The Benefits of Meal Planning

benefits of meal planning

Meal planning is a vital part of eating a healthy diet and there are many benefits of meal planning. If you are new to the Wellness Lifestyle, I’d highly encourage you to take half an hour a week to meal plan healthy meals for your family that week. There are many benefits of meal planning, including:

1. Save Money

There are many times that money has been tight for us and I’ve had to stretch our food budget. One year, my husband lost/had to quit his job a month before the birth of our third child. That birth ended up being an (expensive) emergency c-section to save my life and my son’s life. Our son also had a stay in the NICU, which we found out costs more per day that we’d ever paid for a vacation. Needless to say, money was tight for a while as we worked to find a job and pay off bills. At the same time, I was recovering from surgery and blood loss and eventually, he was eating solid foods but we both needed to focus on really nourishing foods. Even during this time, our family ate a real food diet that we managed to afford by very careful budgeting and meal planning.

2. Eat Healthy

Consuming a nutrient dense real-food diet is vital for so many aspects of health, but it also takes some advance planning. Meal Planning lets you decide before you ever go to the grocery store what healthy meals your family is going to eat during a given week so that you can only purchase healthy foods and know that you will use them. If you’re switching to a healthier diet, meal planning is especially important to help you stick to it while you learn the ropes.

3. Don’t Waste Food

One of my biggest pet peeves is finding a container of food in the back of the fridge and realizing that the contents resemble a science experiment more than they do food. We focus on a healthy real-food lifestyle and part of that is being a good steward of the resources we have. With meal planning, I know how we are going to use all of the food for that week before I even go to the store to buy it. I have a weekly game plan that even takes leftovers in to account so that food is rarely wasted.

4. Less Stress

Stress is bad. I realized that a major source of stress for me was realizing at 4pm that the kids would be hungry soon and that nothing was planned or defrosted for dinner. Just the general “what am I going to cook tonight” that was always in the back of my mind was taking up mental energy that I needed to use in better ways (like parenting five children). Just as with anything, having a written plan takes the uncertainty and stress out of the situation and I was surprised how much it reduced my stress just to have a plan and know what and when I would be cooking. As I’ve written about before, I have a template to make this process even easier:

Rather than starting from scratch each week, I have a template of the general types of foods I cook each day of the week and the number of times I use each main food. In other words each week I cook: -1-2 stir frys -1 salad -1 slow cooker or soup meal -1 fish/seafood meal -1-2 meals from a different cuisine from around the world -1-2 prepare ahead oven meals

5. Save Time

Another great benefit of meal planning is the time it saves. Planning ahead allows me to cook things in bulk and freeze for a future meal or make extra of a protein to use in a quick meal later in the week. In the winter, I cook a lot of slow-cooker meals and pre-make many of these to keep in the freezer so that I can just stick one in the crock-pot and go in the morning on busy days.

6. Add Variety

It may seem that meal planning is rigid and boring, but statistically, families are more likely to eat the same meals over and over if they don’t meal plan. Meal planning allows you to ensure variety and avoid falling in to the trap of eating the same five meals over and over. As I talked about before, it is also easy use spices to mix up a recipe and make it unique:

“A basic easy recipe (like Chicken Squash Stir Fry or Pakistani Kima) can taste completely different just by changing the spices. Add some cumin and chili powder and you have a Mexican flavor, or some Curry for an Indian type flavor. Basil, Thyme, Oregano and Garlic give an Italian Flavor while Chinese 5 Spice gives an Asian Flair. I buy all my herbs from Mountain Rose Herbs in bulk since it saves money and I’ve found that they have extremely high quality herbs and spices.” You can also check out these ten money saving tips to eat healthy on a budget.

Meal Planning Done for You?

While meal planning doesn’t have to be hard, it can be time consuming. With hundreds of fast, easy (and very unhealthy!) options available at each meal, it takes a valiant effort and a lot of planning to provide your family with nutritious meals.

