The Benefits of Meal Planning
Meal planning is a vital part of eating a healthy diet and there are many benefits of meal planning. Even if you’re a healthy eating veteran, I’d highly encourage you to take half an hour a week to meal plan healthy meals for your family that week.
There are many benefits of meal planning, including:
1. Save Money
There are many times that money has been tight for us and I’ve had to stretch our food budget. One year, my husband lost/had to quit his job a month before the birth of our third child. That birth ended up being an (expensive) emergency c-section to save my life and my son’s life. Our son also had a stay in the NICU, which we found out costs more per day that we’d ever paid for a vacation. Needless to say, money was tight for a while as we worked to find a job and pay off bills. At the same time, I was recovering from surgery and blood loss and eventually, he was eating solid foods but we both needed to focus on really nourishing foods. Even during this time, our family ate a real food diet that we managed to afford by very careful budgeting and meal planning.
2. Eat Real Food
Consuming a nutrient dense real-food diet is vital for so many aspects of health, but it also takes some advance planning. Meal Planning lets you decide before you ever go to the grocery store what healthy meals your family is going to eat during a given week so that you can only purchase healthy foods and know that you will use them. If you’re switching to a healthier diet, meal planning is especially important to help you stick to it while you learn the ropes.
3. Don’t Waste Food
One of my biggest pet peeves is finding a container of food in the back of the fridge and realizing that the contents resemble a science experiment more than they do food. We focus on a healthy real-food lifestyle and part of that is being a good steward of the resources we have. With meal planning, I know how we are going to use all of the food for that week before I even go to the store to buy it. I have a weekly game plan that even takes leftovers in to account so that food is rarely wasted.
4. Less Stress
Stress is bad. I realized that a major source of stress for me was realizing at 4pm that the kids would be hungry soon and that nothing was planned or defrosted for dinner. Just the general “what am I going to cook tonight” that was always in the back of my mind was taking up mental energy that I needed to use in better ways (like parenting five children). Just as with anything, having a written plan takes the uncertainty and stress out of the situation and I was surprised how much it reduced my stress just to have a plan and know what and when I would be cooking.
See my weekly template below that I use for stress-free meal planning.
5. Save Time
Another great benefit of meal planning is the time it saves. Planning ahead allows me to cook things in bulk and freeze for a future meal or make extra of a protein to use in a quick meal later in the week. In the winter, I cook a lot of slow-cooker meals and pre-make many of these to keep in the freezer so that I can just stick one in the crock-pot and go in the morning on busy days.
6. Add Variety
It may seem that meal planning is rigid and boring, but statistically, families are more likely to eat the same meals over and over if they don’t meal plan. Meal planning allows you to ensure variety and avoid falling in to the trap of eating the same five meals over and over.