Meal planning can feel like a lot of extra, unnecessary work… another task to add to your never ending to do list. And with all those quick and easy meal options out there (fast food, take-out, frozen meals), it can be difficult to convince ourselves to take on the weekly time commitment.
We get it—you’re busy. But what if a little bit of extra work up front saved you a ton of time and stress later? Not to mention it’s an easy way to eat clean, save money, and keep the extra pounds off. And say bye-bye to all those last-minute runs to the grocery store!
To your health!
This one might sound like a no-brainer. We’re no stranger to the ill effects of fast food. But what might not be as obvious is HOW easy it is to eat clean once you start planning out all your meals in advance.
Think about it: Meal planning puts you in control of what you are putting in your body. You have the freedom to read labels to your heart’s content, and you can opt for locally produced, unprocessed foods more often than not. Eating clean takes a little bit more work—not a simple thing to do if you’re just winging it every night! But if you make the effort to meal plan at the beginning of each week, you can choose quick and easy recipes that have you cooking with a variety of whole foods.
To your budget!
Meal planning on the regular makes us hyper aware of what foods we already have and what we absolutely need. So start by exploring the back of your cupboards and the bottom of your fridge. If you have older veggies that need to be used up or frozen meats you keep forgetting about, base your meals around those items. Not only is this a huge money saver, it reduces waste and is a great way to come up with ideas for meals. Once you’ve gone through your cupboards, browse through your local supermarket’s flyer to see how the current sale items might fit into the meals you’ve dreamed up for the week.
Another way to save is to double the recipes so that you have enough leftovers for you (and your family) members to eat for lunch the next day. You could also opt to freeze portions for future meals.
Pro Tip! Don’t step foot into the grocery store until you’ve raided your kitchen. Why? Because knowing what you have (and need) will help you resist expensive impulse purchases.
To your waistline!
Meal planning means you have complete control over how much you eat because you’re the one doing the cooking! It’s no secret that restaurant portions are getting larger and larger every year. And so is the obesity epidemic. Not to fear – meal planning helps reduce the number of calories we consume. Think about it: You are plating your own meals, so you can keep your serving size (and resulting calories) in check. If your eyes are bigger than your stomach, simply use a smaller plate at mealtime.
Another trick to cutting calories is to follow the ideal food ratio when serving. Did you know that fruits and veggies should make up 50% of your plate? Sorry, carnivores, but only one quarter of the plate is reserved for your higher calorie meats. And the remainder of the plate should be saved for your grains. Keeping this ration in mind when you meal plan is a great way to ensure you are preparing healthy, balanced meals. And it’s a good way to eat less without counting calories.
When it comes to meal planning, the pros certainly outweigh the cons. You’ll eat better while spending less. What’s not to love? So do yourself a favour and start planning your meals for the week. Your body (and your budget) will thank you.
Need help figuring this out? Find a Nutritionist near you to help you with your meal plan + your shopping list!