Why It’s Important To Meal Plan and How Meal Planning Can Save Money
Do you ever find yourself dreading mealtimes because of the frustration that comes with it? Or maybe you find yourself standing in front of your fridge, night after night, wondering what to eat. If yes, you’re not alone.
Our busy days and schedules often prevent us from giving much thought to our meals in advance. This inevitably leads to the dilemma of deciding what to eat when hunger comes knocking.
After several moments of staring at your open fridge without arriving at a decision, you end up ordering takeout or pizza. This can set you back from the goal of a healthy lifestyle you might have promised yourself at the beginning of the year. Here’s where meal planning comes in.
What exactly is meal planning? Meal planning involves deciding your meals in advance while considering your schedule, available groceries, preferences, budget, and seasonal produce.
Meal planning removes your nightly dilemma of deciding what to eat and pushes you to make healthier choices for your body and pocket. It saves you the stress of planning and cooking meals every day.
The advantages of meal planning are endless. Let’s get right into some of them.
1. Healthier Lifestyle
One of the most important benefits of planning your meals is that it helps you make healthier choices. Did you know that meals cooked at home are lower in calories and have an overall higher diet quality?
We have no control over the preparation method of foods made in restaurants or the ingredients used in making them. They’re usually laden with sugar, sodium, and other things that can harm our health in the long run.
The reason we often opt for unhealthy food choices is convenience. After a long and tiring day, the last thing we want to be doing is thinking of what to eat and how to make certain recipes. Our indecision and fatigue eventually have us ordering takeout or driving to a fast-food restaurant.
When we plan our meals, it takes away the temptation of fast food or takeout because it provides the option of a nutritious and healthier choice.
2. Stress Reduction
Having to plan and prepare a meal last-minute is undoubtedly stressful. This is especially true if you are a working parent or work very long hours.
Planning your meals puts your mind at ease. It allows you to plan out your recipes and organize your meals ahead of time, reducing stress and the decision fatigue that comes with deciding what to eat.
3. More Variety
Switching it up once in a while keeps your meal times interesting. If you’re tired of eating the same thing over and over, meal planning can help add variety to your meals.
As human beings, we’re creatures of habit. When we’re busy, tired, or lazy, we’re inclined to cook what we always do. This can make our lives feel monotonous and dull.
When you take time at the beginning of the week to plan your meals, you’re likely to include variety and plan ahead on how to prepare them. You take into consideration things like produce in season or foods you haven’t eaten in a while.
Another thing meal planning is good for is your wallet. Planning your meals can do wonders for your bank account. Planning your meals will invariably have you cooking your meals at home more often and according to a Forbes study, it costs five times less to prepare a dish at home than to order it from a restaurant.
You might be wondering how meal planning helps you save money. Here’s how:
4. Less Grocery Shopping Trips
Without adequate meal planning for the week, you might find yourself making grocery runs multiple times a week. And let’s be honest, each time you enter the supermarket for a small purchase, there’s the temptation to make more purchases of things you might or might not need. And that takes more money out of your pockets.
Meal planning can reduce your grocery runs to just once a week. You’re also more likely to buy ingredients in bulk, which helps save money. This is because meal planning helps you plan for the ingredients you’ll need throughout the week.
With meal planning, you’re less likely to forget items, further helping to reduce the number of times you visit the store. If you have to drive to the grocery store, this also helps you cut down on gas money.
5. Decreased Food Waste
Throwing food out is equivalent to throwing out money. Impulse or frequent grocery shopping can have you buying food items you don’t need. This leads to the frequent binning of perishables like milk, cheese, fruits, and vegetables.
With meal planning, every grocery run is purposeful. When planning, you must take inventory of the ingredients you already have available. This helps you prevent unnecessary purchases. It also helps to avoid buying more than you need and having to throw them out months later.
6. Helps You Stay On A Budget
When you plan for your meals weekly or monthly, you’ll find that it’s easier to stay within the limits of your budget. This is because, with meal planning, you can choose how much you want to spend on food per week or month.
You’re also less likely to frequent restaurants for “quick lunches” or order takeout because you know exactly what you’ll eat every time you go hungry.
Meal planning might sound like a tedious job but it isn’t. It’s pretty straightforward. Moreover, the benefits far outweigh whatever inconvenience you might encounter when you start. Meal planning can make your journey to a healthier lifestyle much easier.