Whether you are on a mission to eat healthier, spend less on groceries, or save time throughout the day, meal planning and prepping may just be the solution you didn’t know you were looking for.
We know, the thought of planning or preparing all your meals in advance can sound daunting, but we want to reassure you that it’s not as difficult as it may seem. It may actually be the tool that will help you reach your health goals this year, and all the time it will save you means you will be able to focus more on your other goals, whatever those may be.
Meal Planning and Prepping Basics
Let’s start with the basics: the difference between meal planning and meal prepping, because, although they sound similar and may overlap some, they are two different activities.
In the simplest terms, meal planning is just what it sounds like, creating a plan for the meals you are going to have for a given time period. This could look like only planning your dinners for the coming week or it can involve planning all of your meals for the coming month, or even something in between. No matter how you choose to go about it, meal planning helps you identify what meals you are having ahead of time so that you can ensure they are healthy, budget-friendly, and fit your schedule.
On the other hand, meal prepping takes meal planning a step further and involves chopping, cooking, packing, and storing your meals ahead of time. This can be done in a variety of ways. Most of us think of meal planning as completely cooking a meal and separating it into smaller containers so we can have that same meal each day of the week; however, it doesn’t have to look like that. Meal prepping can be as simple as pre-washing and chopping the vegetables for the meals you have planned for the week so you don’t have to take the extra time to do it the day of. No matter how you choose to go about meal prepping, know that the time you choose to dedicate to it upfront will ultimately save you even more time and money in the future. This makes it especially great for those with busy schedules because prepping food items in advance not only saves you time but also gives you no excuse to not follow through with the healthy meal plan you created.
It is important to note that you do not have to choose one over the other—it is more of a scale that you can consider and even blend to find a method that works for you. No matter what your meal planning and prepping situation looks like, the important thing is that you find something that works for you and your family.
The Benefits Of Planning And Prepping
We’ve already briefly touched on a few of the benefits of making meal planning or preparing a part of your regular routine, but we’re sure you’re curious about how exactly these simple habits can impact your life, so let’s take a look at a few of the benefits.
It’s Cost Effective
No matter your budget, it never hurts to save a few cents, especially when it comes to groceries, and planning your meals in advance is a great way to do just that. By knowing what meals you are going to cook before you head to the store, you will know exactly what ingredients you need to buy. This means you’re much less likely to buy ingredients that will expire before you get to them because you ended up not using them in any of your dinners last week. Additionally, having your meals planned out in advance and knowing you have all the ingredients at home to make them, will reduce your chances of eating out or ordering in at the last minute because you don’t have anything to fix for dinner, which will ultimately save you a little money as well.
It Saves You Time
When you have a meal plan or prepped meals in your freezer, you will spend less time cooking or figuring out what to eat. You will quickly realize that having at least a weekly plan in place will free up more of your time than you expected, leaving you available to participate in other activities or spend more quality time with your loved ones.
It Helps Reduce Food Waste
When you plan and prepare your meals in advance, you are naturally going to be able to reduce the amount of food you waste as well, which is great for your wallet and the environment! Knowing what you are going to eat and when allows you to only purchase the ingredients you need in a single week. This will help you avoid buying too much fresh produce that will ultimately go bad before you get around to using it. Additionally, planning your meals ahead of time allows you to coordinate your ingredients list for the week. If you have one meal that you know only uses half of an ingredient that expires, then you can plan another meal for later that week that will use up that ingredient before it goes bad. Being prepared ahead of time is one of the simplest and most effective ways to reduce the amount of food that goes to waste in your house.
When you are planning your meals, you can involve your family or partner and make it a great activity to bond over. Everyone will share their input and help you settle on a proper meal plan. If you are making your own meal plan, you can spend some time browsing for inspiration online so you have fresh ideas when you make the plan for the coming week. When it comes to food prepping, everyone can chip in and have a fun time cooking and packing away the ready meals. You can also turn on some music, a podcast, or your favorite TV show to make the experience both productive and enjoyable.
It’s Less Stressful
For many of us, the end of the work day means we have to make a decision about what we are having for dinner, and the sound of the alarm in the morning can be a reminder that we need to pick something to eat for breakfast. Either way, having to constantly think about and make these kinds of decisions throughout the day can contribute to feelings of stress and decision fatigue. By taking a little time each weekend to plan ahead and do a little food prep, you will take these decisions off your mind, relieving a little stress and giving you a little back in your day to spend doing something you enjoy.
While all of these benefits are great, the most important reason that many of us start meal planning and prepping is that it helps us stick to a healthier diet. Spending dedicated time creating your plan in advance allows you to make sure you are choosing meals and ingredients that align with your health goals, and having things ready for you when you get home from work makes it much more likely that you will stick to the plan you laid out. Making your meals healthy and convenient with meal planning and prepping habits is an easy way to support your health in the long run.
Meal Planning And Prepping Tips
Ready to make meal planning and prepping a regular part of your routine but not sure where to start? Here are some of our favorite tips to help you out.
- Make Weekly Plans. Start small and prep or plan your meals one week at a time. Sit down with your calendar on Saturday or Sunday and plan out a single week of meals for you and your family. Then use that plan to make your ingredient list before you head out for your weekly shopping trip. If you prefer to shop less frequently, then simply plan your meals for that time period so you have a complete list when you head to the store.
- Chop Up Your Ingredients. Meals on the go or quick meals make prepping and planning so much fun and can save you quite a bit of time. Try to chop up your fruits and vegetables and safely store them in your refrigerator. That way, when it comes time to cook, you don’t have to worry about chopping up your ingredients because everything is ready to go.
- Try Batch Cooking. This is a form of meal prepping that involves making large amounts of dishes that you can split and store part of for another day. This is most often done by making a double batch of things like soups or stews, which can then easily be split in half and frozen for later use. Making one large batch in this way can save quite a bit of time and energy.
- Keep it Simple. If your main goal is to save time and energy, then make sure you stick to simple, easy meals that can be put together quickly. Meals made in a slow cooker, instant pot, or a single pot on the stove make great weeknight additions to your meal plan because they are simple and easy to execute. By combining these meals with a habit like pre-chopping ingredients, weeknight meals will become a breeze, which will make it even easier to stick to your meal plan as time goes on.
Live the #NewEarthLife
You’re worth the effort. You deserve a healthy and happy life. You deserve to live the #NewEarthLife. Meal prepping and planning will have you feeling stronger, healthier, and more accomplished each meal time, we promise. So go ahead. Give it a try and see the difference for yourself.
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