If you ever peruse Pinterest, it is likely you will come across at least one pin about meal planning. It’s another one of those trends that are all the rage right now, but with good reason. I started meal planning when I had to do it for a nutritional program I was in. After one week, I was hooked. It wasn’t just because I was eating healthier, it was the other benefits that really made me stick to it.
Benefits of Meal Planning:
- You eat healthier. Your meal is already made. It just requires you to open up and eat – or heat it up in the microwave. Because of this, you are not “grabbing something quick” (read: unhealthy) because you don’t have the time or desire to make dinner.
- You can make sure you are getting all the nutrients you need. By taking the time to plan and prep, you can make sure each meal has the right amount of protein and good carbohydrates, and the correct amount of fruit and veggie servings. You can also plan the time of day you eat them for proper absorption.
- You SAVE MONEY. By planning your meals, you have a set grocery shopping list to use when you go to the store. That way you aren’t grabbing random things you do not need, like expensive junk food.
- You also waste less food. By planning ahead, you know how much of each food item you need. When you prep, you pack it to be used, instead of letting it sit in the fridge to maybe be used if you remember to include it.
- You save time. Yes, planning and prepping the meals does take some time, but that is just a couple hours on one day. After that, you have more time during the week because you are not spending it figuring out what to cook and then preparing it.
- This can be a good option for caregivers who make meals for a loved one or who worry about a forgetful parent or friend. Stock their fridge and label each meal for breakfast, lunch, or dinner.
Meal Planning Tips:
- Schedule a couple of hours on a least-busy day. For me, that is Sunday.
- Pick proteins that work in a number of dishes. I always buy a ton of chicken to make buffalo chicken wraps, chicken stir fry, and grilled chicken for salads.
- Make meals that keep well in the fridge. Remember, you may prep this meal three days before you eat it. If you are going to make a salad, make sure the dressing is packed separate (or make a mason jar salad where the dressing is on the very bottom) to keep the lettuce from getting soggy.
- Don’t forget to plan your snacks too if you tend to snack during the day!
- Use the crockpot (and multiple appliances) to cook more meals simultaneously. While I have pot roast cooking in the crock pot, I have my husband making chicken on the grill, while I steam all the veggies and cut up the fruit.
- Buy Tupperware with multiple compartments so you can put your whole meal in one device. Or, make a meal where you can toss everything together (like chicken stir fry). That’ll save room in the fridge and reduce the amount of dishes you need to wash.
- Get a calendar. Write out your plan for each day. Use pencil – there will most likely be erasing.
- Have a prep party. Have a few friends over and prepare meals together. Each of you can make 1-2 meals and share them with each OTHER. It’ll cut down on cost and time.
In the beginning, meal planning can seem a bit overwhelming. Just take it one step at a time. You may even want to start out planning and prepping for one or two days and then gradually move up. Just make sure you are being health – cooking healthy meals and giving yourself the proper proportions. As always, you should speak with your doctor before making changes to your diet. This article is for informational purposes only.