3 Benefits of Meal Planning
If you are always having trouble figuring out what you and your family are going to eat each week then meal planning is something you need to incorporate into your life. Meal Planning has been a part of my weekly routine now for some time. But it hasn’t always been that way. Cooking was something I never liked to do and I still don’t, but meal planning helps. If you need help with how to meal plan for the week then keep reading.
Also, I just wanted to let you know this post contains affiliate links and any purchase made through these links will award me a small commission, at no extra cost to you.
What is meal planning?
Meal planning is basically figuring out what you and your family will be eating for a certain period of time. You can plan out what you want to eat for the week or for the month. I usually only plan for the week. It has been a tremendous help in my life and I’m sure it would be the same in yours as well.
What is the difference between Meal Planning vs Meal Prepping?
Actually, meal planning and meal prepping go hand and hand. Meal planning makes meal prepping easier and meal prepping makes your life easier. As mentioned earlier meal planning is figuring out what your eating. Meal prepping involves the preparation of the meals you planned, so it is the last step in the process of meal planning.
Meal prepping is not the same for everyone. For example, when I meal prep, I make all of my meals for the week on one day. From there I can portion the meals out for each day of the week and anything left over I can freeze. For some people meal prepping involves getting some ingredients ready for the meals you will be cooking later. For example, if you will be having rice in one of your meals you can make that ahead of time. If you need to make a pot of beans, bake some chicken, or make a sauce all of that can be done ahead of time and them stored in a storage container for later.
Benefits of Meal Planning
Meal Planning Saves Money
When you do meal planning you know what you will be cooking for the week, so that usually means you will be going to the grocery store once a week. Usually when you go to the grocery store less often you tend to spend less money. Planning out your meals ahead of time allows you to create a grocery list, so you are not in the grocery store grabbing random things that can substantially increase your grocery bill.
Also creating a meal plan for the week allows you to look for sales that the grocery store might have for the items on your list.
Meal Planning Saves times
We all have very busy lives and having to figure out what to eat every day can be a major waste of time. Meal planning saves you time because you are figuring everything out ahead of time, so you and your family are not asking what’s for dinner every day. You all will know what’s for dinner at the beginning of the week.
If you have ever had to cook every day or even every other day, meal planning will be perfect for you. Instead of cooking a whole meal every day you can either have a whole meal already cooked at the beginning of the week, or you can have the majority of the meal already prepped ahead of time. This saves you a lot of time, so you are not starting from scratch every time you have to cook. Because I meal prep at the beginning of the week I don’t have to cook at all during the week, which saves me a tremendous amount of time.
Meal planning helps weight loss
If you are on a weight loss journey then you know that eating healthy is a huge part of that journey. Eating healthy can be a challenge when you are not prepared. That is why creating a meal plan for the week is very important when it comes to weight loss. If you don’t plan your meals you will be more likely to eat out and make unhealthy choices. Trust me I know firsthand. Also, if you choose to prepare your meals ahead of time you will be able to portion them out correctly, which helps you avoid overeating.
How To Meal Plan For The Week?
1) Figure out how many meals you will be making for the week
Everybody has their own system for meal planning. If you have a family you will probably cook more often, so figuring out exactly how many different meals you will be making in a week is the first step in meal planning. I am ok with leftovers, so I cook once for the whole week. But that is not the right way for everybody, so figure out what will work for you.
2) Find recipes that you and your family like
Now that you know how many meals you need to make start searching for the types of recipes that you and your family like. Finding recipes that you really like is especially important if you will be cooking once for the whole week. You don’t want to cook something that is not good and have to eat that for the whole week. So, choose wisely and maybe create your own recipe or combination of foods.
3) Make a Grocery List
Once you figure out what you will be cooking make a grocery list for what you will need to buy for the week. If you are shopping on a budget it is important to stick to this list. It can be very tempting to buy extra things when you get in the store.
4) Pick one day to do your grocery shopping
Saturday or Sunday are usually the best days to go grocery shopping, so you will have everything for the rest of the week. If getting everything in one day is not possible then try to go no more than about twice a week in order to save money and avoid buying extra things that are not on your list.
5) Start the meal prepping process preferably on Sunday
If you are ok with having leftovers all week, like me, then you could cook everything on Sunday. If you will be cooking throughout the week this is a good time to prep some of the ingredients of the recipes. If a recipe has an ingredient or a part that can be prepared ahead of time, this would be the time to do that. This will make your life a lot easier.
How To Meal Plan For The Month?
Meal planning for a whole month is the same process you would use for the weekly process. The only thing that is different is that you will need to figure out your meals for four weeks instead of just one. So, each week when it comes time to go grocery shopping you will already know what you need to purchase.
One benefit of planning for the month is you can spread out some of the more expensive ingredients like spices and meat. If you know you will spend a lot less on groceries one week, you can add a spice to your list that week, even though you won’t need it until later on in the month, so the more expensive recipe will not pile up all on one week.
How to meal plan for a week on a budget?
1) Use What You Already Have
Try to incorporate recipes that include ingredients that you already have. People that cook often usually have common ingredients that are in many types of recipes. For example, spices last a while so try to find recipes that use the spices you already have instead of having to buy a bunch of spices for one recipe. If you already have chicken in the freezer find a recipe that uses chicken, so that will be one less thing to purchase.
2) Look For Sales
Another way to meal plan on a budget is to look for sales at the grocery store of your choice and find recipes that incorporate those items that are on sale. This requires a bit of extra work, but can really help you save money, especially when a higher priced item like meat goes on sale.
3) Eat Clean
Eating more whole foods and less meat can really help you save money. When I used to buy meat that would usually be the most expensive item on my grocery list. By cutting that out of my diet for the most part I was able to save a lot of money each week. Eating whole foods like fruits, vegetables, beans, and whole grains are usually not that expensive. Eating this way will also help you become healthier as well.
Tools You Can Use During Meal Planning
Meal Planner Printables
To get started planning out your meal plan it is a good idea to write everything out. I created an easy printable that allows you to plan out your meals as well as create your grocery list. It includes the following:
- An undated calendar for monthly meal planning
- A weekly meal planner with a grocery list
- Five of my quick go-to recipes to help get you started, when you don’t know what to cook
If this sounds like something you need check out my meal planner.
Pinterest is a tool I use often to search for recipe ideas. They have every recipe idea you can think of. They also have great ideas for budget friendly recipes as well. If you are not using Pinterest already then you definitely need to give it a try.
Food Storage Containers
When meal prepping it is important to have storage containers to store the food you prepared, Here are a few options you can choose from.
Rubbermaid is a plastic storage container option that I personally use. They come in many different sizes and they are all leakproof. I really like the lids because they provide an airtight closure. Another important feature is that they are BPA free, which is important when using a plastic storage container. These are microwave, dishwasher, and freezer safe.
Mighty Nest Glass Storage Containers
Glass storage containers are a great plastic free option for food storage. These are microwave, dishwasher, and freezer safe. These containers save a lot of storage space as well because they nest inside each other.
Silicone Food Container
Another plastic free option is this Minimal silicone storage container. It is freezer, dishwasher, microwave, and oven safe. Another great feature is this container is collapsible, so it can lay flat.
I hope these tips were useful in showing you how to meal plan for the week and even the month. Give it a try and see your life become a lot easier.