Dinner can often be a hectic time for families. Maybe the staples of your kitchen have grown stale, perhaps you find coming up with delicious and nutritious meals too time consuming, or maybe there’s a kid (or even adult) who just won’t eat what you put in front of them. Dinnertime, then, has become almost as stressful as the day itself, instead of a time to unwind with your loved ones.
That’s where meal planning comes in. Though it seems like a daunting task, cutting down on the stress of dinner needs little more effort (hopefully) than the cooking itself. With a little preparation early in the week, you can add variety to your meals, save a little money, and boast a happier dinner table to boot.
Though there are many perks to planning out your meals ahead of time, we’ve narrowed it down five.
1. Eating Healthier
With a weekly menu in place, you will spend less time eating out which will immediately make the nutritional value of your weekly meals skyrocket. Serving sizes and nutrients at most restaurants often leave much to be desired. Cooking also cuts down on the dependence on pre-packaged alternatives, which can often times be so processed that any semblance of nutrition will be zapped out of it by the time the buzzer sounds.
2. Cutting down on waste
The weekly trip to the market can often times be accompanied by something else_ finding all the expired and unused food in your refrigerator. The upside of meal planning is shopping without the waste, cooking what you buy, and cutting down on the terror of finding something fuzzy (or worse) in the back of the ‘fridge.
3. Saving Money
How often have you found yourself in the grocery store checkout lane, only to realize that all you have in your cart is some Wonder Bread and deli meat? Okay, obviously nothing that bad, but you get the idea. Shopping efficiently and with a purpose cuts down on those unnecessary and unproductive purchases at the market. And, as already mentioned, your wallet will breathe easy with less time spent eating take-out or bringing the whole family to a restaurant.
4. More Variety
Have you been the victim of the dreaded chorus of “meatloaf again?” By sitting down on the weekends and planning out exactly what you’ll be putting on the table each night, you can cut down on the recipes that have become worn out amongst the table–and hopefully open up the door to some new meals you and your family will want to eat again.
5. Happier Dinner Tables
When you have all four of the above factors working for you, dinner can become a time to hear about what your kids learned in school that day, and experience all of the other silly stories or quirks that make the days special.
These things realistically don’t happen overnight. It’s okay to take your time easing into a meal routine that works right for you. Eventually, with just a little planning, you can find yourself at the head of a happy kitchen.
Photos by Maren Caruso.