The pressure to get a meal on the table can feel all too real. The benefits of meal planning extend beyond saving time. Other health goals, such as weight loss or stress management, are also welcome benefits of a well-balanced meal plan.
Read on to discover the top benefits of meal prepping that can help save time, money, and more.
Is Meal Prepping Healthy?
Meal planning healthy recipes is a great way to encourage good eating habits. It may seem like it’s too good to be true, but meal prepping really is one of the best ways to keep healthy meals low-cost and convenient. It’s the best of both worlds!
Even meal planning for one, meal prepping is the perfect solution to stay on top of health habits and nutrition goals. Here are a few easy meal planning ideas for one, two, or a few:
• Reinvent leftovers
• Freeze extra food
• Establish a plan with step-by-step prep
Meal Planning for Beginners
In the beginning, it is important to set sustainable goals. Taking meal prep step-by-step is an assuring way to start the planning process.
Looking for beginner guides and resources is helpful and taking it slow in the beginning can be a great time-saver in the end! Invest in intentional habits that account for food preferences, budget, schedule, and storage space available.
Meal Planning for Kids
Meal planning with kids can be one of the best ways to encourage life-long healthy eaters. Smart meal planning ensures that children are getting all the nutrients they need to grow and develop into healthy adults one day.
Make meal prep exciting by involving kids. It can be fun to pick a special lunch box or new ingredient to get them more hands-on with healthy meal prep. Shaking up a mason jar salad can turn a picky eater into a pleasant one.
5 Meal Planning Benefits
Weekly meal planning makes healthy eating less of a chore and more of a celebration. The following benefits of meal planning are just a few reasons to love a make-ahead meal!
1. Meal Planning Saves Time
From start to finish, meal planning saves time. There are fewer dishes and preparatory steps between arriving home after a busy day and sitting down to eat.
2. Meal Prepping Saves Money
Who doesn’t love a little extra money in their pocket? With a proper meal plan and less money spent eating out, being healthy doesn’t have to be expensive.
Plus, many leftovers can be frozen and saved for later meals!
3. Meal Prep Supports Weight Management
Meal planning can be a successful method of portion control for weight loss and managment. Many restaurants dish out more than nutrient recommendations suggest, making it easy to overeat and tough to maintain a healthy diet.
Preparing meals ahead of time helps ensure healthy ingredients and provides proper portion sizes.
4. Meal Planning Lowers Stress Levels
For some, deciding what to make for meals can be the most stressful moment of the day. Batch cooking or bulking freezer meals can save the headache of preparing a last-minute meal.
5. Meal Prep Improves Food Skills & Relationships
Meal planning can be a great way to create a set of skills in the kitchen. It can encourage a healthy relationship with food by encouraging the cook to look deeper at the nutrition and energy inside each bite.
How Meal Prepping Saves Time (& How to Use It!)
In 2017, the average American household spent $3,365 on meals away from the house. Eating out can be convenient, but it can also be expensive in the long run.
So, what is the solution? In 2014, Americans spent almost 40 minutes on food preparation and cleaning up each day. Homemade meals can be healthy, but ideal options should be easy to cook and clean up.
Meal planning is the perfect solution to save time and money while still providing quick, convenient meals. And with a balanced, healthy meal delivery service and a few simple recipes, meal prepping can be a breeze.
Besides, when saving time by preparing meals, time opens up for other activities and tasks! These include, but are not limited to, hitting the farmer’s market, reading a book, and picking up a new hobby.
1. Take a Nap
Perhaps the most compelling reason to meal prep, planning ahead can leave plenty of time to catch up on sleep. A good 20 to 30-minute snooze can do wonders! Adequate sleep can help improve cognition and can promote healthy weight management.
2. Hit the Farmer's Market
Instead of cooking up a storm, head out and see the sunny skies at the farmer's market. Find fresh produce in your vicinity. The farmer’s market is a fun way to get fresh food without the upkeep of a garden.
3. Grow a Garden
Speaking of gardens, developing a green thumb can be fun! Gardens require some time and effort, but there are literal fruits (and vegetables) of that labor of love. It’s a great way to practice sustainability and adopt a farm-to-table lifestyle.
4. Relax with a Warm Bath
Cooking is not the only thing on the self-care to-do list... Unwind with a warm bath (at least an hour before bed) to ease stress and promote proper sleep cycles.
5. Connect with a Friend
Good relationships are an important component of good health. Calling a friend, neighbor, coworker, or family member to catch up can strengthen important social connections.
Use the extra time to plan a thoughtful date night, such as:
• Trying a new dessert and movie
• Participating in a local arts and crafts class
• Serving in the community
6. Pick a Leisurely Hobby
Hobbies don’t ever have to be intense. A simple puzzle or game can engage the brain in stimulating activity. Alone or with a group, taking up a new hobby can fuel creativity.
7. Read a Book
Education is power! Get back to the book that’s been sitting unread on the nightstand.
Reading a book is also a great option for recipes where most of the prep has been done, but a few steps require involvement.
8. Take Up Meditation & Mindfulness
Cooking meals can feel like another item on the to-do list. Meal prepping, on the other hand, can be intentional. It also creates more time to invest in these helpful stress management techniques:
• Practicing yoga
• Watch a sunrise or sunset
9. Explore Outdoors
Beyond grilling, cooking is primarily an indoor activity. Less time cooking can mean more time for outdoor adventures! Here are some ideas that can help inspire outdoor excursions:
• Exercising with your pet
• Gathering at the park
• Playing kickball
• Creating a scavenger hunt
• Enjoying an available playground
• Biking nearby trails
• Kayaking or canoeing
10. Exercise in a New Way
Experiencing an exercise rut? Instead of doing the same old routine, try out one of the following options:
• Lifting weights
• Salsa dancing
• Rock climbing
• Household chores (they really do count!)
The Bottom Line On Meal Planning Benefits
There’s no doubt about it, meal prepping and meal planning make it easier to live happy and healthy lives. From little ones to full-grown adults, there are meal planning solutions for everyone that save time, money, and sanity!
Wardleigh C. 7 Benefits of Meal Prepping. Select Health. Published August 2019. https://selecthealth.org/blog/2019/08/7-benefits-of-meal-prepping.
Woroch A. How to Meal Plan Effectively to Save Money. U.S. News. Published August 28, 2019. https://money.usnews.com/money/personal-finance/saving-and-budgeting/articles/how-to-meal-plan-effectively-to-save-money.