That’s why I’ve decided to make my own personal meal planning system available to everyone. It’s called Wellness Mama Meals and it’s the tool I wish I’d had years ago when I first started my family.

Meal planning saves you hours of time and gives you a simple way to generate healthy, delicious meal plans and shopping lists in just minutes. At the heart of this easy-to-use system is an exclusive, new and improved Meal Plan Generator.

Whether you have specific dietary restrictions or picky eaters, the Wellness Mama Meal Plan Generator lets you easily choose the recipes your family enjoys and will eat. Plus it allows you to easily customize the recipes and shopping lists to your family size and preferences to make meal planning effortless. You can plan your meals in minutes and print your list with one-click!

Interested in how I’m able to save hours each week by meal planning? Click here to learn all about my meal planning system and how it can help your family to eat healthier and save you hours in the kitchen each week!

Do you meal plan? What is your system? Share below!

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Reader Comments

  1. Sunday-salmon patties w/green salad
    Monday-grilled pork chops w/cherry tomato salad
    Tuesday-grilled chicken w/steamed broccoli & cauliflower
    Wednesday-grilled steak w/sauted peppers, onions & mushrooms
    Thursday-grilled venison burgers w/fruit salad
    Friday-grilled chicken w/asparagus
    Saturday-meatza! (maybe on the grill!)

    As you can see, we are grilling alot right now because of the high temps!

    • what’s meatza? Is it meatballs? 

      • Meatza is pizza made with a meat crust instead of a flour crust. You basically use seasoned ground beef as a base. Spread it in a pan and bake it, then top with your fave pizza toppings and put it back in the oven for a bit. You can google it and I think Wellness Mama has a recipe on this site but I might be wrong.

  2. Sunday-Chicken and “rice”  (instead of rice use the recipe for mashed cauliflower listed in the shepherd’s pie recipe, mash only a little bit)
    Monday-Pork with Spinach and lime
    Tuesday-Mini-cheeseburgers, no bun, broccoli slaw
    Wednesday-BLT salads, green bean salad
    Thursday-Cheesy chicken broccoli bake, salad
    Fridays-Pot roast: beef, carrots, celery, onion, sweet potato
    Saturday-Beef and broccoli stir fry

  3. Monday
    Stuffed Zucchini with ground Bison.  I had leftover stuffing so I was able to eat that the next day on top of a salad.

    Tuesday
    Mahi Mahi with Gingered Carrots -The gingered carrots have been something I make all the time now.  They are so good!

    Wednesday and Thursday
    Smokey Roast served over Coconut fried “rice” -This was enough for two dinners.

    Friday
    Sun Dried Tomato Chicken Bake with Grilled Zucchini

    Saturday
    Egg scramble with veggies and bacon (I use whatever vegetables I have left in the fridge) -End of the week easy night.

    • How do you make ginger carrots?

  4. Monday: Banana Almond Pancakes with stuffed pork loin
    Tuesday: Steak with sauteed squash and onions
    Wednesday: Blue Cheese Burger wrapped in lettuce with garden veggies
    Thursday: Cherry-Chipotle Chili with roasted cauliflower
    Friday: Steak and Chicken Pizza (coconut flour crust from Mark’s Daily Apple) with garden salad
    Saturday: Frittata with garden veggies (I uses whatever I have on hand) and a salad 
    Sunday: Steak Curry with cauliflower rice

  5. Monday: Pan-fried Salmon (in coconut ghee) w/big mixed green salad & homemade dressing
    Tuesday: Eggs & Crispy kale
    Wednesday: (Jumbo!) Steak Salad 
    Thursday: Grilled Chicken & Asian Salad (my girls actually eat this!)
    Friday: BLT salad w/yummy homemade dressing
    Saturday: Steak, asparagus, and salad
    Sunday: Leftover/find your own dinner night…mine will be omelet night!  🙂  Every night could be eggs & veggies for me!

    • Sounds fantastic! Where can I find the recipes?

