If you’re used to being spontaneous with your choice of meals, the idea of planning your meals for the week in advance might seem tedious and unappealing, but there are some definite advantages involved. Over a year ago, my husband and I got into meal planning and I must admit it rocks. Today, I want to convince you why it rocks. Here are 6 reasons why meal planning is a good idea:
1. You’ll save money
By working out your household’s meals in advance, you’ll save money in food costs which can help with paying off debt. Planning what you’ll eat means that you’re less likely to fall for impulse buys –as long as you stick to your list! When you’re putting together your shopping list, try to organize it in line with the layout of the shop. If you can just move from aisle to aisle getting what you need, you can bypass the tempting treats and speed through your shopping.
2. You’ll spend less time in the supermarket
Not only will you get through your food shopping trips much more quickly thanks to your strict list, you’ll also be making fewer trips in the first place. By buying only what you’ve deemed to be the essentials, you shouldn’t need to make subsequent trips for ‘top-up’ shopping as you’ll already have worked out what you need.
3. You’ll waste less food
Most people throw away a lot of food from the average weekly shop but this can be avoided through meal planning. Anything that is left over from one meal can be eaten for lunch or as a snack the next day.
4. You’ll save time
If you cook batches of meals when you’ve got the time, you can just defrost them and eat them without having to get involved in any cooking. This is a great luxury when you come home at the end of a long day and can’t be bothered to cook. Because you’ve made the meals from scratch yourself, it’s much healthier than putting a ready meal in the oven or microwave. I have found this also works good for work lunches too.
5. You’ll eat healthier
When you know what you’re going to be eating for dinner that evening, you’re far less likely to take the easy option and opt for a ready meal or take out. Meal planning helps you eat healthy on a budget. Making meals from scratch might sound like a major hassle but it’s a great way to make sure that you’re eating healthy food. You can control the ingredients so you know exactly what’s going into the meal. Plus, if you pick quicker recipes for the during the week, you won’t have to spend a ton of time getting food on the plate after working all day.
6. You can plan ahead
We’ve all had days when you feel like you’ve barely got enough time to breathe, let alone summon up the energy to cook. Meal planning gives you the flexibility to simply open the freezer and reach for some leftovers to dish up. Sure, it may seem repetitive but it’s a godsend when you’re running low on time and energy.
Of course, this luxury requires a bit of preparatory legwork. You’ll need to set aside a day or two to batch cook the meals that you plan to eat as part of your meal plans and freeze them ready for when you need them. It’s up to you whether you do this on a weekly, fortnightly or monthly basis and a lot will depend on how much free time you can put aside for batch cooking.
Meal Planning on a Budget
- Buy only what you need – The whole concept of meal planning is based around deciding what you’ll eat in advance so it’s vital that you do this.
- Keep an eye out for offers – When you spot an offer on food that you eat regularly, snap it up. For non-perishables or items that you can freeze, you can build up a mini stockpile ready to delve into. I do this a lot in the summer when produce is so fresh and affordable.
- Use what you’ve got – Many of us have got food lingering in cupboards that is perfectly edible but hasn’t been used up for one reason or another. This can go a long way towards reducing your food costs, in the short term at least. See if you can incorporate items that you’ve already got into your meal planning. Last year we did a grocery challenge and we saved a bunch of money for a couple months by using up what we already had.
My wife does her weekly shopping list at the same time she plans the meals for the week. We look at what’s on sale that can translate into enjoyable meals, we also look at things that we’ve stocked up on with past sales that we can use, and if there are great sales, we stock up on items we know we’ll use before expiration. It works great! We save money, we have lots of food in stockpile, we don’t waste that food, and we have great, healthy meals!
@Money beagle. Sounds like you have it all figured out. I am glad to hear you too have found the benefits of meal planning. I like stocking up on things that don’t expire for a long time like beans, rice, and grains. They are so versatile too.
We’ve recently started meal planning and it has had a huge impact on our budget. We don’t ‘nip out’ to buy cheat meals, we’re not dazzled by unnecessary offers in supermarkets and we throw far less food away because it’s been lurking hidden at the back of the cupboard.I’d thoroughly recommend!
@Harri. That’s great to hear. Not only are saving money but you are probably eating better too. I find that when you eat at home you are more likely to eat healthier. Double bonus.
I used to do a great job at meal planning and then I just stopped… I got bored I guess. For whatever reason I just couldn’t pull it together. Then I heard about Mealplanrescue.com. They email you a meal plan once a week, complete with shopping list. I’ve been doing that for 3 months now and I love it. It takes me like 10 minutes a week to meal plan now. It’SO NICE knowing what’s for dinner. (I’m not affiliated with them btw, just a happy customer.)
@Ashley. Good to know. I didn’t know about them. I will check them out. I am glad you found a way to get back on the wagon with meal planning. It is so much better for your health and your budget.
