You’re probably extremely busy, just like the rest of North Americans. Sitting down for an hour to do something you don’t normally do seems unthinkable. But what if I told you that spending that one hour one time could save you several hours per week indefinitely? Would you be mildly curious?
Meal planning may seem like a time-consuming undertaking, but it’s a wise investment of your time. Preparing a few weekly meal plans that you can cycle through can provide a host of benefits: it can help you save waste, save money, save time, eat more healthily, and eat more varied meals.
You can create meal plans the old fashioned way - on paper - or you can do it using Pinterest or other online tools. However you decide to go about it, here are 10 reasons why you should definitely start meal planning.
10 Save Gas
Creating weekly meal plans means you can write the weekly grocery lists to go along with those plans. Having a weekly grocery list means you can hit the store just one time per week, in order to have everything on hand for the next 6-7 days.
Cutting down on trips to the grocery store not only gives you more time, it also helps you save money on gas, and helps the environment by decreasing the amount of pollution you’re putting into the air. Meal planning helps you save the environment in other ways, too.
9 Decrease Your Waste
How many times have you purchased produce, only to pull it out of the fridge a week or more later, spoiled and unusable? When we just blindly buy what we think we need at the grocery store, we almost always end up buying things we don’t actually need, and those things go to waste. Not only does this create unsightly views inside your fridge, it’s also not great for the environment either, especially if you’re not composting.
If you have a meal plan and a grocery list to go along with that plan, you can avoid food waste, thus helping the environment. Not only that, reducing waste also helps you to stop wasting money on the food you’re buying and putting in the garbage unconsumed.
8 Save Money
Making a meal plan, creating a grocery list to go along with it, and making a commitment to shop only by the list when you hit the grocery store can help you save money. Committing to only shop by the list helps you to avoid impulse purchases that are neither healthy nor great for your finances in the long term.
If you meal plan, you’ll be less likely to eat out or order in too frequently, because you already have a plan and everything you need to make that plan happen for dinner each night. When you become more conscientious of your choices to eat out, you save more money and eat more healthily, too.
7 Eat More Healthily
If you make a plan for what you will eat each week, you’ll be less likely to get home from work and collapse on the couch with a bowl of cereal (come on, admit it, you’ve done it), go through a drive-through, or order in from the most convenient greasy spoon.
Having a plan, especially if you do bulk food prep, means that you can get home and have fresh, healthy and delicious food either ready or almost ready to go, and that’s always a great way to eat good food that’s also good for you. It also means you won’t be bored with eating the same old thing day in and day out.
6 Eat More Varied Meals
Most of us revert to the same old foods if we don’t meal plan. Truth be told, it gets kind of boring after a while. With meal planning, you’ll be more conscious of including a variety of foods in your diet, because once you see the same food over and over on paper, something will click that you might just want to shake things up a bit. Choose a variety of recipes and you’ll start seeing the benefits and fun of a more varied diet.
If meal planning seems overwhelming, start with just planning varied dinners, and see how that goes. If you like the results, plan your lunches next, and if you like those results, add in snacks. That’s not to say that you can never be a spontaneous eater again, just that you’ll become a more conscientious one. And chances are, if you put a little effort into meal planning initially, chances are, rather than submitting to routine, you’ll be more likely to try new foods.
5 Try New Recipes
Once you start meal planning, you’ll probably notice how boring your diet was previously. Having to actually plan your meals might encourage you to widen your horizons, try new recipes, and expand your palate.
There’s a variety of ways to get new recipes to try: ask friends for their favorites, subscribe to food boards on Pinterest, search for and browse food blogs for recipes that you think you might enjoy. Try some recipes out, and if you like them, add them into the meal plan. If you don’t like them, take them out of the rotation.
Although this might sound really time consuming (and it will be initially), you only need to do the searching once. After you’ve decided on a few recipes you enjoy, you’ll have your meal plans written, and all you’ll need to do is shop and prep accordingly each week. This saves you a valuable amount of time.
4 Save Time
Although it may sound time consuming to meal plan, not doing so is costing you even more time. Not having a plan for what you will cook can create frustrating situations that put a strain on your already limited schedule.
If you’ve ever looked in the fridge and wondered “what on earth will I make for supper tonight?”, then gotten frustrated that you don’t have the right ingredients to make it happen once you make up your mind, you know the positive and time-saving power of meal planning.
3 Never Run Out Of Ingredients Mid-Recipe Again
Having a meal plan and purchasing the right ingredients to go along with it means your home will always be stocked for whichever recipe you need to make on a certain day. There are few things more frustrating in housekeeping than being mid-recipe and realizing you don’t have an important ingredient (nor a suitable substitute) to make the dish happen.
Start meal planning and you eliminate this frustration. If you have roommates or live with family; however, ensure you label your ingredients, lest your housemates eat your food prep.
Not running out of ingredients mid-recipe cuts down on your stress, so you can breathe easier and enjoy some more down time.
2 Less Stress
If you’re already working overtime, putting in extra effort to keep the place somewhat tidy, and trying to maintain some semblance of a social life, having another time-consuming task on the to-do list can add even more stress to your hectic life. Not planning on what you will cook each week makes cooking a stressful and time-consuming endeavour.
Everyone could do with less stress. Investing a bit of time now into meal planning can save you time and money, thus decreasing the amount of stress in your life, and allowing you to enjoy some more time with friends or a good book.
1 Relax More
Meal planning can help you find more time in your schedule to relax. Set aside 2 hours a week to do some bulk meal prep. That might sound like a lot, but if you’re spending an hour a day cooking dinner now, you’’ll actually be saving 5 hours per week by doing some work ahead of time.
Befriend the crockpot, and plan on at last 2 meals per week that are cooked in it. This way, 2 days a week, you can come home, open a bottle of wine, and sit down to dinner that’s fresh, hot, and already cooked for you.
If you do these two things – bulk meal prep and use a crockpot – you’ll find lots more room in your schedule to just chill.
When will you start meal planning?