Properly planned meal preparation can help both your waist line and your budget. Meal preparation means food inventory, recipe research, grocery shopping, cooking, meal portioning, and storing your meals. Most families do the cooking, portioning, and storage on a daily basis. With proper planning, most of the cooking that you do all week long can be done in one day. Saving money, saving time, portion control, and attaining fitness goals can all be achieved by preparing meals ahead of time.
By preparing your meals in advance, you are less likely to spend money outside of the home. Fewer trips to fast food locations or convenience stores can save you hundreds of dollars each year. A carefully thought out grocery list also keeps you from purchasing impulse foods that are not health or cost effective. Only purchasing food you need for the week will also save you from food waste. Typically a family wastes 25-30% of the food it purchases each month.
Not only does meal preparation save you money, but cooking your meals for the entire week in one day is a time saver. This allows more time to spend with your family, hit the gym, or just relax instead of rushing home from work to prepare a meal during the week.
When you plan out and prepare your meals ahead of time, you take control of how much food you are consuming during each meal. It is important to remember that each of our bodies require different amounts of food and nutrients. For this reason, make sure that your portions are rationed properly for each member of your family.
Proper nutrition is just as important to a healthy lifestyle as exercise. Fitness professionals like to use the phrase, “abs are made in the kitchen”. Your body requires healthy food for endurance, strength, and weight loss. With your meals properly planned and portioned, it is easier to include foods that give you energy (whole grains), muscle building proteins (lean meats and nuts), and vitamins and minerals (fruits and vegetables).
To prevent food waste and to test the feasibility of weekly food planning for your family, it may be best to cook twice per week instead of once per week initially. This will help with the identification of proper food storage needs, as well as the nutritional needs of your family.
Brad Averill, M.Ed., Extension Educator- Food, Nutrition, and Health, University of Nebraska – Lincoln, firstname.lastname@example.org