Save Time and Money with Meal Planning

Remember the days when we didn’t have cell phones to direct us from point A to point B? It wasn’t too long ago that we had to print out instructions to guide us on a road trip. If we missed our exit, we had to break out the actual road map. Did anyone else have designated highlighters to mark their route, or was that just my family?

When it comes to meal planning, I like to think of it as a road map or a set of printed directions to help me reach my destination. A gentle guide to help and redirect if I miss my exit. Research tells us that regular meal planning can lead to improvements in fruit and vegetable intake^1, adherence to dietary guidelines^2, and food variety^2. Is this enough for people to commit to regular meal planning? The benefits are not just related to the foods you eat but also includes savings in time and money. These are two very sacred considerations when you are still navigating the stress from a pandemic. Today, I present my case as to why meal planning is not just beneficial for your health but also as a way to save time and money!

parent and child grocery shopping to get ingredients to meal prep for the week

Saving Time with Meal Planning

Time is precious and is important to consider when building a helpful meal planning routine. Understandably, many individuals have had a significant challenge with balancing working from home, navigating childcare, and shifting public health guidelines that further affect their schedules. Often in times of stress and change, our healthy eating routines are first to go. It has been shown that individuals with a high level of time-scarcity are more prone to eating ultra-processed dinners and fast food^3. 

The good news is that meal planning doesn’t have to be an exhaustive process that further adds to your burdens. It also can be tailored to your specific needs. Time, just like money, often has restraints. Strategic meal planning can reduce time spent coming up with meals on the fly, traveling to the grocery store for last-minute items, or even prepping and cooking multiple meals per week. Time-saving tips include utilizing leftovers or batch cooking certain ingredients to use later in the week. Want more time in your weekly schedule instead of grocery shopping? Many stores are allowing free curbside pickup. By meal planning, you already have a list of foods needed for the week. Why not place an order and pick up at your convenience? We know time is an important motivator for our clients, which is why we work one-on-one with them to understand their unique schedule and create meal plans and routines that align with their needs!

Meal Planning on a Budget

Money is also an important motivator for building a meal planning routine. Eating out can be quite expensive, and it is only going to increase, thanks to inflation. The USDA Economic Research Service predicts that there will be an increase of 3-4% for food-away-from-home prices in 2022, whereas food-at-home prices are only expected to increase between 1.5-2.5%^4. 

When you learn to plan meals around a budget, utilizing tips like buying bulk ingredients, buying seasonal items, and prioritizing sales or discount grocery stores, you can greatly cut costs. One community-based study from Chico, Calif., shows that strategic planning for a family of four, covering two weeks of daily meals at home, can cut costs to an average of $25 per day for the entire family5. That means that at the time of the study, each family member could meet the Dietary Guidelines for Americans for an average of $6.25 per day! 

When you learn to plan meals with one of our registered dietitians, you will see savings because you are learning to plan in a way that cuts food waste and avoids impulse buying. Remember, a meal plan is a guide. You can feel confident that when you go into that grocery store and have your shopping list done that everything is already accounted for in appropriate portions that match your goals.

Nutrition Healthworks wants to support you in your health journey. That is why we offer specific ways to help you learn how to meal plan around your needs, including limited budgets and time. Meal planning can be a new or intimidating process to do on your own, which is why we are here to help you.

person pays large bill at restaurant due to not prepping meals at home

Sources:

  1. Hanson AJ, Kattelmann KK, McCormack LA, et al. Cooking and Meal Planning as Predictors of Fruit and Vegetable Intake and BMI in First-Year College Students. Int J Environ Res Public Health. 2019;16(14):2462. Published 2019 Jul 11. doi:10.3390/ijerph16142462
  2. Ducrot P, Méjean C, Aroumougame V, et al. Meal planning is associated with food variety, diet quality and body weight status in a large sample of French adults. Int J Behav Nutr Phys Act. 2017;14(1):12. Published 2017 Feb 2. doi:10.1186/s12966-017-0461-7
  3. Djupegot IL, Nenseth CB, Bere E, et al. The association between time scarcity, sociodemographic correlates and consumption of ultra-processed foods among parents in Norway: a cross-sectional study. BMC Public Health. 2017;17(1):447. Published 2017 May 15. doi:10.1186/s12889-017-4408-3
  4. Summary Findings, Food Price Outlook, 2021. USDA Economic Research Service. Updated September 24, 2021. Accessed October 6, 2021. https://www.ers.usda.gov/data-products/food-price-outlook/summary-findings/

Jetter KM, Adkins J, Cortez S, Hopper GK Jr, Shively V, Styne DM. Yes We Can: Eating Healthy on a Limited Budget. J Nutr Educ Behav. 2019;51(3):268-276. doi:10.1016/j.jneb.2018.12.002