Meal planning can improve health and reduce food waste

By planning ahead, you can save calories, time, money and decrease the amount of food you waste.

Meal planning is essentially making a “plan” of what you are going to eat each day. This can include all or one of your daily meals. There are many benefits that come along with meal planning such as eating more nutritious meals while saving time, energy and money. Time is saved by having a specific grocery list, cutting out the aimless wandering through aisles. Aimless wandering can lead to a cart full of unessential odds and ends which can cost you greatly at the check-out, meal planning helps eliminate this. The meals that are prepared at home are often more nutritious than ones that might be consumed in a restaurant, adding another positive to meal planning.

To begin meal planning:

  1. Create ideas of what meals you’d like to cook throughout your week.
  2. Look through your cupboards and refrigerator to utilize any goods that you might have already. This will save you from buying duplicates at the store, putting more money back in your pocket and decreasing spoiled food.
  3. Prepare an itemized grocery list of the exact ingredients for the recipes you have chosen to make. Doing this saves you time at the grocery store allowing you time to gather coupons and to compare deals to make sure you are getting the most competitive price for your items (tip: store brands are usually less expensive than name brand items).
  4. Plan time to prepare the meal, or even just cut up the produce or meat ahead of time to get it recipe-ready. Some find success if they do this all on one day, such as a weekend or day-off of work. 

MSU Extension has resources that can help you prepare food ahead of time or choose an easy meal. Try throwing a meal in the crockpot in the morning of a busy day to have a warm meal for when you get home. If you do not have time in the morning, try preparing the food the night before, like rice and chicken, to reheat the next day to make a quick, healthy meal. Planning ahead can also incorporate the same food into multiple meals by utilizing leftovers (using leftover meat in a soup for example).  Ultimately, all of this planning increases the likelihood of making healthy choices and reducing the amount of food wasted.

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