What is meal planning and how can it help me? Meal planning is asking yourself “What’s for dinner?” once for the entire week instead of every night. There are many benefits to having a plan when it comes to meals. According to a 2016 consumer survey by The Hartmann Group, 53% of meals are planned within an hour of consuming them. Not having a plan also drastically increases the likelihood of consuming fast food or choosing less healthy options that do not require a lot of prep. I have highlighted some of the main benefits of meal planning below in addition to some tips to get you started:
Meal prep can save you a lot of money! We know that restaurants can be very pricey. When you are preparing your own meals, you can buy ingredients in bulk which can be a huge money saver.
Having a plan when it comes to meals can save you a lot of time. A lot of us have very busy schedules and do not want to spend a lot of time preparing meals after work. By meal prepping and having ingredients ready to go, you can quickly throw your ingredients together for a quick and balanced meal with easy clean up.
Meals prepared from home are typically lower in total calories as well as sodium and saturated fat than a meal consumed from a restaurant. In addition, we are more likely to consume more fruits and vegetables when preparing meals from home which also increases fiber intake as well as other important vitamins and minerals that can help decrease risk of chronic disease and obesity. Consuming meals from home can also help control portions consumed since restaurants tend to serve you a way bigger portion than you actually need or even want. Preparing your own meals puts you in control of what and how much is on your plate.
Where to start?
You can start meal prepping with three easy steps:
- Select your dinners and their recipes
- Shop for ingredients
- Prepare those ingredients
Choose your recipes: It might be a good idea to choose recipes that will provide plenty of leftovers. Leftovers can then be used as lunches or ingredients for tomorrow’s dinner, saving you time and energy. Another tip is to choose recipes for the week based on common ingredients. You can easily prep these ingredients to be used in several different meals during the week. Lastly, it might be beneficial to choose mostly recipes you know and one new recipe each week to keep things simple. This will allow for some variety but will also include recipes that you know you and your family will enjoy. Click here to access healthy recipes from the OSU nutrition services culinary team.
Make your grocery list: After gathering your recipes for the week, make a list of the ingredients that you will need. We suggest creating a list when you go to the grocery store and avoid grocery shopping when you are hungry; this will help to avoid impulse buys.
Prepare those ingredients: Choose a day in which you have more free time (for many this is the weekend). On this day you can choose your recipes and head to the grocery store. On Sunday, prepare your ingredients and store them in the fridge or freezer for when they are needed. Another option is to cook meals in bulk and then separate and refrigerate or freeze them to be consumed throughout the week.
Try the websites and apps below to help you get started:
For shopping lists: Grocery IQ, Shopper, Grocery Gadget, Out of Milk
Meal prep apps: PrePear, Eat Love, Plan to Eat, The Scramble
Website: Eating Well, Cooking Light, Skinny Taste, Diabetic Living, OSU Nutrition Services recipes