Meal planning is the simple act of taking some time to plan any number of your meals for the week. Plan for yourself or plan for your family. Plan to eat healthy, and plan a night out. Plan every snack and meal, or simply plan your lunches so you don’t spend money on restaurant food during the week. It doesn’t really matter what you plan, as long as you thought about it. The goal is not to start from zero for every single meal. There are a lot of reasons why I think meal planning and meal prepping rock, but I think they all fit into three main categories. Here’s the Importance of Meal Planning: 3 Reasons to Meal Plan Weekly (according to me).
This reason is the most appealing to me. I love saving time. Some people need to save more time than others. Everyone is different, and everyone’s needs are different. Identify where you need a time-saver, and plan your meals to save yourself the time you need. Pick your busy days, and make those meals the most simple or prepared ahead to help you later.
- Breakfast: I’m not a morning person, at all. Breakfast used to always be the first thing to go if I woke up late or just took too long getting ready. So I learned that I needed to prep a breakfast ahead of time that was as simple as popping it in the microwave or toaster oven. If I planned ahead of time, there was some quick breakfast ready for me.
- Lunch: My lunch break always seemed to last a lot longer if I didn’t have to run out and get some food during the first half. Weird, huh? Lunch prep is best prep!
- Dinner: If you planned ahead, you already know what’s for dinner, and you probably already have the ingredients for it. I’m on a mission to turn the classic “what’s for dinner?” question into “how can we prep for dinner?” and “will there be leftovers?”
I’m obviously no health expert. But, here are my general ideas about why meal planning is healthier for you than not meal planning. Remember, what I said about time also applies here – Everyone is different, and everyone’s needs are different. But when you plan ahead, you can make smart choices related to your personal health and fitness needs. That’s why the Project Meal Plan meal plans exist simply to provide examples of how a single person meal plans based on their own preferences and needs. It can be done!
Here are some other nuggets of insight on the importance of meal planning related to health:
- Eating the right amount. I’ve sort of always done this thing where if it’s on my plate, I am going to eat it. And sometimes if you’re feeling excessively hungry, way too happy to be eating, or just using a different sized spoon, you can get totally varying/random portion sizes on the plate. Planning and pre-portioning your food can ensure your hard work makes it to all 4 portions, instead of only 2.75 (oops!).
- Staying accountable to past you. If you already made the food and pre-portioned it into perfect bowls with future you in mind, you’re really kicking past you in the butt if you don’t eat it. Planning and prepping your meals provides a little more incentive to eat the healthy things you’ve already planned out and cooked.
- More control over your choices. If you know you have a dinner event or work lunch out, you can simply plan around it. Eat lighter in the rest of the day so you can indulge later. Or don’t indulge, just plan. Either way, planning out your choices ahead of time means you are more likely to stick with the healthy choices you already made.
When you plan and cook your own meals, you are most likely saving money when compared to purchasing the same type of meal in a restaurant. I haven’t scientifically tested that theory, but I’m going to go ahead and make that bold assumption based on my years of eating experience (both cooking my own food and eating out).
Lastly, planning your meals can help reduce food waste. While it might be nearly impossible to go 100% waste free, some simple planning techniques can help dramatically reduce your food waste. For example, if one of my casseroles requires some baby spinach, I’ll also try to plan lunches or smoothies for the week that require baby spinach. Simply eating leftovers or planning a day to eat leftovers is a good practice to reduce food waste (and therefore save you money!).