When you want to save some money on groceries, meal planning is the place to start. Not everyone, though, enjoys this household task. Why? Because they have certain preconceived thoughts telling them that it would be a waste to even try. Are you one of these people? Do you have several reasons why you hate meal planning?
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This post is for you. You who doesn’t enjoy writing out a plan for what you’ll be eating for at least a week or two at a time. You who wants to meal plan but continues to put it off.
When it comes to meal planning, I’ve tried just about every way you can think of. I have done a very detailed meal plan that shows what we will be eating for breakfast, lunch, snack, and dinner, for one or two weeks at a time. I have also done the lazy plan where I wrote down some food we could eat over the next week and called it good. I’ve never stuck to one way to meal plan for more than about six months at a time. For some reason, I get tired of the way I’m planning and switch things up. I wish I could just stick to one way for good!
I believe I’m actually an anomaly when it comes to meal planning. Most people, from what I’ve heard, don’t plan out their meals at all. They wait until a couple hours or a few minutes before dinner and then decide what they will eat. This causes them much stress and anxiety during that time of day, and then they completely forget about dinner again until the next day when the same thing occurs.
5 Reasons You Hate Meal Planning
I am certain that the reason many people don’t meal plan is because they hate it. Maybe there are some underlying reasons why they hate it. Maybe they don’t actually hate meal planning itself, they just don’t do it because of some other factors. How about we find out what these factors might be so you, meal-planning-hater you, can start meal planning to save some money.
You hate meal planning because you’re not organized.
Meal planning requires that you be somewhat organized. Trying to put together a plan when you have no idea where all your favorite recipes are or what you ate in the last month is going to make things much more difficult.
It would be great to have all your recipes in one consistent spot, wouldn’t it? If you were to get organized, meal planning would be a breeze. You would have all your recipes available, as well as past meal plans with the dates so you can refer to other menus to help plan this week’s. Don’t dismiss organization too quickly, friend, because you can certainly become an organized person. I am not a very organized person by nature, but I have found that being organized with meal planning is essential to getting it done quickly and saving the most amount of money. If saving money is important to you, try to get organized.
Here are some ways that you can start getting organized today:
- Start a pantry staples list.
- Keep all your recipes in one spot. When you try a new recipe, add it to your collection. If it is a keeper, file it with the others. If it’s not such a great recipe, write notes on it to improve it next time or throw it out.
- Have a folder where you keep all your past and present meal plans with dates. I love this idea from 365(ish) Days of Pinterest for a very easy meal planning binder!
- Keep a list of simple meals at the ready at all times.
You hate meal planning because you are busy.
Let’s see, the minute you get home from work, you have to tote Jimmy to soccer practice, and then you have to swing by the post office to pick up the mail, and then you have to go to the pharmacy to get Candice’s prescription. You’re a busy person. Understandable, since most people are. But this should not be an excuse to hate meal planning and never do it. If you are busy, that should be your number one reason to meal plan. Why? Because when you have a meal plan, you don’t have to go shopping every night, or stand in your pantry staring at a bunch of individual ingredients and wonder what you’ll cook tonight. You waste more time when you don’t meal plan than when you do.
Believe me, I know that meal planning takes time. You have to make time to do it or it will not happen. You might have to write it down or schedule it in your planner. Set an alarm to remind you of the time you intend to meal plan. If you desire to spend less on food, you have to set aside time in your busy life to meal plan. It’s a requirement. And, hey, if you don’t believe me, read this post from The Soccer Mom Blog about how they were spending way too much on food because of their lack of meal planning.
You hate meal planning because you thrive on spontaneity.
Meal planning is so rigid. There is no room for flexibility and making what you feel like eating. Uh, wrong! There is no such thing as a right way to meal plan. If you enjoy spontaneity, go ahead and write a list of meals you’d like to make for the week and have the ingredients ready to go for when you want to make each one. You don’t have to write down the exact day you will make each meal. Just write a list of meals, and you can eat homemade pizza on Tuesday instead of Saturday if you want.
You hate meal planning because you are restricted.
Do some people in your family have special diets? It makes it really hard to have variety in your meals when some foods cannot be served. Vegetarian, gluten-free, and dairy-free diets can all be limiting in their own way. If you have someone in the family who eats a very strict diet from several of these categories, it makes it even tougher.
For you, the meal planner and cook, the need to keep a list of meals at the ready is uber important. Thinking outside the box may seem almost impossible, but try to stay positive and work around the diet restrictions of family members. Out of respect to the individual(s) who cannot eat certain foods, try to rotate meals and never make the same meal twice in the same week.
If you want to indulge in something that this person cannot, eat it when they won’t be around, if possible. For example, if your daughter cannot eat eggs, but you love them, wait until she goes to school to make your egg dish. Eat it for a late breakfast or for lunch. It may not be possible to do this if the person is around you all the time. If you happen to be the person who cannot eat certain foods, the best thing you can do is just keep a collection of recipes and meal plans that you enjoy and rotate them on a weekly or monthly basis.
Always keep your eyes peeled for new dishes to add to your weekly or monthly rotation. Check out Yummly, AllRecipes, or Pinterest often.
You hate meal planning because everyone in your house likes different food.
For someone who wants to please each person in the house depending on their individual tastes, meal planning can become a nightmare. It might take you hours to finally get a plan ready that will cater to each person, each day, and at each meal. Cooking the meals will be even worse since you’ll have two or more dishes going at a time.
