Today I want to talk about something that has changed my life in such a huge way – meal planning. It’s definitely one of those cases where you don’t realise the value of something until you try it out. I don’t know how I’d manage without my weekly meal planning sessions now. The benefits are endless, but I wanted to share my top 5 favourite things about meal planning, some of which are obvious, but others were definitely more unexpected!
- It saves me money on food shopping. This is probably the most obvious benefit to planning your meals. Once you get into the habit, food shopping becomes such an easy process. I shop twice a week, on a Monday and Thursday. With all my meals and even (generally) snacks being pre-planned, I know exactly what I need/don’t need, which not only reduces food wastage but also brings down the cost. If I didn’t plan my meals, it would be easy to go overboard ‘just in case’ and end up with a lot of waste.
- It improves my mental health. This one is a little more surprising. I would say that of all the healthy habits I’ve implemented in my life, meal planning has had the number one most positive effect on my mental health. I find that sitting on a Sunday and planning my meals for the week keeps me grounded and also allows me, indirectly, to plan other things I’ve got going on in the week ahead. It’s really hard to explain, but there’s something about knowing every day what I’m eating and when that keeps a sense of order in my life, which subsequently keeps my mind peaceful.
- It makes eating healthy way easier. Especially since I’ve been doing The Body Coach plan, meal planning has been a life-saver. Without it, planning when I need to have high-carb or low-carb meals would be near impossible, but having it all planned out takes away that complication.
- It leaves mental space for other things. When you don’t know what your next meal is, it can take up so much energy trying to figure it out three times a day. Wondering if you have the ingredients, need to get something out the freezer or whether you need to take out money to buy something can be draining. If, however, it’s all there planned out and ready you know exactly where you stand. You can just plan the week, do your grocery shop and then the rest just falls into place without even having to think about it again. You know what you’re having, you know you have the ingredients and you’re sorted! Plenty of time and space to think about more pressing issues!
- It helps you find time to cook. It’s no secret that sometimes we simply don’t have the time to cook. Personally, to be fair, I rarely genuinely don’t have time as I tend to make quick leanin15 recipes. It is nice, however, to have a meal prepped and just ready to warm up if I’ve had a busy day. This is something that without a meal plan would be really hard to organise, but having it all pre-planned before the week even begins frees up way more of that mental space I just mentioned.
Of course, meal plans should always be subject to flexibility rather than totally rigid; being too strict on yourself can be unhealthy, stressful or even a symptom of an eating disorder such as Orthorexia*. Under the right circumstances and conditions, however, meal planning can be incredibly beneficial to your overall health. Above anything else, the effect it has had on my mental health is really profound, which definitely surprised me. I would totally recommend making a weekly meal plan; I can’t imagine my life without one now! Yes, it’s something that takes a bit of getting used to and may feel like a struggle to begin with, but in the end it becomes no hassle at all, and actually makes life a lot easier.