Meal planning makes a big difference in the quality and freshness of your diet and can be a big factor in finding healthy choices at mealtime. When creating the plan, the whole household can get involved, which is great for kids too. If you want to save time and money, eat nutritious food and cut down on the amount of waste going to the landfill, then meal planning is the key.
Meal planning is a great way to save time, as you’ll only be running off to the grocery store once or twice a week, instead of having to go regularly after work in a panic. Sitting down to do the planning will only take about a half-hour, but you will make up that time by not frantically searching the fridge and cupboards trying to find something to eat. You are also saving time by not having to wait in line at the drive-thru.
Cook large meals and make a specific plan for leftovers. This stops leftovers from going in the garbage or rotting. It also gives you a break from having to cook every day. Cooking your proteins in large batches can be a timesaver; for example, fry a lot of ground beef for tacos one night and then save the extra for spaghetti the next evening.
Everybody knows the feeling of guilt after discovering a bag of rotten vegetables in the crisper. It’s common to get excited about cooking vegetables while in the produce section of the grocery store since the veggies all look so colorful and delicious. But if you are not meal planning, so many of those veggies will be forgotten. It’s not just the vegetables we waste, sometimes it is expensive cuts of meat that get freezer burned or dairy products that went sour. When using a meal planner, it’s easier to keep track of expiration dates. Meal planning cuts down on the food bill because it’s a lot less likely that food will go to waste. You buy only what you will need. Fewer purchases will get shoved to the back of the fridge or freezer and left to go bad.
Every health and fitness expert will agree that meal planning will improve the overall wellness of any household. Sitting down to plan out meals affords you the time to examine what you will be eating. It is much more likely that you will eat at home, which cuts down drastically on the number of calories you consume. Knowing that you have a house full of food will make you a lot less likely to hit the drive-thru on the way home. Taking a list to the grocery store reduces impulse purchases. Meal planning gives you the chance to examine the amounts of real, whole foods you are eating instead of relying on pre-packaged foods.
Decision fatigue is a state of mind you fall into at the end of a long day. You have been fighting to do the right thing and make healthy choices all day long. Your willpower has been drained. When decision fatigue sets in it’s more likely that you will reach for any food available. Having healthy ingredients in the house ahead of time makes it more likely that you will choose those nutritious foods, even when exhausted.
Gathering all the members of the household together to meal plan gives everybody their say, making it much more likely everybody will pitch in to do some cooking, and hopefully the dishes too.
Getting input from children on what they would like for meals is an excellent practice. It gives children some power over what they see on the table and gives you the opportunity to discuss nutrition with them. This ability to choose teaches them an awareness of what they are consuming that will last a lifetime. This especially helps with kids who are picky about their food.
You will also have a better variety of foods when you meal plan. With the calendar in front of you, you will see when you have repeats and decide to spice things up with some new recipes. You can also plan to buy produce that is available seasonally, which will increase the taste and freshness of your food.
Meal planning for lunches will cut down on the cost of eating out at lunch. Homemade “brown bag” lunches tend to have way fewer calories than restaurant lunches. Brown bag lunches are much better for kids than eating school food, particularly in North American schools.
Meal planning only takes about a half-hour each week to do, but the benefits to your physical health, finances, time and general quality of life are more than worth it. It is a good thing to do if you are single or a whole family. It’s an important tool for teaching children about nutrition and cooking. There are many helpful meal planning apps and websites available to help you get started today.