Cooking is also very high on the things-I-don’t-want-to-do list. I just want to shove food in my face after coming home from work and calling it a day. The solution to this: start meal planning!
When you start meal planning, you list what meals you want to make for the week before going and doing groceries. This means that when you’re in the grocery shop, you already know precisely what you need to buy to prepare the meals.
I started meal planning, too – it helps me keep my grocery budget under $70 a month. I’ve always struggled with actually cooking. Often I don’t want to cook, and I opt for the easy option: a sandwich, going out to eat, or ordering in.
Becoming a meal planner has changed the way I eat and the way I go about food. It’s easy. You just prepare the meals at the beginning of the week, and you have enough for every meal. There is less snacking, there is less eating out, there is less food wasted, and you’re saving precious time and money!
What Is Meal Planning?
Meal planning is simply thinking ahead about what food to eat for your meals and snacks. Planning your food can be of great help and can even save you more money, time, and effort.
Talk with your family and plan together for your meals and snacks. Go over a menu planner to come up with dinner ideas, breakfast meals, and lunch ideas for you and your family.
Meal planning will save you time as this will become your organizer to plan a meal. Make a list of what you plan to eat for the week, and this will become your eating habits for the week. Your grocery lists will consist of the weekly menu you have prepared for you and your family.
8 Reasons Why You Need To Start Meal Planning
One advantage of having meal planning is you can save money and time. If you still have double thoughts, here are the 8 reasons you need to start meal planning now!
1. Weekly Meal Plans Save You $$$
I’ve found that when you go to the grocery store with a plan, you don’t buy as much. You know what’s on your list, and you know what you should buy. Just get that and get out. Especially the times when I go to the grocery store hungry, I spend a lot of money on snacks and extra items. #1 lifehack – don’t go to the grocery store hungry!!!
When you have weekly meal plans, you only have to go to the grocery store once per week. This will save you money on grocery items that you buy and don’t need. Besides that, it will save you gas money since you don’t need to go past the grocery store as often.
A great side effect of only going once per week to the grocery store is that you’re wasting less food. I find it heartbreaking when I need to throw food away. Honestly, I eat it when it’s less than a week past the expiration date (depending on the item). When you’re only buying the food you will use for your weekly meal preparation; this extra cost is eliminated.
The biggest saver, in my case, was spending less to eat out or order in. Not only for dinner but also for getting lunch at work. I’m very easy when it comes to food and cooking. If I don’t have something that I like, I will get something that I like. Most of the time, it’s expensive, unhealthy, did I mention expensive? This will be the biggest money-saver of all, mark my words.
2. Weekly Meal Plans Save You Time
We all need more hours in our day. We love to read the latest time-saving hacks and try to make our lives as efficient as possible. Weekly meal plans can be a huge part of this!
Let’s be honest, how much time do you spend daily on your meals?
Start with meal planning to save the time you spend thinking about what you want to eat every day of the week, wandering around in the grocery store, and saving you many grocery trips. You go to the supermarket once a week, where you purchase a week worth of groceries all at once.
With a meal plan, you will think about exactly what you need for the entire week. Thinking about what you want to eat for the whole week is much easier than thinking about what you want to eat every day. It saves you a lot of time! You have a list of things you need to get, and that’s it. No need to get items that are not on the list! Meaning you’ll go in and out of the supermarket in no time.
3. Weekly Meal Plans Have Less Food Waste
According to the European Union, 20% of the total food produced is lost or wasted. With the average family of four spends between €500-€800 on food monthly, they waste between €100-€160 of food every month! That’s a lot of money!
Why would people do that? Because some food spoils, there is too much food cooked, or leftovers are thrown away. One great way to reduce this food waste is to have a weekly meal plan. When you’re purchasing only what you need, there is less food waste for sure.
Since I’ve switched to weekly meal plans and batch-cooking, there is much less food waste. I know exactly what I will eat in a week and what I need to make. It’s convenient, better for our wallets, and better for the environment.
4. Weekly Meal Plans Control Your Portions
If you plan to lose weight, meal planning can help you also with this. You will be able to manage the portions of your food which is good as this can avoid overeating. Thus, losing weight in a healthy way where you can plan your diet meal. Your diets will be part of your menu planning to eat well based on the portion sizes of your meal.
5. Weekly Meal Plans Make You Eat Healthily
I don’t know about you, but I always go grocery shopping after I’ve finished work for the day. It’s often 7 pm, and that means I’m hungry. When I’m hungry, I make terrible food decisions, it’s like my lizard brain is turned on again, and I want all the fats + sugar.
When I’m grocery shopping with a plan, this doesn’t happen. I’m holding onto my grocery list for life and getting in hyperfocus mode. It helps!
Besides not buying brownies and donuts when I’m hungry, a meal plan also prevents you from eating out. We often think it’s more convenient to eat out or order in, instead of cooking the meals ourselves. I have to say that most of the time you would be much quicker cooking your meal, and much healthier.
