If you’ve never been the type to meal plan, consider making a change for a positive impact on your wallet, waistline and overall well-being.
When was the last time you made a grocery list and stuck to it?
Too often we spend small amounts of money on unnecessary food items that, when added up over time, can really cut into our budget (whether you’ve actually set one or not). What’s worse, unused and overstocked food items go to waste. Though meal planning may seem intimidating at first, there are plenty of benefits to spending 20 minutes at the beginning of each week to organize what you will eat and what food items to buy.
The following are just a few of our favorite reasons to meal plan:
1. Saves time, money and stress
When we first moved out on our own and began to cook for ourselves it felt like such an adventure. Now, with a family and/or busy schedule, preparing a homemade meal can feel like a chore. Reduce the stress of figuring out what to eat ‘right now’ by planning ahead so there is never a question. After you’ve figured out what’s on the weekly menu, go through your fridge and pantry to make a grocery list of needed items—and stick to it. Saving the guesswork of what ingredients you need to buy will prevent unnecessary expenditures.
Tip: Whether cooking for one or six, double the recipe for salads, pasta dishes and sauces, or casseroles. This way leftovers can be eaten for lunch the following day or, if applicable, stored in the freezer to be thawed for a quick dinner in the near future.
2. Promotes healthier choices
Want to eat meals that fill you with energy rather than an urge to keel over into a food coma? Looking to add more vitamins and immune-boosting elements to your family’s diet? Just plan for it. By planning meals that can be made-ahead, stored in the freezer, or prepped the night before, you’ll have something to fall back on rather than simply ordering take-out. Planning out your meals can also help you visualize what food groups your household is lacking or perhaps consuming too much of.
Tip: Incorporate plenty of fresh produce in each meal, no matter if you are vegan or a meat-eater. Leafy green salads, colorful fruit mixes, quinoa bowls, homemade salsa—there are countless ways to ensure half of your plate is plant based.
3. Excites the taste buds
When we decide in the moment what our next meal will be, the requirements are usually something that we can imagine the taste of, have the ingredients for and know how to make. Unfortunately, this kind of rut can turn old favorites into bland tasting meals. Get creative in the kitchen by testing out a new recipe or even a spin on an old favorite. You’ll finish your meals with a sense of satisfaction while simultaneously providing a diverse array of nutrients that your body needs.
Tip: Grab a friend or two and plan on swapping meals once a week. You can bring each other leftovers of a healthy meal made the night before. It’s a fun way to try new flavors and to get inspired. Plus, meal planning alongside a friend will ensure you stay motivated and stick to it.