The benefits of meal planning extend to so many different areas of your life. So, if you’re not planning your meals ahead of time, now is the time to start!
You may think meal planning takes a lot of effort and isn’t worth your time, but meal planning doesn’t have to be rigid, boring, or time-consuming. Its many benefits make it a worthwhile consideration for anyone wanting to improve their time management, spending habits, or health.
Why should you meal plan?
Here are the top 15 reasons why you should stop wingin’ it in the kitchen and start meal planning today.
1. Meal Planning Saves You Money
One of the most enticing benefits of meal planning is what it can do for your bank account.
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the average American spends approximately $3,000 per year dining out.
So, to put it simply, if you frequently dine at restaurants, you’re spending way more cash than you would if you planned your meals and cooked them at home instead.
In my own life, and this is a little embarrassing, meal planning saves our family closer to $6,000 per year. (I’m not joking!)
I mean, when you consider that you could have made the same $12 sandwich you bought for a lunch for about $4 at home, you realize how much of a benefit meal planning can have on your finances!
Of course, you can still plan to eat out on occasion, but making those decisions ahead of time will help you greatly cut costs and keep better track of your spending.
Seriously, I challenge you to give it a try and see how much you save over the course of the next week!
2. It Can Help You Reach Health Goals
When you create a plan for what you’re going to eat ahead of time, you’re more likely to make healthier choices.
This is because you’ll be giving yourself the time and space to be intentional about your meals.
As opposed to waiting until you’re hungry and ready to eat whatever happens to be in front of you, you’ll be prepared with healthy options.
Also, the meals you plan and prepare for yourself at home tend to be much healthier than restaurant menu items.
You can create a meal plan for yourself that incorporates healthy breakfasts, lunches, dinners, and snacks.
Then, all you have to do is stick to your plan.
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3. Meal Planning Reduces Arguments
If you cook for your family, everyone probably has their own opinions about what they want to eat on any given night.
This can quickly lead to arguments and temper tantrums about what’s for dinner.
After all, you don’t have the time to cook a different meal for everyone in your household.
One of the added benefits of meal planning is that it gives you the opportunity to loop in your family and make sure everyone is on the same page. Each person can vocalize what they would like to eat throughout the week, and you can come to an understanding ahead of time.
This way, come Tuesday night when you’re dishing up some fish tacos, the whole family will be expecting it, and there will be less arguing.
4. Meal Planning Adds Variety To Your Diet
Are you stuck in a food rut feeling unsure of what meals to make for yourself?
Meal planning can expose you to new meal ideas and add a ton of variety to your weekly eats.
Oftentimes, people get into the habit of eating the same few meals, and this can be both boring and detrimental to your health.
After all, eating a varied diet with a diverse range of fruits and vegetables is important to make sure you’re getting a variety of micronutrients.
An additional benefit of meal planning is that it allows you to be intentional about adding a variety of different foods to your diet.
As you look online for different meals to prepare, you’ll probably come across some fun new recipes to try, putting an end to your meal monotony.
5. Meal Planning Saves Time
If you’re a busy working professional, a parent, or both, you know how difficult it can be to take the time out of your day to cook.
I mean, at the end of a busy day, the last thing you want to do is to come up with a meal idea and spend your free time cooking it.
That’s where meal planning comes in.
Even if you don’t necessarily prepare your meals ahead of time, having a plan for what you’re going to make each day of the week can help cut down on the time it takes to make your meals.
You won’t have to stand in front of your open fridge trying to figure out how to turn your ingredients into something delicious. Rather, you’ll already know exactly what to cook, and all you’ll have to do is follow through.
6. It Gives You More Control
A major advantage of meal planning is that it puts you in control of the food you eat.
Instead of letting whims, cravings, and restaurant chefs decide what to put in your body, you get to be in charge.
Meal planning empowers you to make better decisions about what you choose eat.
7. Planning Your Meals Decreases Food Waste
Sometimes when you grocery shop, you may end up with way more food than you can actually eat. This leads to fruits and vegetables going bad before you get the chance to use them.
Don’t let food go to waste!
Meal planning takes almost all the guesswork out of what you need and how much to buy.
You’ll know exactly which ingredients you need to make your meals, and you’ll also be more likely to utilize food you already have on hand.
This will lead to fewer trips to the grocery store and less waste in your trash bin.
8. It Prevents Decision Fatigue
You’re constantly making decisions throughout the entire day, and after a while, your decision-making abilities start to decline.
