Meal planning- you either love it or you hate it. However, if I told you that meal planning could save you time, money, and help you lose weight, does that make it a little less annoying?
But doesn’t meal planning take extra time each week? How does that save me time? That is the objection I hear when I suggest meal planning to my fitness clients. It can seem overwhelming to add another chore to your already overflowing to-do lists, but think about how many times a week you go grocery shopping. I used to go 3-4 times a week, with 2 toddlers in tow, so you KNOW how long that took me, but let’s call it an hour per trip on average.
I started meal planning a few months ago after I finally had to face that I was spending WAY too much money on groceries. I would run to the store every time we ran out of one of my kid’s favorite cereals, even though we had 3 other kinds in the pantry, and I would always end up just buying whatever sounded good, or whatever the kids wanted. I was completely blown away when I saw the final tally for just one month’s groceries! It was practically another mortgage — and living near Washington DC — that is not a small mortgage!
Meal planning takes me about 30 minutes, which includes flipping through my recipe books, favorite cooking websites like CookingLight.com and EatingWell.com, and clipping a few coupons as I make my list. I do this once a week, so compare that half hour I spend getting organized to the 3-4 hours a week I previously spent at the grocery stores. What can I do with that extra 3 hours a week?? “Well,” said the personal trainer, “WORKOUT MORE, OF COURSE!”
Meal planning will also give you more control over what you eat throughout the week. It’s a lot easier to actually execute your plan of “eating healthier” if you have those healthier ingredients at home. It’s also worthwhile because you can look ahead at your week and if you know already Wednesday is your crazy night with late soccer practice, to pick a quick but healthier convenience item that is not scratch-made, like (all natural) frozen whole wheat ravioli and a jar of your favorite marinara for those really frazzled nights. Throw that together with a quick salad from a bag and you’ve got a quick dinner that costs about $3 per person that is most definitely healthier and cheaper than drive thru dinners!
So now you’ve saved time, consumed fewer calories, and added more workouts to your week. The benefits don’t stop there. When you take the time to make a list and stick to it, you will likely spend less money at the store, thus improving your budget– a good thing because now you’ll need that extra money to buy smaller sizes in those cute workout clothes!