This is a guest post from Jennifer at Mindfulness Mama
I’ll admit it — when my friends used to post pics on social media of their weekend meal prep, I’d roll my eyes.
Even if I gave them a like out of friendship, I’d secretly think, “Yeah, I have better things to do on a Sunday than slave away in the kitchen.”
I was resistant to giving meal planning a try, so I was amazed when I finally gave it a go and found it really does make life easier.
You might be like I was, thinking that meal planning means sticking to a monastic dining routine that offers little leeway for individual palates or those hectic days when few feel like cooking.
However, it doesn’t need to take much time or cramp your eating style.
6 Ways Meal Planning Makes Your Life Easier
1. It helps you and your family get healthier
When you leave your meals up to chance, you’re at risk of falling victim to tiredness or laziness.
Everyone has heard the saying they should not grocery shop when hungry — fewer realize the same rule applies to hitting the drive-through when the mere thought of cooking proves exhausting.
Plan and shop for your meals when you’re rested and well fed, not famished. You’ll make much healthier choices overall than you would if you waited until the end of a busy day to think about dinner.
Plus, meal planning doesn’t mean giving up nutritious snacking — there’s still a time and place for pancake suppers or family pizza night.
2. It saves gas and curbs impulse spending
Failing to plan your meals means constantly running to the grocers when you’re short an ingredient or two for a dish you crave.
This wastes time and gas and means standing in line to boot.
Making a running list throughout the week of what you need, perhaps by hanging a whiteboard on the fridge, and checking it twice before heading out shopping results in extra time for more pleasant tasks and less stress.
3. It makes breakfast doable
People who regularly skip breakfast often weigh more and eat less healthfully overall than those who do, but rushing out the door leaves little time for whipping up bacon and eggs.
With a bit of weekend meal prep and a host of reusable containers in different sizes, you can create easy meals to grab on your way to work.
If you have little ones, you can ensure the kiddos have a good breakfast before school as well by prepping in advance. See my list of 24 Healthy Breakfast Recipes here to get inspired!
4. It makes busy day dinners simpler
When you’ve pulled overtime, grabbing a bag of chips for dinner sounds easier than lighting a single stove burner.
However, by planning in advance, your weekday meal prep can prove as simple as tossing precut ingredients in the pressure cooker and hitting a button.
Cut up veggies and prepare sides on the weekend, so everything is ready to go.
Create one-pot meals that stir-fry quickly on the stovetop or that you can pop in the oven like casseroles.
It’s easier to resist saying, “Sure, I’ll take fries with that,” when your pad smells like the luscious lasagna you prepped Sunday.
5. It allows you to explore new flavors
Even Food Network aficionados sometimes get stuck in dining ruts. Who among us hasn’t noshed solely on pasta for an entire week on occasion?
Meal planning, though, allows you to introduce new flavors to your palate as well as your family’s. For example, try pairing an exotic salad like Shieldzini with something your kids love, like baked “fried” chicken tenders.
You’ll encourage them to try something new while still providing a safe food they’re sure to dig in to.
6. It ensures you get a balance of nutrients
Meal planning allows you to combine foods of different colors.
Plants in vibrant hues contain various phytonutrients, and eating a variety ensures you get complete nutrition.
Plus, you can focus on adding more plant-based and lean proteins, such as spinach and salmon, to your diet to decrease your meat consumption. Eating less meat can reduce your risks of developing certain conditions, like heart disease.
Meal Planning Truly Makes Life Easier
Even though I was a skeptic, I have to admit — meal planning has simplified my life considerably. Plus, I sleep more soundly at night knowing my hubby and kiddos ate nutritious meals and not simply junk food all day.
I urge open-minded folks and naysayers alike to give meal planning a go for at least one week — the only thing you have to lose is wasted time and extra stress.
What about you? How have you incorporated meal planning into your schedule, or if you haven’t, then what’s stopping you? Share in the comments below!