When I’m tempted to order in or eat out, I tell myself that I have food at home.
6. Weekly Meal Plans Simplify Your Weekly Grocery Trips
Before I started with my weekly meal plan, I had this plan: I went to the grocery store, bought random items on sale, and tried to make a meal with that. Some days I succeeded. Some days I didn’t. Sometimes I cooked an entire pack of lentils, and I needed to eat lentils and rice the whole week. Weekly meal plans prevent that for you!
When I went grocery shopping, I went without a list. I just bought whatever I wanted and was craving. That is a bad idea in general. You will buy much more than you need, you don’t know what you can make a meal out of, and you buy things you already have at home. This can lead to food waste, more time in the grocery store, and spending more money.
It is advisable to have a grocery shopping list, so you will prevent yourself from buying unnecessary things, and you will go through the supermarket with a goal in mind. I would advise you to write everything down that you need for your weekly meal plan making it easier, quicker, and cheaper!
7. Weekly Meal Plans Make Your Life More Exciting
At times I get tired of my own creativity. I have 4-5 meals that I mostly eat, and I rotate them. I get tired of eating the same meal after a while. With meal planning, you can think about what you want to make ahead of time. Meaning you don’t have to resort to the same meal over and over again – when you’re coming back from work, there is already a meal that is planned, wooo!
8. Weekly Meal Plans Takes Away The Stress
When I need to think about what I want to eat every day, I often ignore the question. I just make some eggs with some bread for dinner – after 30 minutes of contemplating what I want to eat.
Just as with anything else in life, having a written plan takes away the stress from the situation. That’s why when you start with weekly meal planning, you will take away a lot of pressure around what you need to prepare.
Weekly Meal Plan Example
A weekly meal plan can consist of anything you want it to be. You can only prepare dinners, lunch, dinner, or every meal you eat in a week. Whatever you prefer!
Planning meals can be fun. You can start with simple recipes like pancakes, chicken salad, or steamed broccoli for beginners. If you want a healthy diet, you can go for a green salad, smoothies, or simply fresh fruits. There can be a lot of varieties in planning a menu.
Personally, I only meal plan for dinners. My breakfast has always been the same every day of the week for the past year (oatmeal with chia seeds, flaxseeds, and vegan protein powder chocolate flavor). I like some consistency in my diet, and I like to start the day with a power breakfast that will keep me full until lunch. For lunch, I eat whatever is leftover from the previous nights’ dinner. For dinner, I meal plan and usually make sure that I have a little more to eat for lunch.
A week could look something like this:
- Monday – Wraps with veggies
- Tuesday – Rice with veggies
- Wednesday – Chili con Carne
- Thursday – Pasta with spinach and tomato
- Friday – Whitefish with potatoes and broccoli
- Saturday – Filled sweet potato
- Sunday – Couscous salad
I pretend now that I make a different meal every day of the week, but frequently I’m not that sophisticated. I batch-cook at the beginning of the week, and I eat the same for a few dinners. It is a personal preference.
Creating your weekly meal plan is super convenient. When you’re having a hard time thinking about a meal plan, using a meal planning service can be exactly what you need. They tell you what to buy and have eating suggestions for you.
For my personal meal plan, I use my favorite meals, and my favorite recipes from the $5 Meal Plan, and sometimes I even browse the web for food (mostly Pinterest, to be honest).
[Related Read: 11 Budget Recipes & Cheap Easy Meal Ideas To Try]
In Summary – Why You Need To Start Meal Planning
Meal planning is an easy way to prepare your food in a week that would help you save time and money. Your shopping lists will be in order so that your delicious recipes are complete and nutritious. This can also help you in budgeting your finances.
Gone are the days when you would have to run to the grocery store to buy additional items for your family meals. With meal planning as your tool, you will enjoy a stress-free meal.
Make a meal plan that can consist of various healthy foods. Not only does this help you be more efficient in your budgeting plans, but it also makes you more health-conscious in terms of choosing what to eat. If you are having a hard time thinking of what to eat, you can look for free recipes over the internet to map out your meal-planning activities.
All in all, a menu plan will help you create a weekly planner. This will form part of your healthy-eating plan and your wallet too! So track your menus now so that your money-saving and frugal ways have an added tool to help you and your future become much brighter.
Are you creating weekly meal plans? Do you use any meal-planning services?
Founder of Spark Nomad, Radical FIRE, Journalist
- Expertise: Personal finance and travel content
- Education: Bachelor of Economics at Radboud University, Master in Finance at Radboud University, Minor in Economics at Chapman University.
- Over 200 articles, essays, and short stories published across the web.
Experience: Marjolein Dilven is a journalist and founder of Spark Nomad, a travel platform, and Radical FIRE, a personal finance platform. Marjolein has a finance and economics background with a master’s in Finance. She has quit her job to travel the world, documenting her travels on Spark Nomad to help people plan their travels. Marjolein Dilven has written for publications like MSN, Associated Press, CNBC, Town News syndicate, and more.