Have you ever gotten home from a long day at work only to realize there is nothing to make for dinner and you’re too exhausted to go to the grocery store? This often results in the inevitable pizza delivery or expensive takeout restaurant down the street. Both of these options are great in terms of convenience and satisfying your hunger but deep down you know that you should be making better dining decisions for you and your family.
Rather than shelling out unnecessary cash for takeout or ordering fatty foods from the pizza joint you should come up with a plan to save money on food and eat healthier. The solution: meal planning.
What is Meal Planning?
Meal planning is the idea of mapping out the meals you will be eating over the course of a day, a week, or longer. In addition to accounting for more involved meals like dinner meal planning can also cover breakfast, lunch, snacks and desserts. When meals are planned out it helps to save time running back and forth to the grocery store as well as money. Meal planning also has health benefits as we will see below.
Managing Healthy Eating Through Meal Planning
On the days you plan to eat at home meal planning can help you to control the ingredients in all of your meals. By seeking out recipes that are healthier you only buy ingredients that you trust in addition to controlling the serving sizes you want. Making a list of your needed groceries provides you with a few health benefits:
- You always have the nutritionally sound groceries that you want to eat thus avoiding unhealthy impulse buys that you know you should do without.
- You can eat a variety of meals each week. For example, you can meet your bi-weekly fish goal or the introduction of various types of fruits and vegetables into your diet.
- You avoid eating prepackaged foods because convenience is no longer a factor in your eating choices.
- Less stress: you will no longer have to scramble around the kitchen and stare into the fridge trying to figure out what you are going to make for the family.
- Your preplanned recipes mean that you will adhere to strict serving sizes and can maintain specific caloric intake.
The health benefits of meal planning go on and on. The payoffs of meal planning don’t end there though; there are also additional benefits to meal planning that make your life easier.
Additional Benefits of Meal Planning
In addition to having better control of what goes into your body every week meal planning also helps you to save time and money. The recipes you choose for your meals can be as detailed or simple as you’d like. There is nothing stopping you from using recipes that you or your family already love so it’s not like meal planning requires completely new foods to be introduced into your life.
Once you decide on the recipes you’d like to make each day making a grocery list is simple. You know what you have to make for the week ahead and this planning can help to avoid future trips to the grocer to account for forgotten items.
In addition to all the time-saving benefits there are some creative ways to save money with meal planning. For starters, you can revolve your meals around sales that take place at the grocer. Every week that you get the sale list you can plan meals around buy-one-get-one-free or other discounted products.
Another way you save money is through the avoidance of blindly selecting grocery items. You ever buy celery and watch it spoil because you never found a use for it? Meal planning helps you avoid this type of food waste. Finally, meal planning means you are more likely to eat-in rather than dine-out or get take out. When you shop right eating at home is way more economical than going out.
Getting Started with Meal Planning
Start your meal planning with these tips:
- Save money by only buying what is on sale in the grocery store circulars
- Find recipes that you already love to make or that fit into your nutritional spectrum
- Ask your family what they want to eat so that everyone contributes to the menu
- Check your pantry to see if there are food items that you can base recipes off of
- Consider the plate: choose proteins, carbs, and whole grains such as lean chicken, rice and beans, salads and whole grain breads for each meal
- Feel free to recycle your menus
- Be flexible so that your plan isn’t so rigid it becomes stressful
Throughout the whole process keep in mind that meal planning is designed to help you to have a healthier diet and make your life a bit easier. The added benefits of time and money savings are just extra reasons to start planning your meals every day!