I love meal planning! If I didn’t do it I would want to have take out every night. 🙂
@Mom’s plans. And some people do eat out all of the time unfortunately. I am glad to hear you too have become addicted to meal planning. I think what I like most is the ability to try different recipes. It’s really fun.
My wife plans our meals and has been doing it for many, many years. For me, knowing what we are having for dinner helps me plan my lunches and something to look forward to for dinner.
@Krantcents. Glad to hear. I too look forward to my lunches and dinners because I know how delicious they will be from the recipes. I find taking lunch to work also saves a lot of time so that I can actually get a rest on my break. Nothing worse than waiting in lines your whole lunch.
To a certain extent, our meal planning in summertime is driven by what comes out of the garden and what needs to be eaten up from the deep freeze. We usually plan 2 or 3 days in advance.
@101. I can relate. We are still enjoying our produce from last year. I am working to make room for this years crop. Isn’t it just so rewarding to go into your backyard and grab some fresh produce for a meal. Plus it’s delicious.
Meal Planning for me came in fits and starts, but I kept at it because I knew I should do it. I tried to plan 3 weeks out, and that just didnt work. Planning a week out gives me the flexibility to change if needed and simply push something into the next week if I have to.
@Jeff. There is no rule cut in stone about this. If one week works for you that’s fine. For some two weeks works best. The main thing is to devise a plan where you cook at home so you can save money and eat healthy. Glad to hear you have figured out something that works for you.
Hi Miss T,
My mom taught me the wisdom of meal planning and I’ve been doing it eversince. I used to be frustrated when I had to go back to the store for something that I needed but now it’s so much easier by having a list beforehand. I now plan the meal in advance for the week but I haven’t tried cooking batches of meals yet. Might be a good idea to see how it works for us.
@Theresa. You should try batch cooking. It’s really handy. Dishes like spaghetti, chickpea curry and rice, and lasagna work great. You get multiple servings from one recipe.
Mrs. SPF tends to do this prior to going shopping. This way we have enough food for the week, but like you mention, we don’t lose food to waste.
@SPF. Us too. We meal plan two weeks or more in advance. It sure frees up a lot of time since we only need to go shopping once.
Planning our meals for the week allows us to get a majority of our goods over the weekend, but also allows for us to figure out what items we want to buy fresh on the same day we eat it (meat, fish, veggies). One of us can pick it up on the way home from work.
@60K. That’s a great idea. Eating the freshest food possible is the healthiest. I am glad to hear you have figured out a way to facilitate this.
I used to meal plan when we were first married. After 40 years it has lost its allure (as has cooking!), but we have certain meals that we have come to love over the years so when I do my weekly shopping, I make sure we are stocked up with the main ingredients to make those.
If I want to plan a special meal or family get together I do go back to planning mode, big time!
@ Marie. Meal planning isn’t for everyone. I am glad you gave it a try. I just really wanted to share my experience about how much time and effort it has saved us, plus the money. With working full time and having other responsibilities it is nice to not have to worry about what to cook at the end of the day. So what are you favourite staple recipes?
My husband and I have been doing this and today we were in and out of the store in no time. It was really nice considering we had a lot of stores to hit today.
We have saved so much money by using a list and marking down prices as we put things into the cart. We keep a weekly limit so its really helpful as we decided which wants we can afford with a good mixture of the needs we need to have in the house.
We also waste less food which is fantastic!
@South Country Girl. That is great to hear. I am glad things are working out for you and that you are seeing the benefits. I just finished our meal plan on the weekend for the next few weeks and the best thing is I hardly have to get anything at the store which will save a bunch of money.
I really need to start meal planning. It’s a great way to save time and money. Spending less time in the grocery store sounds great, I never like it in there. 🙂
@Jen. Well just start small. Plan for a week and see how it goes. Then plan for longer and make tweaks along the way. Before you know it you will be planning your meals for a month. Trust me it is worth the effort to get organized.
I really dislike grocery shopping as well as cooking. I wish I could find someone to cook healthy meals for my family of five and deliver to my house 3x per week. The money spent would still be less on what we end up spending when we eat out because I didn’t plan ahead.
There are services you can hire. You should look at see what is available in your area.
We make a point of mapping out our one “big” meal on the weekend – this is something that we’ll make to produce lots of leftovers for the week. Then each day, we touch base about food planning for the next day or two. I absolutely hate wasting food as well.
So this week, our “big” meal to cook will be two homemade pizzas. We’re planning to make enough for lunches throughout the week, supplemented with fruit and salads.
Sounds like a great system. We do something similar. We meal plan using recipes for two weeks at a time. We schedule them in the calendar and then go grocery shopping for the ingredients. It works really well and we freeze the leftovers. We eat much healthier than many this way.
I love homemade pizzas. I actually prefer them to ordered in. Have you ever tried BBQ grilled pizzas? They are really yummy in summer.