Meal planning is different than meal prepping….try not to confuse the two. Meal planning is simply the act of planning what meals you’re going to prepare for the week ahead. Meal prepping, on the other hand, is the act of actually putting those meals together and freezing them so you don’t have to cook all week. See the difference? I don’t generally meal prep because I don’t like wasting food. It never fails, as soon as I’ve prepped my meals, I’m not in the mood for what I’ve prepped and I end up throwing it in the trash. Now that I’ve filled you in on the difference, it’s time to dive into the three benefits of meal planning.
Who doesn’t want to save time when it’s such a precious commodity?! I’m all about saving myself as much time as I possibly can! I sit down each week, usually on Saturday, and plan out our meals ahead of time. I make my grocery list based on the meals we’re having, adding the staples, of course, and head out to the grocery store.
How does this save time? I don’t have to think about dinner for the next week. All I have to do is take out the meat so it thaws and cook it. I’m not trying to figure out dinner every day and then have someone tell me they’re not in the mood for whatever I’ve taken out to cook. It also saves time in the grocery store because I know exactly what I need to buy. If I don’t need anything on an aisle, I don’t go down that aisle! My goal is to get in, get what I gotta get, and get out.
Because my list is specific to dinners for the next week, I don’t buy stuff I don’t need, which means I’m saving money! I only buy enough to get us through that meal plan (ok, maybe some extra snacks for the kid) so I’m not totally shocked when I get through self-checkout and see the total. Meal planning also saves me money because we’re not ordering out because no one could decide or agree on what to have for dinner.
When you plan your meals ahead of time, you know exactly what you’re making so you can make a healthier version. There’s no guessing as to what’s in the dish because you made it yourself. For example, last night we tried a Pinterest pesto chicken crock pot recipe. Only the chicken and pesto had to cook in the crock pot and I can eat that. However, it calls for cooked pasta to be added at the end. Well, I cooked regular pasta for the guys and whole grain pasta for myself. I know exactly what was in my dinner last night because I measured it and made it.
Meal planning also gives you the added benefit of being able to make dishes healthier for you. If your family loves a certain dish and it’s always on your menu, take some time to research ways you can make it better for you. I bet you could make it healthier and your family wouldn’t even notice! I get the whole family involved in meal planning because they eat here, too.
Do you want to start meal planning but don’t know where to start? My weekly meal planner printable will help you get started. On the left are the days of the week for you to write down your menu. The right is a shopping list; only use this list for the items you need to complete your meal plan first, then add everything else you may need. I keep this in my Filofax and take it with me when I head out to the grocery store. It’s a great way to get started and help keep you going.
I don’t follow this plan to the letter; sometimes I jump around depending on everyone’s mood but we always eat meals that have been planned ahead of time. Enter your email address below to download this free weekly meal planner today!