Why Meal Plan?
I'm a very busy person, but I still plan out my meals for the week. Why? Because it makes me feel organized and in control of my time and food choices. Planning your weekly meal prep also helps you get to know yourself better through experimentation (i.e., trying new foods), which is just another benefit of planning your meals.
I used to think that meal planning was a chore. But then I found out it's not as bad as I thought. Once you get into the habit of doing it, it'll be second nature, and you won't even have to think about what is for dinner when you're sitting at home after a long day. It doesn't take much time either if you plan and do all your shopping on one day or during one trip to the store!
Planning out your meals for the week not only saves you time and money but can also help you save money, eat healthier meals, and help you be more creative using leftovers
Before I got into the habit of planning out my meals, it was a chore to think about what I might want to eat for the week. I would spend hours per week searching for great recipes and preparing my weekly grocery list.
I kid you not; it would take me at least two hours per week just to find that perfect recipe for that evening's recipe and to double-check the pantry before I ran to the grocery store to pick up the ingredients for the meal.
I was spending a TON of time every week researching my recipes and collating my grocery list - and this doesn't even count the time driving to the grocery store and shopping itself.
After I started planning out my weekly meals, I was able to cut down how much time it took to develop my grocery list, and I was making only one trip to the grocery store instead of running out every other day to pick up odds and ends.
Before I started planning out my meals, I would often end up ordering takeout when I got home from work. I failed to plan my meals, so I planned to order takeout. While this makes it very easy to get dinner on the table without any muss or fuss. It is very hard on the checking account.
I spent more than $100 per week (including tips, delivery, and membership fees) for takeout that was neither very good nor healthy.
When I started to plan out my meals, and I started slowly, I could skip the takeout app at least once or twice a week - and what had been a common occurrence now was a treat.
I won't say that I saved a ton of money at the start - but after planning a few meals per week, I did discover that I was saving around $50 per week. While some of the money I was spending on takeaway had transferred into my grocery budget, I did net pretty significant cost savings.
Now that I am planning on average four meals per week, this is the sweet spot for me, I am saving over $50 per week, and as a bonus, I often have free and delicious lunch the next day.
Eat Healthier Meals
One of the most significant benefits of meal planning is that I gained control of my diet. I avoided the impulse of ordering egg rolls with my Chinese delivery or an extra portion of French fries with my double bacon cheeseburger.
I am not saying that I don't indulge in these comfort foods; trust me, I still do. But now I choose to make that choice. It is no longer a muscle memory, something that I just always did.
Planning out my meals, just a few dinners per week, mind you, allows me to make much healthier choices. For example, when I make my famous homemade general Tao chicken, I now have the option to serve it with brown rice, or even better stir-fried cauliflower rice.
When I was ordering takeout, I didn't have that choice - my options were most likely just a side of white rice.
With a proper meal plan, I can plan out when I am going to indulge and buffer out those meals with some healthier choices for the rest of the week.
Cook Once Eat Twice!
Before I started planning out my meals, each meal I cooked at home was an individual challenge. I couldn't think a step or two ahead and plan a meal that I could make around two recipes out of.
This notion of round two recipes was a marvel to me - when I discovered that I could make a massive batch of chili on Monday and then on Wednesday could make Chili Mac, it started saving me a ton of time and money. I avoided the urge to order take out, and I didn't need to go to the grocery store yet again.
Be Efficent In The Kitchen!
Another huge benefit of meal planning is that I finally took control of my time in the kitchen. Before I started planning out my meals, when I would cook my dinner, it was a huge time suck.
I would have to spend a ton of time just getting everything ready, and I would need to wash my veggies, slice, dice, chop everything up and then finally get to cooking that meal I wanted to eat.
With proper meal planning, I was able to see what I need to prep and plan for the entire week.
So instead of dicing a single onion, I started chopping onions for the week. The same went for a bunch of my other veggies.
With just an extra step at the start of the week, I cut out on average at least 10 minutes per cooking session.
Where I Am Today
If I look back to the time before I started planning my meals out for the week vs. where I am today, it is a night and day difference, where I was spending a ton of time and money ordering takeaway and planning that odd meal that I did cook at home.
Now I plan out my meals for the week in about 15-30 minutes and have my grocery list ready to go for a single trip to the grocery store.
To make things even easier, I use ConfidentKitchen.net every week to plan out my meals - with the creative meal ideas and ready-to-go shopping lists; I can plan out my meals in under 15 minutes per week. This website has helped me organize my life by literally doing all the hard work for me. I can print out grocery lists that are already organized into sections!