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Meal planning is an essential aspect of home management for married couples. It not only helps you save time and money but also allows you to maintain a healthy and well-balanced diet.
I bet you can relate to this.
You check the time and it’s 4:30 pm. You’re either almost finished with your work and your stomach is grumbling…or maybe you have a tiny army of hungry humans at your feet. Either way the question is the same, “What’s for dinner?”
You have plenty of frozen meat in the freezer, but defrosting will take forever.
You have leftovers that might still be good…probably not.
You have a lot of ingredients, but no energy to create something so you pick up fast food for the third time this week.
You feel guilty for spending the money or not having the energy or not eating healthy enough. I hear you and have been there plenty of times.
It’s time to break free from the cycle!
By strategically planning your meals, you can avoid the last-minute dinner dilemmas and enjoy stress-free evenings with your partner. In this article, we’ll share the benefits of meal planning, discuss effective strategies for meal planning as a couple and provide tips for meal planning on a budget.
Meal planning involves taking the time to decide what meals you and your partner will have for breakfast, lunch and dinner throughout the week. It goes quite a bit beyond just jotting down a few recipes to try.
You’ll take your nutritional needs and your preferences, a couple of recipes that fit with your time schedule and organize a shipping list.
All of these things together will help ensure that you have everything you need for each meal. No more guessing, no more scrambling to throw something together and no more fast food guilt!
Here’s your first meal planning PRO TIP: Meal planning requires careful consideration of your schedule for the week…it’s impossible to properly cook a nice steak dinner when you only have a 30 minute window before you have to leave for your book club.
Meal planning offers plenty of advantages that can greatly enhance your home management routine as a married couple. Here are some of our favorite reasons why you should invest time in meal planning:
Meal planning saves time
A well-thought-out meal plan can help you avoid the daily decision-making process of what to cook for each meal. By knowing exactly what ingredients you need and when to prepare them, you can streamline your cooking process and save valuable time.
PRO TIP: Don’t be afraid to put meals on repeat! We pick 1 or 2 breakfasts and lunches and rotate them during the week. And once you have a couple weeks of meal plans completed, put THOSE on repeat and now you can further reduce your prepping time!
Meal planning reduces stress
Deciding on meals at the last minute can be stressful and lead to impulsive food choices. Meal planning eliminates this stress by providing you with a clear roadmap for your culinary adventures. You can enjoy the process of cooking without the pressure of coming up with new ideas every day.
PRO TIP: Hang your meal plan on the fridge or write it on a cute blackboard if you’re fancy! No one (who can read at least) will have to bug you about what’s for dinner again!
Meal planning helps you maintain a healthy diet
By planning your meals in advance, you can ensure that you and your partner are consuming a nutritious and balanced diet. It allows you to incorporate a variety of fruits, vegetables, proteins, and whole grains into your meals, promoting your overall well-being.
PRO TIP: Have your meal plan include any desserts, snacks, drinks or even a meal out. Knowing you have a little something to look forward to can keep you from binging on the less healthy stuff after dinner.
Meal planning saves you money
Planning your meals helps you avoid unnecessary trips to the grocery store and reduces the temptation to dine out frequently. By buying ingredients in bulk and utilizing leftovers effectively, you can stretch your grocery budget and cut down on food waste.
PRO TIP: Try to use ingredients more than once in a week to reduce food waste (which reduces your grocery bill). Let’s say you’re having pesto salmon for dinner on Monday, but you’ll only use part of the jar of pesto. You can either freeze the leftovers for another week or you could make a chicken pesto pasta later in the week.
Strengthen Your Bond
Meal planning can be a fun and interactive activity for couples. It encourages communication and teamwork as you discuss your preferences, experiment with new recipes and share responsibilities in the kitchen. It can also be a chance to bond over shared interests and create lasting memories.
PRO TIP: If you both cook, assign which meals are whose responsibility so there isn’t any confusion. Whoever is cooking tonight, the other can be the clean up crew! If you’re both home while food is being prepared, use that time to talk through your day and connect.
