I can’t believe that once upon a time I never thought about meal planning. However, once I had discovered just how much time and money it saves me, I never looked back.
Meal planning saves money
If you buy too much food on your grocery shop you can end up throwing some of it away. If you buy too little, you are likely to find yourself making extra trips to the shops. You might then be tempted by more items than you actually need while you are there. The times I have done this and come out with an armful of chocolate or crisps….no will power!
Meal planning helps you stick to your budget. If you have your whole week’s food planned (or even your whole month’s food for those of you who don’t mind deciding that far ahead) you are far less likely to give into fast food, a takeaway or convenience food on your way home from school or work.
Not that I am against convenience food per se. I work full time and will happily cut corners when I need to. I frequently stock up on items such as Bolognese or casserole sauces from Approved Food for those occasions when I have less time to cook. Then I make sure they get used by factoring them into my meal planning. (DISCLOSURE: this is my refer a friend link and if you click through to make a purchase I will earn a small commission.)
Meal planning saves time
If you buy all the food you and your family are going to need in one go that will clearly save time. You can do a weekly shop and cut out all the extra trips because you have run out of cheese, fruit or whatever.
You won’t be scratching your head when it comes to dinner time, trying to work out what to cook with some eggs and half a wilted cabbage. Your shopping list will be based on your plan and you will have all the ingredients you need for that day’s planned meals.
You can factor in events that mean you need to produce a meal quickly. You are working late, need to cart children to swimming lessons, have a parents evening, are off to the cinema, etc.
Meal planning helps prevent food waste
I hate wasting good food. You might as well be throwing your hard earned cash in the bin, as explained in this post. Meal planning means that you only buy what you will eat during the course of the week. You are therefore less likely to let perishables spoil. When you check your cupboards to start your meal plan you can see what you have and use it up. You will avoid buying duplicates too.
Meal planning encourages healthy eating
When I was trying to lose weight, meal planning was essential. I was on a low fat diet and counting calories at the time. Having all of the ingredients needed for each meal really helped me to stick with my eating plan.
However, you don’t need to be on a diet to find meal planning beneficial to your health. You can plan your nutritious meals for the week and be much less likely to splurge on fast food and take-aways. You can factor in some treats too. I actually think this is essential in order to stick to your plan and also your budget.
I always buy a bottle of wine, maybe a few crisps or nuts, some dark chocolate or maybe some of Aldi’s delicious but still healthy paleo bars. We also enjoy lots of fruit, rye crackers with cheese plus the odd biscuit to snack on. We are realistic! If I don’t buy a few treats we are much more likely to nip off to the corner shop and have a splurge! I do try to keep them pretty healthy though.
Where to start with meal planning
Begin by finding somewhere to write your plan. A chalk board or plain old piece of paper will do the job. Alternatively, you can download mine by clicking on the link below.
Next check to see what you already have and which items have the shortest dates. Plan those into the meals you are going to make early in the week. Make sure you look in your fridge, freezer and cupboards.
I keep a folder of meals that I have found in magazines or printed off the internet for inspiration. I have also started to save some interesting looking recipes on Pinterest. It is a good idea to keep a list of meals that you and your family enjoy to refer to when meal planning.
Think about the week ahead. What are you going to be doing each day? Are you out in the evening? When do you need something quick and convenient and when will you have more time? I tend to plan our evening meals but have just a rough idea for lunches. I keep a stock of items in for those – eggs, rolls, canned sardines and tuna, home made soups in the freezer, etc. You might prefer to be less fluid. I don’t bother planning for breakfast as it is nearly always porridge or toast.
Once you have planned your meals, you can write your shopping list.
So, these are the benefits of meal planning. It saves you time and money, prevents food waste and helps you to eat healthily. What are your tips for planning your meals?