Tired of hearing, “What’s for dinner?” every night? Making too many trips to the grocery store—or worse, spending money on dining out or ordering in too often?
Join the club. Meal planning takes time and attention that many of us neglect. But taking the time at the beginning of each week to sketch out what every meal looks like and buy the ingredients to make it all possible will ensure that you’re able to make healthy, cost-conscious decisions all week long.
Picking your meals for the week means you can choose the ingredients that are good for you. Be sure you add healthy snacks into your plan—celery and peanut butter, nuts, and Greek yogurt are all easy to grab during the day and better for you than most vending machine options.
Waste Less Food
Running out of food isn’t the only problem with skipping meal planning. Buying too much food causes massive amounts of food waste. In the United States, food waste is around 35% of food supply. Throwing out groceries at the end of the week wastes resources, money, and hurts the environment. Plan what you’re going to eat, and you’ll be able to use all the food you buy.
While it takes time to map out meals for the week, this practice will eventually save you time. Knowing exactly what to cook for dinner eliminates the back and forth of deciding what to eat—and when it’s time to prepare it, you won’t need to rush out for missing ingredients. Consider planning your meals and shopping in the evening—or beating the crowds by going early Saturday morning. It’s another great way to save time.
Planning for your meals means planning for leftovers. Look for ways to reuse ingredients throughout the week to stretch your budget. Leftover spinach can be added to an omelet—or use rice for burritos and paired with vegetables. Or try making a bigger batch for dinner that can be added to lunch the next day. Chances are you’ll end up cooking—and wasting—a lot less.
Pick Good Recipes
The most crucial part of meal planning is to pick recipes you actually want to eat. Instead of trying all new meals, start with the basics your family already loves. Once you feel more confident with meal planning, add new recipes in the mix and see what sticks.
Plan to Cheat
It’s unrealistic to plan to cook from scratch every single night. Build in a few days to order takeout to give yourself a break and stress less. If you want to make a pizza with the kids on Friday night, that’s great! Just have the ingredients and plan to make it happen.
Getting started can be the hardest part. Try meal planning to save you time, money, and energy, all while incorporating healthy choices into your menu. And if you’re still struggling to create healthy meals, read here for ways to include veggies in your diet!