Meal planning is all the rage these days and with really good reason. If you are wondering, “Why is meal planning so important?’ The answer is that learning how to make a meal plan has so many advantages. In fact, there are so many benefits of meal planning that it is hard to not sound like I am gushing! It is a well-known way to save time and money. If that wasn’t enough, creating a plan also helps you go green and offers health benefits too! In today’s post I will share benefits and tips for how to meal plan.
What is meal planning and why is it so important?
Meal planning is simply the process of deciding what you will eat in advance. Most often on a weekly or monthly basis.
The answer to why meal planning is so important may actually be different for different people. It depends on which benefits we value most. However, here are my top five meal planning benefits.
5 Advantages Of Meal Planning
When you plan ahead, it means you only have to buy what you need. In addition to eliminating impulsive grocery store buys, it means you will be prepared to fix the meal you desire. This can save you from finding out last minute that you have nothing in the pantry and going out to eat instead. Meal planning means that you will be able to fix more things from scratch and save money on prepared foods. Having a plan also makes it easier to stick to your grocery budget.
Because you can take a few minutes to plan ahead for the week, it will save you from the daily stress of coming up with something for dinner each day. Meal planning in advance also allows you to get meal prep out of the way. It is nice to do this ahead of time for days that may be busy during the week. You can go ahead and chop all the veggies on Sunday for that work late Tuesday, for example.
Meal Planning Saves The Planet
OK, so that was dramatic but it really does contribute toward a healthier planet in many ways. Preparing a homemade meal is considered to be one of the greenest options for everyday living, as it usually involves saving on shipping transportation, packaging, and waste. It also reduces the amount of gas used, by saving unnecessary trips to the store. It also cuts down on food waste by potentially saving food from spoiling. Planning can also help you reduce the number of times you eat out. This reduces packaging from take-out meals.
Health Benefits Of Meal Planning
It is a great way try new recipes and incorporate more healthy foods into you diet. When doing your meal prepping be sure to include lean proteins, whole grains, fresh fruits and vegetables.
Meal planning means that you have time to plan healthy meals. You can chose avoid fast food and to eat out less often. This means you will likely consume less sodium, sugar and processed foods. When you eat out less, it is easier to maintain a healthy weight. According to Fix.com, “Eating home-cooked meals five or more days a week is even associated with a longer life.”
There is nothing more annoying than finishing a long day of work and realizing you have kids to feed and no plan for dinner. It creates a lot of last minute stress worrying about what to fix and if you have the ingredients you need. A weekly plan helps reduce that worry.
Although home cooking has many monetary and health advantages, many struggle when it comes to preparing a meal after a long day of work. I’ve found there are several easy ways to help overcome this challenge. Below are some quick tips to help get you started on how to make a meal plan.
How To Meal Plan & Meal Planning Tips
Set Some Time Aside To Do Planning Once A Week
Meal planning is as simple as spending about 10 minutes, once a week, thinking about what food you will prepare during the week. You can spend more or less time planning meals, based on how detailed you want to be and the contents of your pantry. Use these meal plan tips and simple steps to prepare great options and fresh food for your family.
How Do I Make A Weekly Meal Plan?
The best way to get started is to sit down with a calendar and write out meals for the next week. If you’re feeling really ambitious, you can even plan out the entire month at one time. I usually stock my kitchen with basic options for breakfast and lunch, so I really only plan out my dinners in detail. I find it easiest to write out a few family favorite dishes and throw in only one new recipe a week. This allows us to try a different meal without too much work for me.
You can plan out the whole week or just the week days that you work. Also you are making the plan for you. So feel free to use freezer meal or quick meal recipes on busy days at work. Save recipe inspiration for days when you have more leisure time.
Useful Tip: Consider saving your old meal plans so when you are in a time crunch or not feeling very creative, you can reuse them! The fact is you really only need about 4 weekly meal plans to use as your base. Then you can just rotate through them. If you want added variety you can always sub out one new dish each week.
Make Your Shopping List
Once I have my weekly meal plan established, I use it to make my grocery list for the week. I use the ingredients of the different recipes as my starting point. Then, I check my pantry for any items I may already have and cross those off the list. This helps keep the food budget on track too.
Meal Prep Ahead Of Time
This part is totally optional but it is a good idea if you have very busy weeknights. You can do your meal prep ahead of time to make cooking after work easier. This means you can chop up all your veggies ahead of time and place them in meal prep containers. Or you can measure out the things you need to put in a dish. Some people even like to fully prepare their meals ahead of time and freeze them. It is one of the most effective ways of saving time and committing to your meal prep recipes.
Whether you choose to prepare grab and go convenience foods (like salads) to store in your fridge or completely prepare meals for your freezer, doing the prep work in advance can save you a lot of time during those busy week nights.
Meal Planning Hacks
Now you know why meal planning is so important and you have some tips to get you started. Here are a few hacks you may like to try as well.
- There are meal planning services. You might like to try emeals.com if you like having it done for you.
- There are meal delivery kits. You might like to try EveryPlate if you like having the meal plan, recipe, and pre measure ingredients delivered to your door. Daily Harvest is good for delivering single serve meal kits for lunch or breakfast.
- There are meal planning apps.
- Cool meal prep dishes from Swell.
- Keto Recipes at Kiss My Keto.
- Free meal planning printables from Confessions Of Parenting.
- Meal planning on a budget of $42 a week from Saving Talents.
- Free Weekly Meal Planner Printable from Love On A Plate.
There are lots of benefits of planning your dinners weekly. It can save you money by helping you not over shop and reduce impulse buys. Meal planning saves you time because you can reuse your meal plans. It can also save you the time and gas it takes to make trips to the store that aren’t needed when you plan ahead. Of course, meal planning helps you go green by reducing food waste that often results when there are no plans.
To me, the ultimate importance of meal planning lies in the fact that it helps establish healthy eating habits. Which of these benefits of meal planning is most important to you? Do you have any tips to share or success stories? Tag us @familyfocusblog on social media!