But really, hear me out.
If you're not a fan of meal planning, you're thinking why would anyone bother? I used to be in that camp. Why meal plan when you have your pick of places to eat at or pick up take out? At some point, you might realize that it's not a bad idea to cook at home now and again. For me, cooking at home became a necessity when I realized that eating out was no longer meeting my foodie standards. In short, it just became too expensive and too inconvenient. I moved from a neighborhood where I could walk to several inexpensive restaurants to a neighborhood where everything was a drive and much more expensive.
I've been cooking at home for about four years now. And in those four years, I've done everything from winging it to semi-planning to full planning. It's taken me some time to fully graduate to full planning and I'm sure I'll lapse into periods where I won't meal plan, but I've been meal planning for five weeks now (here's a sample meal plan) and I've been getting more out of it than I expected!
How Meal Planning has Improved my Life
1. I'm discovering great new recipes! I link up with other meal planners over the weekend. They often share some of the recipes they are planning on making, and I've discovered a couple of new recipes this way. But more than anything, I get a craving to make something, like a good chili, and then I'm motivated to go hunt for a good chili recipe!
2. I'm learning how to make new foods and new cooking techniques. As I continue to try new recipes, I'm getting more adventurous. I'm all about eating seasonal, so I'm trying new foods. And I'm also trying out new cooking techniques, reading up on how best to roast a chicken or how best to braise vegetables I didn't know I could braise.
3. We're eating a greater variety of foods. When you cook at home you aren't limited by the cuisines or dishes available at the restaurants or fast food places in your neighborhood.
4. We're appreciating eating out (when we do). Now that we're cooking more at home, we're eating out less. When we were eating out 3-4 times a week, we would go out for cheaper eats, and generally, they weren't as delicious. Now that we only eat out once or twice a week, we can eat at nicer places and really enjoy what we're eating.
5. My husband and I are spending more time cooking together. My husband is embracing the meal planning. Now that he knows I go scouring for recipes and put together a plan, he will often request a certain dish be added to the meal plan. I'm more than happy to accommodate! He is also helping pitch in with the cooking when he can come home a little early. He definitely helps with cooking on the weekend.
Here are some eats we've discovered in the last month of meal planning! You can also check out my meal plans, which I post every Sunday. I hope you consider giving meal planning a try. I'm linking up this Wednesday with Jenn from Peas and Crayons and her lovely What I Ate Wednesday Link Up party.
Recipe: Chicken Stir Fry with Asparagus and Cashews (Food & Wine)
Feedback: we will make this again, but cut back on the amount of fish sauce. We found it too salty.
Recipe: Easy Corn & Cod Chowder
Recipe: Crockpot Chicken Tikka Masala (Real Simple)
Soup: Escarole & Little Meatball Soup (I omitted the grain to make it Paleo)
Salad: Apple and Escarole Salad with Blue Cheese & Hazelnuts (I swapped out Feta for the Blue Cheese)
Do you cook often or cook occasionally? If you do cook , are you a meal planner or do you like to wing it?