For lots of us the start of a new year gives us hope of a more organised, less stressful year ahead. For me, meal planning is one of the really key ways to make sure I feel on top of what is going on, whilst also ensuring I eat balanced, nutritious meals (which is extra important after the holiday season!). Over the next few weeks I’m going to share a few posts on the basics of meal planning, starting with the big ‘why‘ – the benefits of meal planning.
At the end of this little series I’m going to have some bonus meal planning goodies for my lovely newsletter subscribers so there’s no better time to pop yourself on the list! You can signup by clicking right here, or through the box at the end of this post and you’ll get a copy of my Healthy Drinks Guide ebook as well!
Anyway, back to the meal planning! Here they are, my top 6 benefits of meal planning!
1. Save Money
Planning your meals in advance can save you significant amounts of money in a few different ways. Firstly, you will hit the shops armed with a detailed shopping list and this will help to cut down on spontaneous, unnecessary purchases, as well as enabling you to cook using seasonal produce which is always much cheaper to buy. Meal planning also allows you to buy in bulk, particularly for non-perishable items like grains or legumes as you know you can plan to use them in the weeks ahead. You’ll also be able to spend a lot less money on takeaway or ‘ready’ meals as you won’t need them as a last minute resort. This alone can save you huge amounts!
2. Save Time
Having a meal plan can help you save a lot of time as you can start your week prepared and not have to duck to the shops every day or so (saving you money as well!), you’ll have everything you need waiting for you at home. It can save you time in cooking your food as well, if you know what you’re going to be cooking you can prep some of the ingredients ahead of time, or even the night before if you know you’re going to be short on time. You’ll also save time as you won’t be standing in front of the fridge staring at a bunch of random ingredients wondering what you can turn them in to for dinner either!
3. No More ‘What’s For Dinner’ Stress
Setting out a meal plan will save yourself the daily, 5pm stress over ‘what should I cook for dinner’ (or worse, kids constantly asking what’s for dinner!) as you’ll not only know what you’re having but you’ll also be sure you’ve got all the necessary ingredients ready and waiting for you. This means one less thing to think about in that delightful post work period where a thousand other things need to be done (especially if you have kids!), and if you’re like me, your brain is probably fried by then anyway!
4. Reduce Food Waste
One of the big benefits of meal planning is that it can significantly reduce the amount of food that gets wasted in your home. As you’ll be buying food that you know you will be cooking it avoids the old trick of buying veggies in the hope you’ll use them, then finding them sad and sorry in the back of the fridge two weeks later. It also means you can make sure you use all of those ingredients that generally only come in larger sizes – like a pumpkin for example. You could plan to use some roasted on Monday night, some more on Wednesday in a risotto and the rest to make homemade burgers, rather than being left with half a pumpkin and no idea what to do with it! Given the amount of food that gets thrown out in Australian households every year, anything we can do to cut down on this the better!
5. Eat Healthier
As I mentioned in point 1, planning your meals can significantly reduce your reliance on takeaway or ‘ready’ meals, and as a result you’re likely to eat much healthier. You’re also likely to use more seasonal vegetables and as a result have a more balanced diet. It will immediately become obvious if you’re relying on creamy pasta 4 nights a week and you’ll be able to switch it up with other, equally simple and delicious, recipes. You’re also more likely to eat ‘proper’ meals rather than just cobbling together whatever you can find in the fridge which doesn’t usually end up as the healthiest of options!
6. Eat More Variety
Planning your meals will usually result in eating a greater variety of foods as you’re able to give it some proper thought, and make use of cookbooks and blogs for inspiration. I cook at home almost every night, but I know when I let my meal planning slide I tend to rely on the same meals for quick mid-week meals, and whilst I might make a pretty good stir-fry there’s really only so many I can eat in a row! You don’t have to make a fancy, complicated meal every night, but you’re still likely to get much more variety into your meals when you’re planning in advance!
And there we have it – my top benefits of meal planning! It might not be the most exciting task in the world (although I do love flicking through cookbooks!) but as you can see it’s definitely worth it. Over the next few weeks I’ll be sharing some of my top tips for the how of meal planning, there are lots of ways to make it easier and really work for you and your family. I’d love to hear your tips and ideas along the way as well!
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