Meal planning is one of those essential “adulting” skills, so why aren’t more of us doing it? Today, I’m breaking down common meal planning and prep barriers and giving you 10 ways that meal planning will make your week SO much better. Did I mention there’s a free meal planning and shopping guide at the end of this post??
When Life Gets Crazy, So Do Our Food Choices
We’ve all been there. You’re having a crazy busy week. You barely have time to sit down for a meal, let alone plan one. After a stressful workday, it’s finally time for dinner and you’re left to ponder, “What should I eat for dinner?”
Maybe you’ll grab fast food on the way home. Maybe you’ll have a bowl of cereal instead of a legit meal. Maybe you’ll go out for dinner.
Let’s just be real here — sometimes these choices aren’t ideal, but that’s life.
You might also see health gurus posting photos of their perfectly arranged meals for the entire week in pretty little glass containers and think to yourself, “I should probably be doing that…” But, you’re not.
Common Barriers to Meal Planning and Meal Prep
If you’ve ever simultaneously felt the pressure to meal prep and the pressure of everyday life weighing on you, you’re not alone. I think I’ve heard just about every reason under the sun for not planning ahead. Here are the big ones:
- Planning is overwhelming.
- There are too many recipes to choose from online.
- I can’t get my family to agree on meals.
- I’m not sure where to start.
- My cooking skills are limited.
- There’s no time.
- I have a limited budget.
Sure, you can frame these as “excuses,” but they can also be valid reasons why meal planning and prep is difficult. If you acknowledge what your barriers are, you can find ways to work around them.
I’ll be the first to admit that there’s a ton of info about meal prep and so many recipes online. I even get overwhelmed sometimes. Start small, even if that means picking one basic recipe to make this week or one meal to prepare ahead for. Involve your loved ones in your meal planning, shopping, and food preparation. Being a part of the process allows everyone to take pride in their meals and decreases the burden on you.
Would you believe me if I told you that some of the reasons you’re not meal planning and prepping could actually be improved by planning ahead?
10 Ways Meal Planning Will Make Your Week Better
1. Less decision fatigue
What’s decision fatigue, anyway? It’s the concept that the more decisions you have to make throughout the day, the worse the quality of those decisions will become. Basically, the more worn down you get by your day, the more likely you’re going to say, “Screw it” and take the easy route. (Anyone with a significant other knows the struggle of picking a restaurant… “Ugh! Whatever! Let’s just get pizza.”) You have enough to think about during the day, why spend time thinking about what you’re having for your next meal?
2. It’ll give you more time
Does meal planning and prep seem like a big time suck? Think about it this way. If you devote 15 minutes to planning dinners for the week and 2 hours to preparing these meals, you just saved yourself:
- 5 minutes per day deciding what to eat (x 7 days = 35 mins)
- 15 minutes per day waiting for food at restaurants (x 7 days = 1 hr 45 mins)
- And/or, if you were to prep every night – 30 minutes of prep each night + 10 minutes of doing dishes (x days = over 4.5 hours)
3. You’ll save money
Grocery shopping seems expensive at first, but not when you compare it to the price of dining out. Some estimates show that it is five times more expensive to dine out than it is to eat at home. Wow.
4. You’ll probably make healthier choices
While other animals make decisions based on instinct, humans have the ability to plan ahead and think of the best outcome for our future selves. This concept absolutely applies to food. When you plan meals ahead of time, you’re more likely to choose meals for their long-term impact versus an impulse decision.
5. Shopping will be simpler
When you know exactly which meals and snacks you have planned for the week, you’ll know exactly which ingredients you need to pick up. (Not to mention this will make avoiding impulse buys a lot easier.)
6. You’ll throw away less food
If you have a plan for all of the items in your cart, those items are much less likely to go unused and sit in a moldy pile in your veggie crisper.
7. You probably won’t dine out or grab fast food as often
Don’t get me wrong, I love going out to eat, but that ish adds up! Aside from being costly, restaurant and fast food meals tend to be heavier on the portion sizes, calories, and sodium. That’s fine once and a while, but it isn’t a sustainable routine.
8. It’ll be easier to stay on track with your nutrition goals
Working on calorie or macro goals? Trying to get more fiber in your diet? Ensure your success and plan for it! 99.9% of people don’t meet their nutrition goals on accident. (Okay I totally made that stat up, but would you disagree?)
9. You may be inspired to experiment with new foods
Variety is the spice of life! Planning your meals ahead of time helps you identify patterns that lead to food boredom. If you notice you’ve been eating a lot of chicken, rice, and steamed broccoli lately, you’ll be more likely to switch things up before you get into a food rut.
10. You’re gonna feel like an organized boss
How to Plan and Prepare Meals
Are you more motivated to start planning and preparing more meals at home now? My plan is working! *evil laugh* But for real… it would make me so happy to help you to eat more healthy meals and take charge of your health!
Are you feeling a bit overwhelmed? Not sure where to start? Check out my FREE 3-Step Weekly Meal Planning Guide. This is the framework I use personally to make sure I have healthy meals on hand every single week. If you haven’t signed up to receive it already, use the link below! I’ll send you a printable menu and shopping planner, step-by-step instructions, and bonus meal planning and prep tips.