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I'm excited to be joining the Plan to Eat team as a blogger and spokesperson. As a work-at-home mom of four little girls five years old and under, I use (and love!) Plan to Eat as a way to simplify my life and take the stress out of meal planning. I can also be found blogging at Organizing Your Way.net, where I share tips and strategies for organizing, decluttering, home management and productivity to help you create your own systems that fit your family's needs.

Before we even start to talk about the best ways to meal plan,  tips and tricks to make our time in the kitchen easier and so on, we have to start by looking at the benefits of meal planning in general. If you're not convinced that it will make your life easier and save you money, it probably just sounds like a lot of extra work.

But meal planning is really an investment that results in simpler and easier grocery shopping, budgeting and dinnertime prep. In a nutshell, it takes the stress and the guesswork out of feeding your family.

So what are the benefits of meal planning? Let's look at just a few…

1. You know what's for dinner, so you avoid the 5pm rush.

There's nothing more frustrating than standing in front of the pantry at 5pm wondering what in the world you're going to make for dinner. "Oh, I could make that. Oh, wait, the chicken is still frozen. I could make this. Oh, no, it takes 90 minutes. What about…no, that won't work either because I'm missing this key ingredient." When you meal plan, you can check your plan each morning to see what's for dinner that night so that you can set aside time to prep any necessary ingredients before it's too late. And because you've created your grocery list with your meal plan in mind, you know you have the ingredients that you need.

2. You avoid buying duplicates or forgetting items.

After you choose the meals you'll be preparing for the week, you can also take a few minutes to check the list of items you need for those meals against the ones you keep in your pantry and freezer so that you know exactly what you need and what you already have. This means you don't build accidental stockpiles just because you buy three packets of taco seasoning on every single trip to the grocery store. And it helps you thoughtfully plan a stockpile that works because you'll know which ingredients you use most often for the recipes your family loves.

3. You save money and avoid waste.

Knowing exactly what you're going to serve and what meals you're going to make each week is a great way to save money. Not only do you avoid unnecessary ingredients that go bad or end up being thrown away, but you can also look at your meal plan to see where you can purchase in bulk to save money, especially if you plan for several weeks at a time. On weeks when you want to cut your grocery budget, you can simply look through the items you have on hand and plan a menu around those items so that you have less to purchase while still being able to feed your family well.

Do you meal plan? What's the biggest benefit you've seen in your own life?

Photo by LizMarie

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