Most Americans figure out what they’re going to eat on an hourly or daily basis. Meals are often chosen as a result of convenience – reaching for whatever is easiest. But research shows that meal planning is much more beneficial in both the short-term and the long-run.
Making the Case for Meal Planning
Meal planning – the act of figuring out what and when you’ll eat in advance – is something that most people don’t have much familiarity with these days. But if you ask those who take the time to do it, you’ll find that it’s beneficial on multiple levels.
In particular, you’ll enjoy the following perks:
- Healthier Eating
Over the years, eating has become something we don’t think about. As Americans, we’ve developed a habit of shoveling down food without thinking. We’re eating more and we’re doing it faster than ever before. It’s unhealthy and lazy.
When you meal plan, you’re forced to sit down and think about what you’ll be eating. This causes you to consider things like nutrition and balance.
- Less Food Waste
As part of our lazy eating habits, we often cook way more than we can eat and end up tossing the scraps in the trash. With meal planning, you’re specific with your portions. This reduces waste and encourages you to consume what you prepare.
- Money Savings
“By planning your meals, you buy only the ingredients you absolutely need. Not only does this mean way less food wasted at the end of the week (up to 62%), it also results in a whole lot of money saved too,” Fresh n’ Lean explains. “For the average American, meal prepping could potentially add an extra $215,000 to their retirement fund. Not bad for a little bit of forward thinking.”
If you want to think more short-term, meal planning could save you around $100 per week. That’s an additional $400 in your pocket every month to save, invest, or spend on things you enjoy.
- Time Savings
Most people assume that meal planning takes time away from your schedule, but it’s actually way more efficient than the alternative.
When you don’t have any sort of plan, you have to figure out what you’re going to eat on the fly. This means making each meal individually (no bulk cooking), running to the store for ingredients you don’t have on hand, or driving to a restaurant to pick up food. With a meal plan, you just stick to the plan, make the meal, and enjoy yourself.
- Greater Control
Today, we’re more aware than ever of food allergies and insensitivities. If you suffer from some sort of intolerance, meal planning allows you to have direct control over everything you eat. This gives you the chance to avoid certain ingredients and prepare meals that allow you to feel good.
You also get control in the sense that you can plan meals you know your family will love, rather than having to order meals from multiple restaurants to please everyone’s unique palates.
Start Meal Planning Today
There are clearly some perks to meal planning, but what does it look like in practice? In other words, how do you actually begin the process of planning meals for this upcoming week? Well, it’s not as hard as you may think. There are three basic steps:
- Plan. Set aside a couple of hours each week where you plan meals for the following week. Browse your Pinterest boards, search the internet for ideas, pull out old recipes – it’s your choice. Write down all of the ingredients you need in the form of a shopping list.
- Shop. You’ll also need to set aside some time to buy the ingredients that you need. If you’d prefer not to spend a couple of hours meandering down supermarket aisles, consider using a grocery delivery or pick-up option where you buy online and have someone else do the shopping for you.
- Prepare. Once you have the ingredients on hand, you can prepare. Some meals can be prepared in bulk ahead of time, while others will need to be prepped immediately before eating.
That’s the 1-2-3 process of meal planning. The first time might seem intensive and frustrating, but it’ll eventually become second nature. And whenever you find yourself tiring of the process, just remember how beneficial meal planning is!