The Benefits Of Meal Planning

Do you find yourself getting stressed out every day deciding what to cook for your evening meal? Or, you head to the cupboard in the middle of preparing your meal and realise that the tin of tomatoes you thought you had isn't there? Planning your meals in advance has so many benefits, you won't quite believe it. It may seem too time consuming to sit down on a Sunday afternoon, or indeed a waste of time, let's face it, we've got box sets to catch up on, and spend an hour planning your meals for the week/month. But it does pay off!

I've been doing this for about a year now and it's one of the best things I ever did. I've actually gone a bit list crazy now, so much so that if it's not on the list I totally forget about it, my brain has become too conditioned to the list it can't think for itself! Seriously though, I can't go grocery shopping without a list, which is derived from by weekly meal plans.

I plan ahead for at least one week at a time, however I do suggest that you plan at least two or better still one month ahead. This way you only have to sit down once a month and it also stops you from repeating the same meal every week or two and therefore getting bored. I find when I am in a hurry, I just look back at the previous weeks and end up making the same thing whilst wondering why I'm getting fed up of the same thing. Planning ahead is crucial.

I have about 4 cook books that I consult regularly and I also have a folder of recipes that I add to when I see a recipe that takes my fancy online. So, I try to go four weeks before I start rotating my meals, unless of course I really want the same thing again. This is generally the flow my meal planning takes, I start at the beginning and repeat the months meals, taking out or adding in the odd recipe I like or dislike. So, once you're a few months in it gets much quicker and less time consuming. Once my meals are planned, I make my shopping list from the list of ingredients I need. There are various meal planners you can purchase for this purpose but I just use a notebook and on one side of the page I list Mon-Fri (weekends are ad hoc) and breakfast, lunch & dinner for each day. On the opposite side I list the ingredients needed for each dish, then my weekly shopping list is taken from this list.

Planning your meals in advance will help you stay on track with a healthy eating plan, in fact I would say this is crucial. If you don't plan your healthy meals, you are more likely to pick up what is convenient from the supermarket to make that night. Once your meals are planned and your list is made, you are more likely to only buy what is on the list and not be tempted to throw in random items. This in turn will encourage you to save money and not waste food. Planning ahead also allows you to bulk cook and freeze portions for another day or lunch the next day. You will no doubt reduce the amount of stress in your life and avoid that panic of rushing out of the office late to pick up the kids and then having to decide what to cook that night, remember what is in the cupboard and what you need to stop at the shop for (I'm stressed just writing that sentence!).

So, if you are trying to stick to a healthy eating plan or trying to manage your time better, planning your meals in advance will have a positive impact on your life. 

lifestyle, food, editorBy Regina Turk