  6. Monday: Bison Chili over Almond Flour pancake “tortillas”
    Tuesday: Bison Chili Soup (from Bone Broth in Freezer)
    Wednesday: Wild Caught Salmon with Cilantro Pesto, Fresh Sliced Tomatoes
    Thursday: Grilled Eggplant, Zucchini Slices, over Cauliflower “Rice” with Feta Cheese
    Friday: Pot Roast with Sweet Potatoes and Prunes
    Sat: Pot Roast “Hash” and Eggs, Tomatoes
    Sun: Coconut Flour Pizza with Sausage and Cheese, Green Salad

  7. Monday: Grassfed beef fajitas
    Tuesday: Grilled Chicken Salad
    Wednesday: Veggie & Chicken Stir Fry
    Thursday: Grilled Salmon Cakes
    Friday: No-Tortilla Soup (same as Tortilla soup minus the torts)
    Saturday: Grilled Eggplant, Zucchini, Okra
    Sunday: Ceviche on beds of Lettuce

    • Do you have a recipe for the grilled salmon cakes? Sounds good!

  8. gosh all the menus sound so good! I use alot of recipes on this site! This is from this last week…
    Monday-beef brocolli stirfry
    Tuesday-zucchini lasagna and salad
    Wednesday-chix fajitas with fresh guac
    Thursday-pork chops with apples and baked asparagus
    Friday-sausage stuffed zucchini (we have a ton of zucchini from our garden to use up!)
    Saturday-breakfast for dinner day…egg scramble with sausage and veges
    Sunday-easy chuck roast with sweet potato wedges

  9. Monday –  Salmon Steaks and Sweet Potato Fries
    Salmon Steaks
    ¼ cup softened butter
    1 tbsp lemon juice
    1 tbsp basil
    1 tsp parsley
     
    Blend and rub onto salmon.  Grill or broil for 10-20 min.
     
     
    Tuesday – 7 Layer Mexican Dip
    7 Layer Mexican Dip
    1 lb lean ground beef
    1 tbsp taco seasoning
    1 cup sour cream
    1 cup salsa
    1 cup lettuce
    1 cup shredded cheese
    ½ cup chopped green onions
     
    Fry ground beef and add taco seasoning.  Put beef mixture in bottom of pan.  Add sour cream, salsa, lettuce, shredded cheese, and green onions.  Serve with fresh vegetables to dip (cucumber, sweet pepper, celery, carrot)

     
    Wednesday – Cheesy Chicken and Broccoli Casserole
     
    Thursday –  Chilli with lettuce salad
     
    Friday –Tuna-Apple-Avocado Salad
    Tuna-Apple-Avocado Salad
    1 can tuna
    1 tbsp lemon juice
    1 tsp fresh dill
    1 red pepper, chopped
    ½ onion, chopped
    1 avocado, mashed.
     
    Combine all ingredients and serve on fresh lettuce.
     
     
    Saturday – Pork Chops and Apples with lettuce salad.
     
    Sunday – Pork ribs and baked squash.

    • Yum!! Thanks for sharing.

  10. Monday: Grilled Chicken, Baked Sweet Potato Fries and salad

    Tuesday: Cabbage and Beef Stir-fry (Wellness Mama recipe–one of our favorites!)

    Wednesday: Slow-cooker Pork Ribs with Cauliflower Rice and Steamed Broccoli

    Thursday: Baked Chicken Taco Salad — http://lynsaycaylor.wordpress.com/2011/05/03/paleo-recipe-baked-chicken-taco-salad/

    Friday: Meatloaf with veggies mixed in, Mashed Sweet Potatoes, Green Beans

    Saturday: Hungarian Goulash Soup, grain-free bread with raw honey

    Sunday: Chinese Chicken Cabbage Stir-fry (adapted from Wellness Mama recipe)

  11. Monday: Grain-Free Hamburger Hotdish with Zucchini and served with steamed green beans  http://www.unrefinedkitchen.com/2011/08/07/grain-free-hamburger-hotdish-with-zucchini/

