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Meal planning.

It’s rare that two simple words can garner such anxiousness or pure joy for a parent as the thought of meal planning. What emotion creeps up for you?

Scared or anxious? You barely have time to eat during the day, let alone plan what you’re eating for a freaking week? Maybe you have no idea where to start, and it just seems daunting? Or, have you failed more times than you care to think about? Maybe you’re broke, or it’s just depressing to do for picky eaters or for one person?

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Or, maybe you love it. You love the thrill of creating yet another list, of window shopping through coupons, and putting entire meals in the freezer so you can have a future lazy day. The thrill of the deal and crossing it off the list of worries for days excites you.

I get it – I’m you.

I love my lists, and I’m a food hoarder. I love seeing how much I saved on the bottom of the receipt, no thanks to the coupons I left at home on the counter. I love doing the math of bulk buying, of thinking how much the same meal would have cost me if someone else would have made it.

At the same time, I’m just plain busy. I’m tired, I have a two year old sassy runner, and my husband won’t eat anything outside of pepperoni pizza or plain tacos. I’m a work from home mom with her hands in way too many ideas. It seems like we’re always broke, and eating nutritious food just sounds expensive and often not realistic. Boxes are much easier for a busy, financially struggling, picky family, right? Everything is already in there, and I don’t have to think about it – 20 minutes until I can check off that my belly isn’t yelling at me anymore and I can move on to the next thing. Who knows how many colors the toddler has added to her collage on my coffee table in that time.

Listen, I get it. There are many weeks I just want to be on autopilot. We eat junk, we feel like junk, and our wallet doesn’t make any cents. I’ve struggled a lot with depression over the last two years, and there are weeks that go by where the only thing getting me up is that my daughter can’t get herself a cheese stick.

There are also weeks where I am on top of it. I know where everyone is, what they should be doing, and where they need to be. I pack lunches for errand days, I pack meals in the freezer for future days, I go to one store for most of my list and another a mile away to score a few extra deals. It’s these weeks I’m grateful for when life gets me in the hard places. These are also the weeks where we actually have a wallet by the end of the pay period. Plus, there’s usually less trash, because I know what’s lurking, begging to be eaten in that cold dark closet we hoard food in. I know, shocking.

Last night, I made this week’s meal plan on Healthy Kids Inc’s platform. I was asked by them to check it out and to be honest, I was skeptical when I started using it…I’ve failed at every other one, whether online or app.  After working with it a few weeks, it’s gotten way too easy to set up my plan. Plus, I found a recipe of theirs that would use a whole chicken I have, which I always make my own bone broth from. Due to meal planning, I loaded another recipe after the whole chicken meal that uses broth…without seeing it in print, obviously I would have probably flipped their order, had to buy broth that has high sodium, and then eventually thrown away the carton of the unused portion.  By planning it, I can just reserve the amount I need and freeze the rest.

Meal planning also saves us money. I can either buy bread with 30+ “ingredients” in it that will likely at least give me acne for $3-$4.50/loaf, or I can bake my own loaf for less than $1 with about 5 ingredients.  I can eat a McChicken meal for $4 +tax, or I can pack a chicken sandwich made with leftovers for almost pennies. We just grilled burgers with a friend last night, with corn on the cob and watermelon, and the whole delicious package cost us just over $10 for 3.5 people. We couldn’t eat out anywhere for that, not even McDonald’s Dollar Menu and we wouldn’t be nearly as happily satisfied in the belly region.

I’m committing to being more intentional with my family right along with you. I’m starting by signing into Healthy Kids Inc every Sunday to get my shopping list populated for me. The even list reminds me what produce is on the Dirty Dozen and to buy organic (I can never remember), my desktop saves my favorite recipes, as well as shows me videos (I finally learned how to cut an onion efficiently thanks to them!). Plus, they have a neat section about growing things you use most, so if you’ve ever wanted to experiment with container gardening, they’re one of the easiest platforms I’ve come across. Healthy Kids Inc will show you the best containers for whatever you want to grow, when to plant them for your time zone, and when they’ll be ready to harvest, right on your dashboard. Seriously, from seed to table, and I really love that. I have a garden out my kitchen door, and having fresh basil for free is the stuff dreams are made of. They’re currently running a 12 months for $25 special for back to school, and with a start to finish good for us food value, I’m planning on saving more than $25 in moldy food thrown and the harvested free stuff to make that price well worth it in the course of a month, let alone an entire year.  And yes, while I’ll receive a little help in keeping this blog live if you decide to log in, I honestly love the seed to table approach…they just happen to have an easy platform that works from honest food values I’ve loved for years.

I’ve struggled, and I continue to struggle with consistently meal planning. This is the first of a series devoted to my journey in making it a joy-filled habit…or at least make my rock bottom weeks much easier and nutritious. My family deserves to operate on all cylinders, and for heaven’s sake, my child deserves to feel great when she is too young to choose for herself. If you put crap gas in your car, it’s not going to drive well, or for long before it’s in the shop.  Similarly, if we put crap fuel into our bodies, how can we expect them to pull long hours and look flawless, while not being feeling exhausted or sick? It’s simply not realistic.

Join me over the next few weeks in uncovering how meal planning can save our sanity, instead of take it. I know what works, and I know what hinders the intention. I need to be accountable, and that’s where you come in! Meal planning shouldn’t invoke feelings of failure or anxiety. If you already love it, let us know why! No matter what your life looks like, meal planning in some capacity can enhance it and work for you and your family. Let’s do this.

Your turn: What is keeping you from meal planning, or what finally made it click for you?

If you would like to see more posts like this, feel free to subscribe over on the right-hand toolbar.  I send the latest posts and the occasional giveaway every other week.  Thanks!

See also: To Our Wonder Women: The Power of Finding Our True Tribe, How I’m Entertaining My Family This Summer – For FREE!Friday Family Foodie

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