My husband and I have been using Dave Ramsey’s Envelope System with our budget for about a month now. If you don’t know what that is, then I’d say it’s definitely worth a look. We are almost a year into our 3 year deadline to kill the rest of our debt. We’ve been chipping away at it little by little over the past few years and we finally just said enough is enough…we have dreams and we need that extra money to accomplish them. So we’ve gotten pretty serious about our money.
Because of the envelope system we started meal planning to avoid the risk of overspending in our grocery budget every week. And although we started doing it for the budget, meal planning has helped in SO MANY areas of my week that I wasn’t even expecting it to.
But before we get into that, I want to debunk two myths that I told myself about meal planning for a long time…just in case you may be thinking them too.
Myth 1: Meal planning doesn’t allow you to be adventurous. FALSE. Over the past month we have had something different pretty much every night (with the exception of spaghetti and meatballs because that is one of my daughter’s favorites). And that includes brand new recipes that I tried as well as our regular favorites.
Myth 2: Meal planning is not for working people. FALSE. Just because you meal plan doesn’t mean you need more time in your week, it just means you don’t have to ponder what you are going to eat when you get home but rather get right to cooking after you walk through the door.
So how exactly has it changed my week??
- There is no thinking required when 4PM rolls around. Why? Because I already know what’s for dinner and I’ve most likely started thawing/prepping whatever ingredients are needed! I don’t know about you but this is seriously my least favorite time of day. Prior to meal planning I would’ve been raiding the fridge and pantry to see what I could possibly throw together while the baby is yelling at me for food. And most of the time I didn’t even have all the ingredients anyway so my husband would have to stop by the store on the way home which means we wouldn’t eat until at least 7:30PM.
- Grocery shopping gets done on the weekend. Our week starts on a Saturday so rather than waiting until after the week begins, we get the shopping done over the weekend so that we have everything we need to cook at home. Otherwise the temptation to eat out rises and we end up spending money that should have been used on a date night out.
- It saves $$$. How? Because I only use what is budgeted weekly and once that is gone, that’s it. I only end up going to the store once so there is less temptation to buy all those “sale” items they put on the shelves at the end of every aisle. Plus, I only buy exactly what I need to make all of our meals for one week and that includes snacks. The way I used to grocery shop involved buying everything on my list AND THEN convincing myself that we needed more of something or that we should try this new product. Next thing you know I have enough food in my cart to technically feed us for a month; however, guess who would be right back at the grocery store that next week filling up her cart again?! This girl, right here.
- It gets my husband involved. We plan out our next week’s meals on the weekend which means that my husband is home and can help and give input. He lets me know what he is in the mood for and thinks of meals he’s really enjoyed in the past which helps me narrow things down. Before when 4PM rolled around I’d be left to think about what we were going to eat on my own because I didn’t want to bother him at work.
- Dinner is ready on time (almost) every day. It really depends on what kind of day I’ve had but for the most part we have been eating within a half hour of him getting home pretty consistently. This is nice because we eat with my daughter rather than after her and then there is plenty of family time left before bed time.
- It makes me look at the week ahead (planned events, play dates, appointments, date nights, etc.) before it even begins. Sometimes I forget to look at the calendar ahead of time and then realize “Oh man, we have an appointment in 20 minutes!” as I quickly grab the baby and head out the door. But sometimes, like this week, we have outings with friends, or a weekend trip that we are leaving for Friday afternoon, which affect how we meal plan and if we even need to for that specific day. So it makes me look at the calendar and wrap my head around everything that is planned for that week.
- Makes the grocery list easier and faster to create. I don’t know why but I dread this task; however, making the grocery list has gotten exponentially easier since we started meal planning. I don’t have to worry about forgetting anything because I know exactly what I am making and what ingredients are needed. And then before you know I am done!
- Gives me more time to focus on feeding my toddler dinner. Usually I am juggling making dinner and feeding my toddler at the same time. I think every mom hates this time of day, right?! Well, at least when I plan I can take things out to thaw or get things started earlier in order to work around my daughter’s schedule.
- The fridge gets cleaned out more often. If I know a meal is going to have multiple servings then we plan out to use up our leftovers so that nothing gets wasted and we can save even more money. I found that prior to meal planning a lot of my leftovers were forgotten. And you know what happens to week old leftovers sitting in the back of your fridge! Ugh! Our fridge definitely stays cleaner and a whole lot fresher now that we started meal planning.
- There is less temptation to eat out. When you have a plan written out in plain sight (like on the fridge) you are less likely to walk away from it. And when you are on a budget this matters because you don’t want to spend extra money eating out (because IT DOES cost more) unless it is date night, of course! Lord knows we need those!
- It’s easier to eat healthy when you plan ahead. I don’t know about you but if there is no plan, then I start pulling out all my favorite quick, easy, and mostly unhealthy meals. But, if I make eating healthy seem easier (which it totally is) then I am more likely to eat that way. And meal planning is one way that helps.
It definitely takes discipline to do this on top of budgeting weekly but I’d say it’s totally worth it. To help you get started here’s a free printable weekly menu planner. The beautiful graphics came from Angie at angiemakes.com. You should totally head on over and check out her site! And if you use the printable I’d love to see what you are cooking. Tag me on Instagram @ferventjoy.
How has meal planning changed your week? Comment below!