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5 Reasons Why Meal Planning will Save your Sanity

 When it comes to feeding your family, do you have troubles:
  • Finding the time and/or motivation to plan, organize, shop, prepare, clean up? This can be overwhelming especially when your baby or kids are so demanding. 
  • Getting stuck with either an empty fridge or a full fridge...but still not the right ingredients to make any recipe!
  • Often choosing fast food, processed foods or takeout that aren't exactly the ideal that you want to feed your family so often.

I think at some level we all know that it's important to be organized in the kitchen.

So then why do most of us tend to fall into the pattern of perhaps meal planning for a week or two, then quitting?

- Because we don't have the basics organized in order to make meal planning easy.

- Your recipes are all over the place. You have  few bookmarks on your computer, a few old recipe cards from your mom and a bunch of recipe books (I love cookbooks too -here are my faves!)

- You have no system to create a meal plan, re-use them or work in pockets of prep time.

- You struggle to get in enough self care. When you're a tired exhausted mom, sometimes just thinking about what to make and cooking is too much. 

Some of us work full time with long commutes, getting home at 6pm after picking the kids up from daycare. And everyone is already hangry. 

And some of us are at home with your kids all day. Which personally, I find more draining than anything! And dinner time is often melt down time, everyone is tired and hungry.

So I know it's hard to muster up the energy and time to throw dinner together, and sometimes it's just easier to call hubby and ask him to grab pizza!

 This is all the norm. But today I'm going to try and convince you that a few minutes up front per week to plan your meals is highly worth it!

Here's why meal planning will save your sanity:

1) Meal planning saves TIME.

We all want more time. And often struggle to find the time to get organized and meal plan regularly. However, the catch 22 is that having a meal plan will save you significant time during the week!

  • Think of the time it takes to dig through the pantry/freezer wondering what to cook every daily. You can do this just once a week instead of daily
  •  A lot of time can be wasted trying to find that recipe you attempted once and everyone loved. But you have no idea what website it came from!
  • And without a plan, you often end up at the grocery store more often than needed. Sometimes daily - for those 1 or 2 missing ingredients you need to make that recipe you found on Pinterest this morning. Yes yes, it's the grocery store great learning experience for your kids. But personally I find shopping with my kids a struggle and would rather do it once per week than a once per day!

2) Meal Planning saves MONEY

  • Decreases food waste. Did you know the average Canadian family throws out about $1500 worth of food per year? That's crazy! But if you buy random food and don't have a plan for it, the produce goes limp and you eventually toss it in the bin or compost. 
  • Less processed food purchases: it's easiest to grab take out. Or keep a stock of processed foods like pepperoni pizza for those days that you don't have anything planned. And these purchases often cost more than many home-cooked meals. Especially the restaurants and take out.
  • Less trips to the grocery store: I mentioned this in the saving time section, but it also fits with saving money. You might go in with the idea to buy 2 ingredients, but that never happens Especially if you have your kids along and they blow a fit about getting a bag of gold fish crackers ;)

3) Meal Planning allows for more Balanced Nutrition

  • You can Plan a whole week that’s balanced. i.e. include a fish meal, vegetarian etc.
  • Again, less processed microwave dinners, fast food and restaurants. In general, these are higher in sodium and preservatives and lower in fibre, vitamins, minerals and antioxidants than most meals you'd cook at home.

 4) Meal Planning save Stress

I'm sure we all have enough stress in our lives from work to relationships and kids. And if you're the mom, you likely have the main mental load for organizing your family on your shoulders: planning repairs, dentist trips, kid activities, clothing them., etc., etc. So anywhere we can simplify the amount of mental energy, the better.

  • If you don’t know what’s for dinner, how often do you think “What’s for dinner” during the day? Once? Twice? Dozens? It's more mentally taxing than you might think.
  • And then feeling like you’re not providing your kids healthy food; or teaching them cooking skills; or being the role model you want to be. That can be stressful too.
  • Not to mention the lack of planning leading to more trips to the store. And if you're taking your kids along, that likely means more stress (unless mine are the only ones begging for certain foods, running around or throwing tantrums!).

5) Meal Planning Teaches your Kids

  • Your kids get used to eating homemade food, it becomes normal and tasty for them. Rather than acquiring the taste only for KD and McDs.
  • Getting involved in the choosing of recipes and cooking are invaluable skills that they need when they go off to college. And home ec isn't taught in stores anymore so it's up to us!

I hope I've convinced you all that meal planning is definitely worth the effort. It will save you time, money, stress, improve your nutrition and set a healthy food foundation for your kids.

Want to grab my 15 quick family dinner recipes for busy nights? Click here. 

Jennifer House is a Registered Dietitian, author & mom of 3. From Baby-led weaning to picky eating and meal planning, she helps you to make feeding your family easier

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