I live on my budget and as such I feed myself and my kids breakfast, lunch, and dinner 7 days a week. We typically only eat out once a week and because of my husband’s job he only eats with us a few meals a week. 

I spent a long time wanting to make a meal plan. 

I spent lots of time researching meal plans on Pinterest. 

Many times I sat down and crafted half of a plan, or a today and tomorrow plan, often I would scrap any plans I had made. 

I would convince myself since it’s just the kids and I that maybe I don’t even need a plan, then the next day I would want a plan again. 

I would look in the pantry and the fridge and the freezer and brainstorm about what I could do with the things I already had. 

I would consider what I would need to buy if I went to the grocery. 

I would want to try a new recipe to find more foods we all like then I would spend time thinking maybe I shouldn’t try anything new at all because what would happen if the kids didn’t like it. 

I would drive past restaurants and have to convince myself to pass them by in the hopes of being able to find something to “throw together” at home. 

And on and on and on. Just writing it is overwhelming and this was the cycle that I lived in every week, every day.

Then I was presented with the realization that meal planning is the same skill as the one I have been using for over 7 years to budget my money. In both cases you are making decisions intentionally ahead of time and creating a plan to follow. Doing so relieves stress, reduces the urge to spiral in mind drama, lowers the amount of time and energy you need to spend in order to make decisions, as well as frees up mental space to do other things. I was shocked. How had I never thought of it this way before.

So I looked in the pantry, fridge, and freezer and took stock of what I already had on hand. Then I wrote down all the days of the week on a piece of paper and just decided what I was going to cook every day. I made it easier on myself by deciding that breakfast every day is a choice between cereal, oatmeal, cream of wheat, or a granola bar. Then I just picked what I was going to make every other meal. I followed that up by making a grocery list, I went to the store and bought only what I had put on my list. Then I posted my food plan on the fridge so that there would be no question what we were going to eat every day, every meal. 

It is incredible to me how much more time I feel like I have now, how much more mental space is available to me because I have relieved the need to spin out in indecision about food all day. This is what I have been doing with my money for over 7 years. I sit down intentionally before the month begins and I make all the decisions about how I will spend my money. I write it all down and have it available for reference if needed. This way I don’t have to spend time and energy thinking about all the money choices I could be presented with every day. I know what I have and where it is going. I don’t have to entertain the idea of wondering if I can “afford it”, if it’s in the budget I get it, if not, it’s up for discussion during next month’s budget creation session. I have built this skill in myself as it relates to my money and am now borrowing this skill to create that same comfort and structure and relief that comes with having a plan as it relates to eating and feeding my family.

This is what a budget can do. It gives you mental freedom. It provides relief from the stress and pressure and drama by making decisions ahead of time. It gives you the comfort of structure and the reassurance of having a plan. What could you do with the extra space and time in your brain that you create when you plan your life by choice ahead of time?

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