    Tuesday: Salmon seasoned with Lemon Pepper, Cauliflower Rice and Steamed Broccoli

    Wednesday: Grilled Hamburgers (without buns) served with salad and fixins

    Thursday: Chicken & Cauliflower Rice Hotdish served with peas

    Friday: Dutch Babies (grain-free/dairy-free) served with pure maple syrup, fresh fruit and bacon

    Saturday: Bison Sweet Potato Stew and grain-free bread with honey-sweetened strawberry jam

    Sunday: Omelets with mushrooms and ham served with Coconut Flour Blueberry Muffins (recipe to be posted in near future on my blog: unrefinedkitchen.com)

  12. What is a good cooking oil to use?.I currently use canola because I thought it was better than vegetable oil. Thanx

  13. Great article! This is why I like this site. I could use help planning my meals a little more strictly. We keep a grocery list that I bring to the store with us on Friday, and I have general template of what I usually make during the week. But I tend to make purchases a little randomly, and then plan what I’ll cook for the week. Here is a typical week for us:

    Monday: Burgers with guacamole, sweet potato fries, salad
    Tuesday: Fish, usually salmon, with herb marinade, baked potato, salad or frozen veg
    Wed: Roast Chicken with roasted garlicky carrots and sweet potatoes.
    Thurs: Leftover Roast chicken, plus additional veggies if needed. Or, a pressure-cooker soup with sausage. Love my electric pressure cooker!
    Friday: Gluten-free pizza night with tapioca flour crust. This is somewhat of a splurge night that I look forward to. I like to enjoy a hard cider on this evening as well. 🙂
    Sat.; Steak, or pot roast, or ground beef taco salad… some kind of grassfed beef recipe.
    Sun., Family dinner at in-law’s house… I don’t have to cook and they are kind enough to serve meals that are gluten-free and generally paleo-friendly. 🙂

    Other favorites: I like to make “slaw” type salads (shredded cabbage, grated carrots, grated uncooked beets, etc) in bulk and serve them over multiple meals. I do the same with potato salad during the summer (I do eat white potatoes).

  14. When will the wellness mama meal plans be open again? I feel like I have been on the waiting list long enough that I should have caught an opening by now even if it only opens a few times a year. (I hope I didn’t miss it!)
    I would LOVE to get a better look at your meal plans!
    Please open again soon!

  15. You guys are awesome – I now have months worth of meal ideas 😉

    In all seriousness, great post and great comments.

  16. Oh man. I need to plan meals! I am always desperately trying to figure out what we will eat next, and it is only my fault, as we are financially well-off and always shop carefully… I am just really bad at planning ahead!

  17. I love this! When I lived at home, my mom tried all kinds of different meal plans. It didn’t seem like she enjoyed cooking- it was just a chore. Sometimes she wouldn’t have any plan at all, and we would eat at 7 or 8 pm because it took so long. Sometimes we would have peanut butter sandwiches or something lame like that… sometimes she would have my dad make something, or we girls would do the meal planning and cooking. Then one time she bought a book, and I believe an online menu-planning service. This was great and she did enjoy it, but the meals were different every week (there were some we liked, and some we didn’t) and she was using a lot of store-bought groceries instead of what we had in the freezer.

    When I got married, I decided to keep it simple and just have the same basic foods every week. It works like a charm. I spend less time cooking, and can tailor the meals to fit what we have locally or seasonally or inexpensively.

    • Oh garbage. I sound JUST like your mom! HAHA! I did enjoy cooking, then I kinda lost interest cause my kids will not eat ANYTHING good! SO I got into the rut you described! EEK, but reading what you wrote, got me thinking, I need to get better 🙂

  18. If I join the meal planning you offer & pay for the monthly… Can I upgrade to lifetime subscription if I love it?

    • Not currently, but that might be available down the road…no promises though 🙂

      • Does your online meal planning site work for those following the autoimmune protocol? Thanks!

        • There are some recipes that will work, but not all of them. I’ll be adding more over the next few months that are geared toward it though.

