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Oh, the meal planning myths floating out there on the internet. There are A LOT of them. I read articles and blog posts fairly often and I usually end up annoyed by a lot of the things people write.
One of the biggest meal planning myths is that someone believes she just can’t meal plan at all. I wanted to write this post to show people that these types of false beliefs hold them back from making any progress.
1. Meal planning is hard.
Well, anyone selling a weekly meal plan or a subscription meal kit is going to tell you it’s hard so you can buy their solution. Meal planning is not hard, as long as you’re armed with the right information. The problem is there are a lot of meal planning myths out there.
There are also a lot of different ways to meal plan, and there’s no one-size-fits-all. One of my friends prefers hitting the farmer’s market to see what looks good and then figuring out what to cook after she gets home. That’s the complete opposite of what I do.
2. Meal planning is easy.
I know, I know. I just said that meal planning wasn’t hard, didn’t I? And it’s not, but you have to learn how to meal plan just like you have to learn how to ride a bike. It takes time, sometimes some frustration, but then all of a sudden the light goes off and it’s not that hard anymore.
The problem is that we see all these Pinterest headlines about how people plan their meals for a month in 10 minutes. I used to think, “There’s absolutely no way they can do that!”
I eventually realized that they didn’t do it that quickly when they first started planning. They developed systems that work for them (and what works for them might not work for you), they tried recipes and developed lists of ones that they like, and they organized them with binders and apps. It took time.
Read More: How to Meal Plan: Plan Time to Plan
3. You need to have a fully stocked kitchen.
I bet you’ve seen the meal planning tips for what’s called a capsule pantry. You have a bunch of mix-and-match ingredients that you can throw together to make a meal. This is fine and dandy if you know how to cook but it doesn’t work if you don’t know how to put them together.
Having a bunch of ingredients on hand actually makes meal planning more difficult because you still don’t have a plan for what you’re going to make. Plus you have to keep a detailed inventory of what’s in your pantry, fridge, and freezer. Who has time for that?
My friend told me one day that she loves seeing her full pantry after she unloads her groceries. I laughed because I’m the opposite; I love seeing my empty fridge and pantry at the end of the week. That means that I actually used what I bought for the week and very little is being wasted.
A fully stocked kitchen is overwhelming. I’ve taken a very minimal approach to meal planning, and I’ve found that the less choices I have, the better I function.
4. You need to be a good cook.
I’d like to introduce you to my dear friends, the Instant Pot and the slow cooker. Kind and forgiving, they are true blue to the end.
Start with simple meals, and you will probably find that after a while, you’ve become a better cook. That was one of the unexpected benefits of meal planning for me. My kids now eat more vegetables because I’ve figured out how to prepare them. Sometimes you just have to take a leap and make it happen.
Frankly, meal planning is about organization, not about cooking. People believe that one of the meal planning myths is that you have to be a good cook, when you actually have to be a good organizer.
5. You have to do it all yourself.
The meal planning tips I’ve seen have made it seem like I have to do it all myself. I’m here to tell you to ASK FOR HELP! Why do we feel like we have to do everything on our own? The help can be as simple as having someone watch your kids so you can shop more quickly.
I started cooking dinner from recipes because I’m not a very good cook, but I quickly realized that using a (simple) recipe means that my husband can help cook, too. Let’s say that I was planning on cooking dinner but something came up and I won’t be home. What used to happen is that he’d take the kids out to eat or order a pizza. Sounds familiar, right? But because I plan my shopping list using recipes, I know that I can tell my husband which recipe to use and that we have all of the ingredients.
Read More: Who Is Your Meal Planning Help?
6. You need to try new recipes.
I’ve read many, many meal planning tips over the years and the majority of them suggest that you try just one new recipe each week as a way to simplify your cooking. But for most people, even trying one new recipe each week is complicated.
Why do you have to try any new ones at all? Obviously if you’re starting from scratch with no favorite recipes, then you’ll have to try new ones. But if you have enough recipes that you like, you don’t need to try new ones. And the easiest way to cook is to make something you already know and like.
If you have some extra time to try a new recipe, then do it! Just don’t think you have to make it a regular part of your cooking and meal planning.
7. You have to stick to your plan 100 percent.
Write your plan in pencil and use the eraser! I think we all know the famous John Lennon lyric, “Life is what happens to you while you’re busy making other plans.” Go out to eat if a friend invites you. Have dinner delivered if you’re sick. Give yourself grace and don’t miss out on life just because you made a meal plan.
You just have to be careful not to scratch your plans all the time. But the occasional unplanned meal out or delivered is totally fine.
And if you forget something important or run out of, let’s say milk, for example, just go to the store, okay? I’ve read a lot of tips from so many bloggers who set these hard and fast rules like, “You can only go to the grocery store once a week!” Or, “If you forget something, tough! Do without it!”
I understand why they say it: many of us go to the store for one thing and end up coming out with 20. Plus, it takes up a lot of time to run to the store “quickly.” (Especially if you have little kids. Nothing happens quickly with little kids.) It takes a lot of discipline to buy only what’s on your list.
But what I found happened to my family when I tried the once-a-week shopping rule is that I didn’t go to the store but we went out to eat instead. So we still wasted money.
Since I’ve started meal planning, I’ve become a better cook so I’m now able to scrounge and throw together halfway decent meals if we run out of something. But if you’re new to cooking, that’s a hard thing to figure out how to do.
I also know that when you start meal planning, you’re going to make some mistakes. Heck, I’ve been doing it for a long time and I still make mistakes! When you expect perfection and don’t achieve it, it can be incredibly discouraging. I think you’re also more likely to give up meal planning altogether, and then where does that leave you?
Read More: Five Secrets for Meal Planning Success
8. Meal planning means home cooked.
If you plan to pick up Chinese on your way home from work, you’re planning for your meal, aren’t you? If you make reservations at your favorite restaurant, you’re planning for dinner, right? Merriam-Webster defines planning as “the act or process of making or carrying out plans.” And that’s exactly what you’re doing when you pick up takeout. Just sayin’. Just don’t do it every day. 😉
9. Meal planning has to be fancy.
Fancy-schmancy. Frozen veggies are my jam. (Literally frozen. My kids used to eat peas straight from the freezer.) The Instant Pot is my one true love (sorry, Ryan). Try roasted broccoli tossed in avocado oil and salt paired with an Instant Pot chicken. Voila! Dinner is served. I often serve sliced, raw veggies like cucumbers, carrots, or bell peppers with the main dish.
And can we talk about leftovers? I hear people say, “Oh, well, my husband won’t eat leftovers.” Well then maybe he needs to meal plan and cook, whaddya think?
Tell me in the comments: What are some meal planning myths you believe?