Meal planning means planning your meals days or weeks in advance.
It can feel like just another task to do, and it can seem daunting or overwhelming to get started.
However, it comes with a lot of benefits, and it’s a great idea to take time to plan your meals ahead of time for a lot of reasons.
In this post, I’m sharing why it’s beneficial, as well as tips on how to effectively plan your meals ahead of time and stick to the meal plan.
How To Plan Your Meals Ahead Of Time
Look at your day as a whole
The great thing about meal planning is the fact that you can look at your day as a whole when coming up with meal ideas. You can figure out if the meals are balanced when looking at the whole day of eating, not just the meal itself.
Make sure you’re getting enough nutrients, you’re using all food groups, the meals aren’t too heavy or too light, and they work well together.
Think about the nutrients
One of the most important things when it comes to healthy meal planning, is making sure you’re getting enough nutrients every day. If the meal you plan for lunch doesn’t have too many nutrients, try to include more of them in breakfast and dinner.
Use lots of fruit and vegetables in your meals – try to include them in every meal, in fact.
Some great and quick lunch or dinner ideas that include veggies would be a stir fry, a stew, a soup, a salad, etc. Make sure your food choices help your health.
Schedule a grocery shopping day
Another great thing about planning your meals for the week is that it makes creating a grocery list easier. Since you’ll know exactly what you’ll be eating, you’ll know everything you need to get when you go to the grocery store.
Not just what, but how much as well.
Once you decide on your meals, go through each meal, and write down the quantity of each ingredient that’s needed.
Then, look if you have any of the ingredients in your home already, and write down everything that you need to get at the grocery store.
It will help you save time in the grocery store, and it’s also great for saving money, as you’ll only be getting the ingredients you actually need.
Check your fridge, pantry, and freezer
When you’re making a plan for the meals you’ll be making, check your fridge, pantry, and freezer. You might have some ingredients that are about to go bad, so make sure you use them as soon as possible, to reduce food waste and save money.
Think about leftovers
Leftovers are great! They can be eaten the next day, or even turned into new meals.
So, when you’re creating your meal plan, think about the portion of each meal. Do you want to make more one day, so you can eat the same thing the next day or turn it into a new meal?
Work that into the plan, it will be helpful to know in advance.
Prepare the recipes
If you plan on creating some dishes you haven’t made before and you think you’ll need to follow a recipe, find the recipes in advance. It will help speed things up every day, so you don’t have to spend time searching for recipes before cooking each meal.
If you’re writing your meal plan on your computer, tablet, or phone, put a link to the recipe next to the meal, or write where you can find it (if it’s not online). If you’re writing your meal plan on a piece of paper or in a notebook, write down where the recipe is – on which website, in which cookbook, etc.
Use similar ingredients for a few days
When coming up with the meals, take into consideration the ingredients you’ll be using. It would be a great idea to use similar ingredients for a few days, so you don’t have to buy too many different ingredients when grocery shopping.
You can come up with different recipes that have a few similar ingredients, which will help save you money in the grocery store, and it will make your shopping list a bit shorter.
Think about portion control and portion sizes
Portion control is very important when it comes to healthy eating, so try to think about portions when you’re developing your meals. Take into consideration the number of people you’ll be cooking for, and get the appropriate quantity of those ingredients.
Try meal prep
Meal prepping is preparing your dishes, or parts of your dishes, in advance.
It works with meal planning so well! First, you develop a meal plan. Then, you prepare some meals or ingredients in advance, so you can just heat them up throughout the week, or save time when cooking certain ingredients.
Choose a day for meal prepping – most people choose Sunday. Then, for example, if you need grilled chicken for lunch for both Monday and Tuesday, prepare it in advance and put it in the fridge.
That way, when it comes down to cooking on those days, you’ll already have a part of the meal ready, which will make things much faster.
Or, you can even prepare whole meals in advance, and put them in the fridge or in the freezer, depending on when you’ll be eating them.
Meal prepping is really a great way to save money, save time, and help yourself. It especially comes in handy for days when you’re super busy and don’t have much time to cook.
Take time into consideration
Take into consideration the time it takes to prepare each meal you plan, and then tweak your meal plan according to your errands or work. If you know you’ll be super busy on Wednesday, plan some quick meals to make.
Meal Planning Benefits
Now let’s look at the benefits of meal planning.
It saves time
Meal planning will save you a lot of time, as you won’t have to come up with meal ideas every day, you’ll know exactly what you’ll be getting at the grocery store so you don’t have to wander around, and you can even do meal prep with ease.
It saves money
If you want to save some money, meal planning is great for that as well. It will help you utilize leftovers, use similar ingredients in a week so you’re not getting too many different ingredients, and you can take your budget into
consideration when looking at a whole week’s worth of meals.
It minimizes food waste
Another great benefit of meal planning is that it minimizes food waste. How? Well, first of all, you’ll know what you need from the grocery store, so you won’t end up getting things you don’t use in the end. It will also help you utilize leftovers, which further minimizes food waste. Finally, it will help you know the exact quantity of each ingredient you need, so you don’t waste any of it.
You’ll be eating home-cooked meals more
When you do meal planning, you’ll cook your meals at home, and we all know that there are so many benefits of eating home-cooked meals. You’ll eat less fast food, your meals will be healthier, you’ll take your budget into consideration, etc.
It can help you with your weight goals
Whether your goals are to lose weight, gain weight, or maintain weight, meal planning can help you create your meal plan based on your specific goal.
It helps with healthy eating
An obvious, but very important benefit of meal planning is that it helps with healthy eating. You can make sure you have a healthy diet.
You’ll eat a variety of foods
We all have days when we’re super busy, don’t have time to come up with meals, and end up eating the same thing every day. Meal planning will help you eat a variety of foods and not have to eat the same thing every day.
It reduces stress
If you’re super busy, it can be stressful to have to think about what to cook three times every day, make time for last-minute grocery shopping because you realize you don’t have the ingredients for the meal you just came up with, etc. Meal planning will help reduce that stress.