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