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The top 5 benefits of meal planning.

Updated: Sep 5, 2022

Meal Planning. The weekly task some of us do, sometimes begrudgingly. The weekly task some of us want to do and don't. The weekly task some of us don't do at all. But I'm going to highlight 5 great reasons why you should plan your meals!

I have been a long standing meal planner, every night before the day I grocery shop, I take a quick inventory of the cupboards, fridge and freezer; survey the family with questions like "what do you feel like for dinner this week?" and "what do you want for breakfasts/lunches this week?"; and sit down with my legal pad. I diligently write out the next 7-10 days - Monday, Tuesday... you get the picture. I start with dinners. I find those the most time consuming and we like variety so the planning takes a little thought. I'll add in breakfasts and lunches in a more liberal way. More on that in a bit.

I fill in the easy days like "going out for dinner" or "dinner at mom's" and then I move to the busiest nights of the week. I choose the go-to easy meals for those nights, like frozen cheese pizza we can add veggies to or veggie burgers and salad. From there I move to the nights that I have a little more time. I fill in those with stir-fry's, curry's or pasta with a veggie-loaded sauce. Then I take a second look to make sure we will get a good helping of veggies in and add in a side of steamed broccoli or a big salad where we need a little boost.

I make a small list of lunch and breakfast ideas, like oatmeal, eggs, soups and salads and ta-da! We have a solid idea of what's happening that week in the kitchen. Here's the part that takes the nerd out of the plan - we don't stick to it to a "T". We flip flop around with those ideas and choose what we feel like that night. We still choose from the list but not that specific night; for example, if we don't feel like black bean tacos after going out for burritos, we pick stir-fry.

Now, there are different approaches to meal planning. Some people like to plan each night and stick to it. As in, never stray, no substitutions, no exceptions. Some like to plan the same thing each week; think Taco Tuesdays, Meat-less Mondays, Friday pizza night, etc. Like my approach, some like to plan meals for the week so the grocery list is adequate, but choose what to eat each night like a menu. Any way you choose, meal planning has great benefits!

Here are 5 reasons you should meal plan:

  1. It's a money saver!

Who doesn't want to save money at the grocery store, especially these days! Planning meals for a week or so gives you a solid grocery list, stopping you from randomly adding things to the cart, trying to piece together meals in the soup aisle while children are fussing or your tired and hungry - 10x worse if you're hungry! Don't shop hungry, and to drive my point home, shop with a list! That way you can stick to the meal plan no matter what! If you add in the inventory check before you plan and shop, you can save even more by not buying duplicates or by getting creative with what you already have! Bonus!

2. It keeps your family from asking "what's for dinner!?!"

Place the meal plan in a place everyone in your house will see it. On the fridge, next to the coffee maker, choose where you like it best, but re-directing your family to the list can significantly reduce the dreaded question. Also, it empowers kids to get involved in the meals. Here's what I mean: Child: "Mom, what's for dinner!?!", You: "I haven't decided yet, but why don't you check the list and choose". You know that list has healthy, quick meals on it and you were going to pick from it any ways. Giving your family members the power to choose makes them confident in choosing healthy meals and will also mean they are more likely to eat it!

3. It will support healthy eating habits

You may have met with a nutritionist to plan meals that support health, or you would like to take control of your health and eat healthier options, or you just need to get your family organized and meal planning helps - any which way, meal planning will help you eat better. Once you start to write down the foods you are eating, you will notice a significant shift in your thinking. You will see gaps where you have not gotten enough balance of nutrients. You can take a step back and fill in fresh whole foods, working in fruits vegetables and maybe even trying something new, like tofu, edamame or a new type of fish. Week after week, you will notice that you have planned, purchased, cooked and eaten well overall. That's a pretty good reason to try meal planning if you ask me!

4. It's a pleaser.

I mentioned earlier that having a meal plan will empower family members to start making good choices about meals and include them in the process. Overall though, meal planning is a crowd pleaser. Each member of the family can contribute and will, throughout the course of a week, ensure every one has had a meal they really love. Request for pancakes? Make them with whole wheat flour, mashed banana, and top with yogurt and berries. Pizza night? Purchase cheese pizzas and top with fresh vegetables. Ice cream bar? Buy fruit sorbets and top with fresh fruit and chopped nuts. Your family can choose fun foods to add to the menu and you can feel good about planning to make the elevated version!

5. It takes the stress out of meals and eating

By planning ahead, purchasing the items you need, you know what's coming. No surprises. No "I forgot to buy...". You can just feel good about the plan and know you've saved some money, you've pleased even the pickiest eater in your house and you got to plan for nights out, busy nights with easy meals and even leftovers, if there were a few bigger meals prepared that week! Try to choose from meals in the slow cooker, the Insta-pot, sheet pan or cook once eat twice type meals. Soups, stews, and one pot meals always go over well and take the stress out of preparing and cooking. Buy panning ahead for any of these meals, you don't have to stress over the dinner hour or agonize at the grocery store.

I can't be there to rescue you and take you to the spa for the night unfortunately, but I can promise you, that meal planning will become a part of your routine that you won't regret!

To make meal planning easy, use the Mariposa Wellness meal planner and grocery list template!

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