We’ve all heard of meal planning and meal prep, but how does it work? Is it worth it? The short answer is YES, and here’s why!
Meal planning is pre-planning what you and/or your family will be eating for the next few days, the next week, or even the next month! This strategy is a useful way to plan for and keep track of what you’re ingesting. It is extremely versatile and can be adjusted depending on the specific goals of whomever the plan is for. You can include such things as calories per meal, the variety of different food groups being consumed, water intake throughout the day, and the cost of the meal plan.
What Is Meal Planning and How Does It Work?
There are several reasons why this is a great life hack, chief among these being that you will save so much time and money! In addition, meal prepping is associated with weight loss/obesity prevention, a reduction in food waste, and overall better mental and emotional health! Who doesn’t want that?!
Meal Planning Saves Time
It is common for people to believe that meal prepping is a huge waste of time as it requires a lot of up-front, all-at-once, preparation. However, those few extra hours will save you a ton of time throughout the week. This way, you do not have to spend at least an hour every day cooking and/or cleaning—instead, the meal is ready to go and just needs to be tossed in the microwave for a few minutes! One of the best ways to incorporate meal planning and prepping into your busy schedule is to set aside time on a day of the week that may not be super busy for you.
On this day, spend a few hours in the kitchen cooking up a storm, and once you’re finished, toss everything into the fridge or freezer depending on when you plan to consume it! Meal planning may even reduce your time spent wandering the aisles at the grocery store, as you can pre-create a list of ingredients you’ll need for the week’s meals. Focus solely on acquiring those ingredients, rather than strolling around and seeing what pops out at you. In the long run, those few hours spent planning and prepping will save you precious time during the week that you can now designate to other activities! It’s a win-win situation!
Meal Planning is Good for Your Bank Account… and the Environment!
It is pretty common for us to default to a quick and easy takeout option when we’re in a time crunch or are feeling lazy and don’t want to cook. Meal planning can prevent this from occurring as your meals will be readily available to you and require just a quick toss in the microwave or oven.
If you add up the amount of money you spend on takeout every week and compare it to the amount of money you spend on a carefully crafted shopping list for your weekly meal plan, you will see a significant difference! By pre-planning what you need to purchase before arriving at the store, you can take into account what ingredients you may already have and therefore reduce your spending. This way, you can also save that extra money on certain things you’ve been buying but haven’t used in time and end up having to throw out.
That brings me to my next point: eliminating food waste. I’m sure we’ve all experienced the disappointment of buying a bunch of fresh food and forgetting all about it until it’s too late. Not only is it tough on your wallet, but it’s also rough on the environment as that food just goes straight into the landfills. Meal planning can limit the amount of excess fresh foods you buy that get thrown in the back of the fridge and neglected for far too long.
This way, those foods will have a calculated purpose, reducing the likelihood of them ending up in the garbage. Another useful hack to help reduce your carbon footprint is to pre-chop your fruits and vegetables and pre-portion them into snack-sized containers. It is more likely you will incorporate those fresh foods into your meal planning because they are already cut up and ready to go! By portioning them out into containers, you can just grab them and go as a snack for the road!
Meal Planning is Associated with Weight Loss/Obesity Prevention
Resorting to quick and easy takeout options means our diets are typically higher in unhealthy fats, sodium, and calories. By engaging in meal prepping, you will be getting a well-rounded meal with an overall higher nutritional value. You’ll also be less inclined to purchase food as you’ll already have meals readily available to you.
With the incorporation of meal prepping into your routine, you will adopt a more balanced diet as you have control over the ingredients! This will assist in the prevention of obesity and can even serve as a weight loss technique. Utilizing properly sized containers to store these meals will encourage portion control, which can also aid in weight loss!
Meal Planning Contributes to Improved Mental and Emotional Health
One of the greatest mental battles is the types and amounts of foods we put into our bodies. It is a cause of great stress for many, and can easily result in eating disorders if taken too far. This internal battle can be highly improved with the implementation of meal planning into your routine, as you will be preparing nourishing foods and properly fueling your body.
The “guilt” associated with takeout and/or quick and easy, yet nutritionally lacking, replacement meals will be much diminished with just a bit of prep! Additionally, the stress and emotional turmoil associated with coming home after a long day and not knowing what to eat or not feeling like you want to cook can be greatly relieved through meal planning. This way, you will not have to worry—you can just throw a pre-made meal in the microwave or oven and chow down!
Meal Planning: A Recap
While meal planning may at first seem intimidating and time-consuming, its benefits far outweigh its drawbacks. You will be saving time and money in the long run, as well as providing your body with the proper nutrition required to live an overall healthier life.
This may help with any personal weight loss goals as well as prevent obesity in the future! By reducing meal-related stressors, you will be reducing your carbon footprint and improving your mental and emotional health. It may not be an easy habit to start, but you will not regret it! Good luck!