Meal planning removes decisions about what you’re going to eat throughout the day, saving your decision-making power for more important areas of your life.
You won’t have to shift gears from thinking about solving problems at work to wondering what you’re going to eat to satisfy your grumbling stomach.
This makes you more efficient and better able to focus on tasks at hand.
You’ll already have a plan in place, so you won’t have to divert any of your valuable attention toward figuring out your meals.
9. Meal Planning Reduces Stress
For many people, having to come up with meals on the spot can be a huge added source of stress. After you’ve finished up a busy day, it can often feel like you’re on second shift when you come home and have to cook for yourself or your family.
Meal planning reduces the time and effort that goes into preparing your meals throughout the week, thereby reducing the stress that comes with it.
You won’t feel overwhelmed by all of the choices you have for meals to make because you’ll already know exactly what to cook.
Having a plan reduces the stress you feel in the kitchen and frees you up to focus on being present with the people around you.
10. It Can Help You Manage Portion Sizes
If managing portion sizes is your goal, meal planning is one of the best ways to ensure you stay on track.
Even when you order something healthy at a restaurant, many restaurants serve enormous portions that you would never ordinarily prepare for yourself.
When you plan your meals ahead of time, you get to decide how much you want to eat.
Instead of having a tempting plate that’s full to the brim, you’ll have a portion that’s just right for you. You won’t be tempted to overeat which will make you feel healthier and less weighed down.
11. It Encourages Healthier Choices
One benefit of meal planning is that it helps combat urges to eat food that is less healthy for you. Oftentimes, when you’re really hungry, you’ll grab the most calorically dense form of energy you can find. This usually comes in the form of convenient foods like energy bars or fast food.
And let’s be honest, good food choices are rarely made in haste.
When you give yourself the proper time to decide what you want to eat, you’re more likely to choose foods that are healthy for you. The result is that you’ll feel better about your food choices because you made them intentionally rather than giving into a quick craving.
When you stop and think about the meals you want to include in your week, you’re more likely to include at least a few healthy choices on your menu.
12. Meal Planning Provides More Balance
As you become more intentional about your food choices, you’ll discover more flexibility and balance in your week.
For instance, maybe you’re used to eating carb-filled meals like pasta and ramen most nights because you haven’t been in the habit of meal planning.
Well, as you plan out your meals, you can be sure to include main dishes and sides that are more balanced.
That said, every meal you plan doesn’t have to be the healthiest thing you’ve ever made. You can include foods that are hardy and satisfying to you so you don’t risk getting bored of your plan halfway through the week.
Sustaining healthy eating habits is all about incorporating balance, and meal planning will help you get there.
13. It Helps You Eat Seasonally
While most restaurants have set menus year-round, meal planning gives you the opportunity to incorporate seasonal ingredients into your cooking. Eating seasonally has many benefits for your health, and it ensures your produce is always fresh.
Sitting down before the start of a busy week to decide what you’re going to eat can teach you more about what foods are in season and how to cook with them.
As you peruse Pinterest boards and see simple summer squash or winter stew recipes, you’ll be encouraged to try these new meals that include seasonal fruits and veggies.
Seasonal items also tend to be more cost effective, so creating a meal plan based on the current season will likely save you money.
14. It Helps You Establish Food Awareness
Many of us go throughout our busy lives eating on autopilot. We don’t prioritize our relationships with food or take the time to slow down and listen to our bodies.
However, meal planning forces you to think about your taste preferences and what you enjoy eating. Additionally, meal planning helps you discover the foods that make your body feel and function its best, thus, improving other areas of your life.
When you’re not so caught up in making decisions about what to eat, you have the opportunity to contemplate how different foods make you feel and how your body reacts to them.
This new awareness can help you make decisions that improve your overall health and well-being.
15. Meal Planning Gives You Freedom
Finally, one of the best benefits of meal planning is that it gives you freedom and flexibility. While this may seem counterintuitive, having a meal plan frees you up to think about other important areas of your life.
There will no longer be a constant, nagging worry in the back of your mind about what you’re going to eat during your next meal. You’ll have already taken care of it! And you’ll have created a plan that makes your wallet, your body, and your schedule happy.
Meal planning doesn’t take away your ability to be spontaneous and to go out to eat with friends when you want to. It simply encourages you to be intentional and mindful about doing so.
So, what are your favorite benefits of meal planning? Be sure to comment below.