          • Great! Thank you. I came across you through the thyroid summit (ypu did a great talk!) and I love what you do. Your journey also speaks to me personally, so thank you for sharing. I’ll stay tuned for updates for the AIP then – it’s a hard transition but I think I could do it with the help of your meal planning site. Thanks again! 😀

  19. Katie, I love the look of your new meal planning system but (due to allergies) my family is dairy, nut, egg and fish free. I would really appreciate your honest opinion on whether it is suitable for me or if my choices would be too limited…? Txs

    • There are definitely meals included that your family could eat, but it would be limited more so than others who don’t have the same restrictions. If you’d like to try it out for a week to see if it works for you, please do so, you can get a refund if it doesn’t work for you.

  20. Just made your homemade baby wipes! Love them and the smell. Also just signed up for wellness mama meals, I’ve got my first two weeks ready to go. It was so easy and the recipes look great! I’d like to give you a suggestion though if I may, next time you update WMM it would be great if you would put in a price feature beside all of the items and you could uncheck the items you already have and see a total amount for your grocery bill at least an estimate. I dunno, just a thought, then readers could choose meals on a tight budget… ? Either way it looks great and I can’t wait to implement it with my family. Thanks for all your hard work and making my life simpler 🙂

  21. I missed out, was I the only one on vacation for the 4th holiday 🙁

  22. Did I miss the announcement to sign up for the meal plan? Can I still sign up? Is there a sample for viewing before ordering? Can I cancel at any time?

  23. Um. I signed up for the meal plan and it opens up to the page but none of the buttons open up. I need some help. Don’t know who to contact. New at this stuff

    • I am having the same issue as Ty.

      • I will ask that you do the same thing. I really need your subscription email to look up your account. Please send me an email!

  24. How much does the subscription for meal planning cost? I am willing to pay for your advice in this area. I am a family of 4. With a 4 y/o and 2 y/o. Meals are always a tough time for us with two toddlers. But we need HELP!! lol. I have gotten many wonderful tips from you so far and appreciate this site so much. Just ordered my first jar of FCLO and Butter oil. Got the Cinnamon. Hope the kids can tolerate the taste!

    • The meal plans are not currently open to new members. There are usually 3 separate price options, monthly, yearly, and lifetime. I will probably re-open them in January.

      • Hi Katie, when will you re open the meal plans? I am hoping to see the prices and do you do them in Kilograms. I don’t know what the format is but would prefer recipes in grams and kilograms. Thanks and I love your site (I am glued to it, newbie and there is so much to read.) Thanks Sandra

        • Later this year, and yes, it will have multiple types of measurements 🙂

  25. This article is awesome! I enjoy reading all your meal plans, because it helps me decide on preparing meals good for everybody. Hope to have more posts of your meals! 🙂

  26. I went a little deeper than just supper… i decided to go on a day by day plan with; breakfast, lunch, preworkout snack, postworkout snack, and supper.

    Breakfast:
    1/3 cup of oatmeal + 6 black berries
    2 slices of toasts + peanut butter + 1 banana

    Lunch:
    2 tuna sanwiches (1 whole grated carrot + 1/2 can of tuna + 2-3tbsp of mayo)
    2 nature valley oatbars
    1 apple

    PreWorkout:
    1 little container of greek yogurt
    10-20 nachos + cheese

    PostWorkout:
    1 banana
    1 apple

    Supper:
    Pasta (type doesnt matter) + 3-4tbsp of tomato sauce + 2 tbsp of olive oil + grated cheese

    Fruit & Vegetables: 7
    Grain Products: 7
    Dairy Products: 3
    Meats & Alternatives: 3

    This plan is custom to me. I made it all at home, it took about a week. I started by choosing everyday meals and then counting the amount of servings recommended by the CFG (Canada’s food guide). Then, i calculated the amount of calories, carbs, fats, and proteins i need in grams. I calculated the amount of the food, did some mix and matching, and in about a week i got this. 🙂