Meal planning as a couple can bring a lot of connection. Here are some strategies to make the process smooth and enjoyable:
Set aside time
Dedicate a specific time each week to sit down with your partner and plan your meals. It could be a weekend morning or an evening when both of you are free. Treat it as a shared activity and make it a priority in your home management routine.
Collaborate and communicate
Discuss your preferences, dietary restrictions and any specific cravings you might have. Take turns in selecting recipes and be open to trying new dishes. Effective communication ensures that both partners feel involved and satisfied with the meal choices.
Keep a shared recipe collection
Create a shared digital or physical recipe collection where you can store your favorite recipes and meal ideas. It makes it easier to browse through options and provides inspiration when you're short on ideas.
You may not make it just like mom does, but this is a great opportunity to introduce and include your family’s recipes!
Divide and conquer
Share the responsibilities of meal preparation and cooking. Allocate tasks based on your strengths and interests. One partner can focus on grocery shopping, while the other takes charge of cooking. Working together will make the process more efficient and enjoyable.
While meal planning provides structure, it's important to be flexible and adapt to changing circumstances. Unexpected events or sudden cravings may require adjustments to the plan. Embrace spontaneity and don't be afraid to deviate from the schedule occasionally.
By following these strategies, you can create a realistic and repeatable meal planning routine with your spouse that suits your individual preferences and strengthens your bond.
Before we share even more tips to help you and your spouse start meal planning, take a sec to download these helpful printables! We’ve created 3 different meal planning sheets and grocery lists to get you super organized and on your way to less stress!
Here are some additional PRO TIPS to enhance your meal planning experience as a married couple:
- Utilize theme nights: Assign different themes to each day of the week, such as Taco Tuesday or Meatless Monday. It adds excitement and variety to your meals while simplifying the decision-making process.
- Prep in advance: Plan a designated day for meal prep, where you can chop vegetables, marinate proteins or cook in bulk. Preparing ingredients in advance saves time during busy weekdays and ensures you have everything ready to go.
- Consider freezer meals: Batch cooking and freezing meals in individual portions can be a lifesaver on hectic days. It allows you to have homemade meals without the effort of cooking from scratch every day. It can be as easy as doubling the meal you’re cooking tonight and freezing those leftovers for next week. You don’t need to spend an entire afternoon batch cooking.
- Involve the whole family: If you have children, include them in the meal planning process. Let them choose a meal or help with age-appropriate tasks in the kitchen. It encourages healthy eating habits and fosters a sense of responsibility.
- Make it an adventure: Explore new cuisines, experiment with different flavors, and challenge yourselves to try new recipes. Turn meal planning into an exciting adventure that keeps your taste buds excited.
Plan around weekly sales and seasonal produce. Check out your local grocery store's weekly sales flyer and plan your meals around the discounted items. Look for deals on proteins, grains, and produce. Additionally, prioritize using seasonal fruits and vegetables, as they tend to be more affordable and flavorful.
Embrace meatless meals and affordable proteins. Incorporate more meatless meals into your plan. Plant-based proteins like beans and lentils are not only budget-friendly but also packed with nutrients. When including meat, choose economical cuts such as chicken thighs or ground beef.
Make use of leftovers. Reduce food waste and stretch your budget by planning meals that allow for leftovers. Cook larger portions and repurpose them into new dishes the following day. For example, roasted chicken on Sunday can become chicken salad for lunch or be added to a pasta dish on Tuesday.
Bulk buying and freezing. Buying in larger quantities often offers significant savings. Additionally, freeze ingredients like meat, bread, cheeses, sauces and produce that you won't use immediately to extend their shelf life. We stock our garage freezer with marked down packages of meat from Aldi and Sam’s. The savings we’ve got has made this one of our best purchases!
Plan simple and versatile recipes. Opt for recipes with fewer ingredients that are versatile and can be used in multiple dishes. For instance, a batch of tomato sauce can be used for pasta, pizza or as a base for soups. This approach reduces the need for purchasing numerous specific ingredients.
By implementing these tips, you can effectively manage your budget while still enjoying delicious and nutritious meals as a couple.
Embracing meal planning as a married couple can simplify your home management routine, help you eat healthier and create quality time together in the kitchen. Start planning your meals today and experience the difference it makes in your life!