Here’s what I would do. Forget about what each person likes and cook one meal. One meal that maybe some people in the family will enjoy and maybe some people will not. You cannot be a short-order cook just because some of your family members are picky. You have to teach them that your time is valuable and they should respect that.
One way to make sure that each person is happy at least some of the time is to ask for their favorite meals and foods. Keep a list handy for each person and rotate meals based on each person’s favorites. One night could be Joe’s favorite dish and the next night could be Kim’s. Try to make side dishes that another person would enjoy even if they may not like the main dish.
Meal planning has its benefits, but if you’ve always hated it, you may not be reaping those benefits. Get organized, make time for it, and keep it flexible so you can enjoy it much more. If there are individuals in the family who have special diets or who are picky, learn what their favorites are or what they will eat and try to work around that. When you make some of these changes, you probably won’t love meal planning, but I doubt you’ll hate it as much as you used to!
Loving Littles says
Charlee, I love your statement, “You cannot be a short-order cook just because some of your family members are picky. You have to teach them that your time is valuable and they should respect that.” I’ve seen so many women wear themselves out and fail to provide their children with a variety of foods, all while proclaiming, “my kid’s just a picky eater”.
Charlee@Humble in a Heartbeat says
I honestly believe that parents are responsible for turning their children into picky eaters. Variety is the only way!
I’m not a hater- in fact quite the opposite! BUT for some odd reason it hasn’t been a priority for a loooong time. Laziness is probably the culprit but it stresses me out big time and I don’t look forward to the afternoon. I printed a meal planning sheet to get me started and really hope this never happens again. Life is so much better when you know what’s for dinner! Pretty sure Trev would agree! ☆
Charlee@Humble in a Heartbeat says
You’re right, you don’t have to hate meal planning to put it off. Maybe it’s laziness or maybe it’s just that you want to do other things. I think for me it’s that I would like to get other things done, so I just keep pushing meal planning off. Yes, your family will love you for meal planning again, Chels!! 🙂
I am unfortunately one of the haters!! I have tried so many times to meal plan, tried different methods etc, but I still find myself staring into the freezer abyss wondering what on earth I’m doing!! I have two children and a husband who are autistic, all with very different sensory issues. To be fair to them they really do try and often eat food that they actually cant bare(with the exception of anything mashed which makes my son physically sick) But still I find myself stuck in a loop. I go shopping armed with a list of various ingredients for various recipes, only to find that when I come to cook them, I cant remember what half the ingredients where for. I myself am Dyspraxic so I have to be very organised in most areas of my life or all hell breaks loose, however meal planning just seems to be something that no matter how hard I try, I just cant get to grips with it. I always seem to end up chucking away half the rotting ingredients to some recipe or another. Great article though. I will definitely try again, maybe this time I will find a way to beat it!!
I wonder why do people do meal planning in the first place? Like, what’s the benefit? I’m doing pretty well without it.
As someone who has suffered her entire life with Avoidant Restrictive Food Intake Disorder (ARFID) people who lump everyone in the “picky eating” category hits a nerve for me.
I have worked with a therapist for many years to push change but have overall seen minimal results, thus I never truly learnt how to properly balance meals consistently. Sure sometimes I manage and mentally figure it out and think whoa! look at me go, but for the most part I fly by the seat of my pants and struggle every single day due to my disorder.
I have however successfully meal planned dinners, the way I started was one week at a time and eventually I did a month at a time.
I would work in 1-2 family favourites every week/comfort food; 1 new recipe a week to keep me progressing; and the rest would be items we have tried and were OK with but was not necessarily a favourite – however healthier than our default comfort foods so would be pushing to make them “norm” and to try and get them into that comfort zone. When planning a month at a time I used my monthly planner and wrote down my favourite meals sporadically over the weeks, I would spend time (lots of time) researching meals that were just slightly out of our comfort zones in hopes that it would have a generally positive response, and I would star-rate meals we had tried that were semi-successful and try to reinforce it within 4 weeks.
A sample week might include:
Kraft dinner and hotdogs (comfort)
Chicken zuchinni casserole (have had and was generally positive response)
Chicken quesidillas with just cheese and chicken (have had before, dont love but all will eat)
Grilled cheese and tomato soup (comfort)
Baked ziti (have had before, dont love but all will eat)
a brand new recipe that sounds mostly comfort – i.e. Cajun chicken penne (im sure you are seeing a theme)
and then 1 other meal that was either comfort, or repeating of a fairly new food item.
I found when it was super overwhelming I did meal planning of just a week at a time, but once I got the hang of it I found planning by the month was super convenient because I didn’t have to shop as often
I hate meal-planning to the extent that I would literally rather have a tooth extracted
It’s mainly the spontaneity thing, for me
It’s not only seems far to rigid, lifeless, needlessly restrictive and totally and completely joy-sapping, but it also seems like a complete and utter waste of time because I don’t believe `I would ever stick to it. I can’t predict what I will fancy eating in two weeks time. It’s literally impossible
Planning meals seems like it takes everything fun about food and turns it into dreary, depressing, grey, oppressive drudgery
Mind you, I am not only instinctively disorganised, but I instinctively dislike anything that aims to make me more organised. Any form of organisation whatsoever just seems far too restrictive, boring and lifeless and to have little to no upside of any description.
I never, ever, plan or organise *anything*. Period. Not ever. Not under any circumstances. Not for any reason. Nothing. Ever.
I’m only reading this because the person I live with is insisting I plan my meals as apparently that’s :easy” to start with and I would frankly rather eat dirt and I thought this might help