This may not be the most flashy suggestion, but the marital and financial benefits far exceed the common expectations from planning your family dinners a month at a time and posting them in the kitchen (generic template: Blank Monthly Meal Calendar). Consider the following benefits of this exercise for your budget and marriage and consider how many areas of your marriage will be enhanced by this simple exercise.
- Food is a major line item in any family budget. Other than mortgage / rent, food is the next largest expenditure in many families. A monthly meal calendar creates many ways to cut the cost of food while elevating the priority of having meals together.
- Grocery shopping becomes easier and more economical. The grocery list is breakfast food, lunch food, and whatever you don’t have to fix that week’s dinners. Shopping is more efficient (which protects family time) and more economical (less food goes bad as you only buy what you need).
- Having a meal calendar promotes the importance of having a family meal time. You give value and honor to the things you plan. You build a sense of expectation that this is something “we do” and enjoy. No longer does there have to be “a reason” to sit at the table together; now there has to be a reason not to.
- Cooking becomes less stressful. Deciding what to fix and figuring out if you have the ingredients is usually the stressful part of dinner. A few minutes at the beginning of the month means no more freezing up at the pantry door and less relying on the “quickie” fall back option (i.e., usually frozen pizza or chicken nuggets).
- Plan “leftovers” to save money and relieve stress on busy evenings. You usually know what nights things are too hectic to cook. Without a plan there is a tendency to either eat out or eat something unhealthy. With a little planning you can warm up something healthy.
- Become intentional about when to eat out. Eating out is a wonderful treat, but should not be a way of life. As a way of life, eating out is bad stewardship.
- With a meal calendar you will be forced to consider how many “date nights” you are setting aside each month. This is a great marital practice.
- You will eat healthier. A lifestyle of preparing last minute meals doesn’t tend to be a healthy life. Eating more fruits and vegetables can create a significant savings in medical cost and time away from work.
- You will eat a greater variety of foods and, therefore, enjoy time at home more. Part of the reason the culture neglects home is because we’ve allowed it to become mundane and repetitive. When we put a little planning into our home life we can be intentional about bringing variety into it. You can plan when you’re going to try that new recipe you’ve wanted to cook.
- You will begin to view month as a whole. There are huge advantages to viewing this larger unit of time (month vs. week). By looking at the evenings you’re already scheduled to be out at the beginning of the month, you know the critical times to protect in order to ensure you don’t go large stretches without time together as a couple.
- Reveals the opportunity for community. Meals are a natural time to get to know neighbors and people from small group. When meals are planned at the last minute it often feels like a “big deal” to have people over (if we think of fit at all). As you plan your meal calendar, you can look at when you would have people over and plan a meal that accommodates more people.
- This is a quick and easy exercise after you do it the first month. After the first month you just update the evenings you have plans, add any new recipes you want to try, and juggle your favorites to fill in the rest. The few minutes it takes will be more than replaced with the time/money you save and the marital benefits.
This tool and explanation are an excerpt from the Creating a Gospel-Centered Marriage: Finances seminar.