Meal Planning is something I have done on and off for a while, but recently I have started to be more consistent about it. Usually Sunday or Monday I will sit down and go through recipe books, Instagram and Facebook pages that I follow, YouTube channels that I subscribe to, and even just search google for new recipes or ideas. I pick seven meals (unless we have plans to go out any of the nights of the week, which is incredibly rare for us these days) and I check my pantry to see what ingredients I have versus what I need to buy. I spend a few minutes daily looking at food ideas and recipes to save for my meal planning day.
Here are a few benefits to meal planning that I have personally experienced.
1. Feeling more organized and “ready to go” when it comes time to start making dinner. I have a plan for the day and all the ingredients that I need. Some days, I even start prepping dinner earlier in the day, depending on my schedule of clients for that evening. It helps having all the ingredients on hand already and not having to run out to the store or try and brain storm last minute what we should have that night.
2. Can you say, “money saving?!” Meal planning has brought down my spending tremendously. Over the summer, I had gotten in the habit of going to the store daily to pick up ingredients that I needed for that night. Not only did this add stress and time to my day but I would spend SO much more. Now, I make my list and do my best to stick to it and it has brought my grocery bill from about $130 a week to $100 and I am hoping to get it even lower! Some weeks I can plan to use certain ingredients more than once to make the most of that ingredient and eliminate waste (Parsley is an example of this because I never end up using the whole bunch for just one recipe!)
3. Time is important to all of us. So is gas money! Going to the store just once, maybe twice a week is a big time saver! Going daily is soooo unnecessary. It takes a little more time upfront to be able to sit and think of what you will have each day of the week but once you get used to it, it can be done faster.
4. Meal planning for a week can help tremendously for someone trying to lose weight or even just stay on track being healthy and maintaining weight. You’ve got a plan and as long as you stick to it (which you are more likely to do since you already paid for the ingredients) it will be harder to deviate and get something that is sub-par diet food for dinner. I know that if I have fresh produce, I need to use it before it goes bad. This means I don’t want to order unhealthy take out or go out to dinner knowing that I could end up wasting the money I already spent on food. When you’re writing out your meals you can conscientiously plan meals that are healthy. Like I said, the plan is the plan and you’re setting yourself up for good results as long as you stick to it!
5. Leftovers make for great lunches. I usually plan to have leftovers just for this reason! This is why I don’t plan more than dinners. I usually have a few things on hand I can make for lunch, like a salad or grain bowl if I don’t end up with leftovers. Having left overs is yet another reason to pack lunch instead of getting unhealthy take out or joining in on the office pizza party- you don’t want to waste the food you already paid for and made!
6. You can pick whatever you want and make your week well balanced because you can see it all in front of you at once. Don’t get stuck in a salad rut. I plan usually one or two sandwich meals, maybe a casserole, a pasta dish, TACOS (tacos/taco salad is a meal every week because we love it and they can be different each week!), a new recipe to try, a salad, etc. When I can see the whole week at once I make sure that I am not eating too much of one thing compared to eating on the fly every night where you can lose sight of any patterns of eating.
7. My husband is vegetarian and I am full vegan. This means we often eat different versions of the same meal. Planning them out ahead of time allows me time to think about how I can make it how he would like it, how I can also “veganize” it, and also make it a little “lighter” for myself instead of figuring it out on the fly each night.
Tacos: Dustin eats hard taco shells and adds cheese to his. I usually make mine as a salad because I would rather have more roughage than taco shell. I add a few crunched up tortilla chips to mine instead. Sometimes, I add vegan cheese shreds or homemade cashew cheese if I have it.
Meatless meatballs: This one can go several different ways. Sometimes I make spaghetti squash for myself and regular spaghetti for him. Sometimes we both eat regular spaghetti. Sometimes, I make him a “meatball” sub and melt mozzarella cheese on his in the toaster oven.
Falafel: Dustin likes to have tzatziki on his, so I buy a container of that for him. He also eats his in a pita bread (how it is typically served) whereas I eat mine usually on a salad, again to get more greens, with a homemade lemon tahini dressing instead!
There are probably more wonderful benefits but these are the ones that I know have made a difference in my life! If you have any questions about meal planning or about a vegan diet, please don’t hesitate to contact me! Amy.firstname.lastname@example.org