Did you know the average American household spends around $412 on groceries monthly? Add the cost of restaurants, fast food, and takeout, and your food spending can start to spiral. Not to mention the effects of junk food on your waistline. So, how do you keep your food budget low and fit into your clothes while eating like a king (or queen)? The answer is meal planning and meal prepping. These two easy tools can keep costs down and your figure intact. But when it comes to meal planning vs. meal prepping, what’s the difference?
And how can you get started with both? Grab your journal and pen because you’ll want to take notes.
What’s Meal Planning?
So, what is meal planning, anyway? Meal planning is a great tool, regardless of your diet or budget. With this great tool, you can plan for all the delicious food in your future.
All you need is a piece of paper, and a pen – that journal you grabbed at the start makes sense now, right? Or the notes app on your cellphone works just as well.
How to Meal Plan
Take your piece of paper, and write down the days from Monday through Sunday. Then, write the headings ‘breakfast’, ‘lunch’, and ‘dinner.’ For example, if you’re intermittent fasting or like to snack through the day, just adjust the headings to suit your eating style.
The final step? Jot down what you want to eat for each meal. Some of those slots may be for takeout, others for a quick grab-and-go choice like oatmeal. Or, you might use a meal delivery service for some of your meals during the week.
For homemade meals, we find that batch cooking works wonders. You’ll get two, three, or even more meals from just one cooking session.
Write down the ingredients you’ll need for each of your meals, and buy them the week before. And that’s where meal prepping comes in.
What’s Meal Prepping?
And what is meal prepping, you ask? Meal prepping is when you take the time to prepare a meal ahead of time. This way, you can have a healthy and delicious meal that takes minutes to reheat, not hours to cook.
Before meal prep, grab your meal-planning guide, take out your ingredients and get your pots and pans in order. You’ll also need food storage containers to store all your meals or cooked ingredients for the week.
How to Meal Prep
Using your meal plan, cook the meals you need for the week and then portion them into containers for the week.
Some of these foods will be complete meals—a lasagna, or chili, for example. Or, you may cook up individual meal components like shredded chicken, rice, and guacamole for midweek fajita bowls and burritos.
You can also preprepare salads, baked potatoes, chia puddings—even dessert. As long as you can make it ahead of time and pop it in the fridge for later, you’re meal-prepping like a pro.
Meal Planning Vs. Meal Prepping – What’s the Deal?
Both meal planning and meal prepping can help save you money, time, stress, and weight gain. So, what’s the deal with meal planning vs. meal prepping?
Meal planning uses pen and paper and will give you a forecast for your food throughout the week. This tool also helps you stay within a budget and is lighter on the wallet. Once you know what you’ll be eating, meal prepping helps you cook good healthy food ahead of time, so you’ll reach for it instead of that greasy takeout.
Do you want more tips on how to live your healthiest life? Then check out our lifestyle section for more articles like this one.