  for three days. I found it too daunting to go from not planning at all to planning for a whole week. I was, and still am in many ways, a mood eater and if I am not in the mood for it I don't want to eat it. I've found my foodie moodiness decreased a lot after I started meal planning but I'll often bump meals around within my meal plan. Monday's meal might get bumped to Thursday. Weekend meals often get bumped to the following week because our plans change. It took me awhile but I progressed from a three day plan to a one week plan. I've been making one week meal plans and posting them on BlogHer.com since October 2010. I started cross-posting them to Sassymonkey in late 2012.

Sometimes I miss a week. I'll get busy or we'll have been travelling or something happens that I just can't seem to sit down and get organized. The weeks that we are home and we don't have a plan suck big time. Around 5pm I'll start thinking about dinner and as I stare at the contents of my refrigerator I am reminded why we meal plan. I hate that feeling of not knowing what to make and realizing that there isn't enough time to defrost anything from the freezer. It's stressful. It's no surprise that we eat a lot more convenience food and take-out those weeks.

I'm also lazy. When it comes to things that must be done every single day, I like to take the path of least resistance. It's easier for me to dedicate an hour or so of time on the weekend to plan and shop (more on that in the next post) than to spend 15 minutes every day figuring out what to make, then making an emergency run to the grocery store and just generally stressing about dinner.

So in a nutshell, I make meal plans because it's cheaper, I eat better and it's less stressful than trying to figure out what's for dinner at 5pm. And I find it fun.