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The importance of meal planning

As important as an exercise program is, the same importance is placed on meal planning, both if you’re trying to lose weight, and cut back on your grocery budget.

Yes, meal planning isn’t for just trying to shred some pounds and create a healthy lifestyle. Meal planning can help “shed” dollars out of your grocery budget, and also create healthy lifestyle changes with money.

How can meal planning help me “shed” both in and out of the gym?

Meal planning is also one of the main first steps when it comes to grocery shopping. By laying out your meals for the upcoming week, it helps you create the ingredients list you need to get for your next grocery haul, hopefully eliminating impulse buys because “you may need it this week for dinner”. It also helps you from wasting food before it goes bad because you are not purchasing things and not using them before they expire…or start to grow mold.

And when you meal plan, you can decide on healthier options because you are prepping for them earlier in the week. You know what meat may need to come out of the freezer ahead of time to thaw, and if you work full time, helps you manage your time when you get home so you know how to prepare your dinner according to your schedule – helping you to avoid the very tempting chicken tender and tater-tot fast dinner option.

You’re not only able to predict your calorie intake, but how much you are going to be spending on your groceries as well.

How you prep for your meal planning can matter

One week at a time

Don’t get yourself confused or stressed out by trying to plan more than a week out. As the saying goes “take it day by day”, do the same with your meal planning and go a week at a time. Lay your days out however you like based on when you shop. If you have known plans for a certain day, be sure to add those days into your meal plan, “i.e., Sunday – Birthday party at mom’s house, Thursday – dinner out with the girls”. This allows you to know you can either skip this day from planning or if you’re bringing a side, know you just need to get those ingredients for that day.

See where you can “double dip”

When creating your meal plan, see what other items you can use from a previous meal. Are there tomatoes, lettuce, or other perishable items that you can use from one meal to the next for ingredients? Or even leftover protein to be used in another way other than the main course? I have a friend who meal plans like a pro. I watched her in action one time and here is an example of how she planned her week reusing both side and main entrée items for multiple meals:

  • Monday – Pork Roast with onions, carrots, and potatoes

  • Tuesday – Quesadilla Hamburgers and homemade fries

    • Use leftover potatoes to make fries

  • Wednesday – Kielbasa and sauteed cabbage and noodles with onions

    • Used leftover onions

  • Thursday – Pulled pork tacos with cabbage slaw

    • Used the leftover pork, tortilla shells, and cabbage

  • Friday – Pasta with Bolognese sauce and a side salad

    • Used the leftover browned ground beef and noodles

Don’t overcomplicate things

No one said you had to create meals worth of Gordon Ramsey standards, or that they had to be Pinterest masterpieces. Keep your meals basic. Especially at first until you get the hang of things. You can always start to expand once you feel like you have the hang of things. Your goal with meal planning is to shop wisely, not prove you’re a world-class chef.

Create “Theme Days”

If you’re really stuck on how to get started, designate your days of the week to a theme day! To name a few: Soup Sunday, Taco Tuesday, Fish Friday. You don’t always have to stick to alliteration too. Make one night be “create your own personal pan pizza” (twist, how can you make it healthy with your ingredients), another night- make it a bar night: burger bar, nacho bar, baked potato bar, salad bar. And then there is the ever-popular and stands the test of time, themed dinner night – spaghetti night. Lastly, don’t be afraid to make “Leftover Night” a themed dinner option. We had PLENTY of these kinds of nights growing up, and something my husband and I do pretty regularly to help with food waste and fridge cleanout.

Compile your plan into your list

After the meal planning work is done, you need to create your grocery list to have the items needed for the week. For more ideas and suggestions on how to go about creating and organizing your grocery list, check out The Grocery Store Game – How to prep the right way, Part I – The Grocery List.

Meal Planning is a Win-Win

Whether you are trying to cut calories, or how much you are spending on groceries, meal planning is a necessity to accomplish either of these goals. But meal planning cannot be a one-time thing, or you will not be successful. It has to be consistent and needs to become a lifestyle change. If you make the changes and start implementing this into your weekly routine, I promise you will not only see the pounds start to drop (of course this will depend on your meal plan!), but you will also see your grocery budget drop because you will be in control of how you spend.

If you are new to meal planning, or have been meal planning for a while and want to get better at it, try some of these tips out and see how you can “shed” some pounds and dollars! And if you need help finding ways to “shed” some dollars in your budget, schedule a meeting with our financial coach, Lindsey Curry today!


November 10, 2022

Lindsey Curry

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