Juggling all of your daily commitments and cooking balanced nutritious meals on a budget isn’t easy. But you can make it much less arduous by planning, and in some cases preparing, your meals in advance. Doing so will:
- Save you time
- Save you money
- Produce healthier, better-tasting meals
- Reduce waste
Though it may seem that setting aside time to plan meals adds one more chore to your list, the hour or two you spend planning meals each week will actually save you time by ultimately reducing or eliminating unnecessary extra steps from your daily routine.
- Consolidate shopping trips: Planning your meals allows you to create a master shopping list for the week, eliminating the need to make last-minute supermarket trips when you’re pressed for time.
- Fit cooking into your schedule: Planning what to cook allows you also to plan when and how much to cook. Rather than prepare an entire meal every night, you can dedicate blocks of time a few days a week to doing prep work that will make your nightly cooking tasks much less time-consuming.
Planning your meals will help you spend less on groceries by allowing you to:
- Buy and cook in larger quantities: Cooking several days’—or even a week’s—worth of food ahead of time allows you to buy ingredients in bulk at lower prices.
- Cook with seasonal produce: Food that’s in season is generally less expensive than food that’s out of season.
- Use cheap staple ingredients strategically: Combining pricier ingredients, such as meats and produce, with cheaper staple ingredients, such as pasta, in soups, stews and stir-frys will allow you to stretch your food over more portions and meals.
- Eat takeout and frozen meals less often: When you plan and prepare meals in advance, you won’t have to resort to more expensive options, such as ordering in or purchasing frozen dinners, when you’re in a pinch. And the extra bucks that might ordinarily go to a waitperson or delivery person can instead be put toward a special dessert—or back in your pocket.
Create Tastier and Healthier Meals
Planning your meals ahead of time practically guarantees better-tasting, more nutritious meals.
How to Make Tastier Meals
Meals cooked at the last minute often suffer from missing or inferior ingredients. Rushing also increases the likelihood that you’ll prepare the food improperly. Planning and coordinating your meals ahead of time will give you better control over your cooking. In addition, when you plan meals in advance, you’ll be more likely to try new recipes and expand your cooking repertoire.
How to Make Healthier Meals
Planning your meals ahead of time—when you’re not scrambling just to get something on the table—will give you the opportunity to create meals that:
- Contain a balance of different nutrients
- Consist of sensible portion sizes, neither too large nor too small
- Take your family’s dietary restrictions into account
Every home cook occasionally faces the unenviable task of removing moldy, forgotten foods from the depths of the refrigerator. Though some food spoilage is unavoidable, often it’s the result of last-minute shopping or cooking, which makes people buy more food than they need. If, rather than buy a grab bag of groceries each week, you plan your weekly menu and buy ingredients specifically for each meal, then nearly every item in your refrigerator will have a designated purpose. The food you buy will be less likely to go to waste, and you won’t have to throw away nearly as much spoiled food.