Some people have a weekend routine of meal planning and meal prepping. These things make weeknight dinners faster and easier, and they help them spend less time in a grocery store. However, they do go together, but there are some differences between them.
Meal planning and meal prepping work together and they serve the same purpose. In another word, they are making weeknight dinners a little easier. When you plan your meals, you are using the process of asking and answering the question `What is for dinner?` by finding the recipes and dishes that go well with your schedule and needs.
Meal prepping is something that comes after meal planning. Also, we can say that it is just another step or meal planning. It is the final step that puts your plan into action. You will prepare ingredients and meals for the upcoming week.
However, if you don`t have time for any of these two, you can also try meal delivery services. We will talk a little bit more about meal planning, meal prepping, and meal delivery. There are benefits for all of them, and many people are using them, depending on their goals and needs.
What is there to know about meal planning
Meal planning is when we decide what we are going to eat for breakfast, lunch, or dinner (or all three) for the whole week instead of every day. After that comes shopping and prepping the ingredients before cooking. There are three steps to help you to approach meal planning:
- Select your meals and recipes
- Go shopping for ingredients
- Make those ingredients
These steps should work because they break down the process into three steps so they feel manageable. It might look overwhelming if you look at everything from the endpoint which are prepared meals.
Meal planning means that you are spending at least a few minutes of your week and you are thinking about the dishes you will make or eat during the next week.
Benefits of making a meal plan
- Meal planning reduces food waste. When you have a plan for the week before going to the store, you know exactly what you need to buy for that week. Also, you know what you don`t need, so the amount of food that you are throwing away will be reduced.
- You have a plan when you are too busy. Coming home after a long day and just wanting to rest can be interrupted by thinking about and deciding what to eat. When you already have your plan, you can relax and rest.
- We are getting freedom and flexibility. This is the biggest difference between meal planning and meal prepping. Meal planning will give us the freedom that meal prep does not allow. When your plans during the week change(and we all know that happens) you can change your meal plan, too. Prepared meals might go to waste in this case.
If you are thinking of becoming a meal planner, here are some tips to help you succeed.
Three things that can help you plan your meals effectively:
- Take time, don’t rush it.
Choose some time each week for thinking about your meals for the upcoming week. Therefore, if planning far ahead seems difficult, write down your menu for the week. Use paper, notes on your phone, spreadsheet, or even special meal-planing notepads.
If you are going to a restaurant, check the menu before and choose what should you eat. Therefore, when you get there you already know what to order and you will not make unhealthy choices that we make when we are in a rush or hungry.
An electronic calendar can be a good thing and it will help you remember social obligations, which revolve around food usually. Maybe you will catch up with your friend or there is an office happy hour. Think about these events and how they can change your normal routine and diet.
- Be honest with yourself.
Try to stick with your plan as much as you can, but do not set very high goals. We create habits around the activities that we do, even if they don`t go well with our diet plan. For instance, if you always eat popcorn when you watch a movie, try to get a small bag at least. Also, if you have a day a week that you meet your friends for drinks, try to have one cocktail instead of more.
- Find a balance.
Think about the events that you can`t avoid and see how you can plan a healthy day around them. If you are eating a cake for a coworker`s birthday, try to plan a low-sugar and low-carb lunch, so you can have a balance. For example, if you are celebrating an anniversary at the steak house, eat a lighter lunch with fiber-rich, healthy carb sources.
Find a balance between your meals and exercise. Try to not eat very large meals or to over-exercise. Everything should be balanced and that is the key to a healthy life.
Meal prepping is the next step after meal planning
Meal prepping is the final step in meal planning. However, you can plan your meals without prepping them, but you can`t prep your meals without planning. After you select your meals for the upcoming week and shop for ingredients, meal prep is the next thing you need to do.
Set aside an hour or less, to begin prepping the meals. Meal prep means different things for some people. For example, you can cook whole meals or just prep some ingredients that you can assemble later. Depending on your needs, you decide what approach you want to choose.
If you have a busy schedule, prepping your lunch at least will be a great time-saver. You will always have your grab-and-go food container in the morning.
The pros of meal prep
There are a few reasons why meal prep is such a popular thing. You prepare your meals for a few hours, pick recipes, prep your ingredients, and everything is ready for your busy week. Here are some benefits:
- They do not cost a lot
It is the least expensive way to cook for one person or a family. Also, when you buy in bulk, you save even more. You can organize the ingredients of your meals around seasonal products or food items on sale.
- You will eat healthier
Meal prepping will help you follow a specific diet, or it will make sure that you are eating enough fruits, vegetables, protein, or whole grains. Additionally, when you divide your meals for each day, you have control of the portion size and you are making sure that you are not overeating. You will eat fewer unhealthy snacks, or at least it is less likely to do so.
- There is less packaging
Because you are batch cooking and buying in bulk you are buying groceries and ingredients with less packaging. In another word, meal prep allows you to buy in bulk from wholesale suppliers or warehouse stores and avoid excess packaging in your ingredients.
Meal delivery is a plus option
For those who do not have time for planning or cooking, meal delivery might be the best option. If you do not find yourself in the first two, or if they do not work with your needs, goals, or schedule, try a meal delivery service. It might work for you better.
Delivery services have ready, freshly made meals delivered to your door. The only thing you need to do is heat your meal and enjoy it. Nutrition, quality of ingredients, and sustainability might vary from service to service, so, try to find the company that has your food preferences, and goes well with your lifestyle and goals.
Good sides of meal delivery services
Companies that do meal delivery might vary, but here are some general good sides of this service:
- There is a focus on nutrition
Some meal delivery is more focused on making nutritionally balanced dishes because the idea is to replace traditional meal prep. Companies that worry about quality will make balanced meals with enough fats, carbohydrates, and protein. This will improve your diet and fitness goals.
- Meal delivery saves the most time
This approach is good for people who are extremely busy and they don’t want to or they can`t spend time cooking. Meal delivery will save you the most time. There is no grocery shopping, no need to prep or clean any dishes, aside from utensils.
- A lot of different choices
Variety is something that is a benefit here. You can find options for breakfast, lunch, and dinner and there is usually a rotating menu to keep things interesting. You will get all the important nutrients and avoid the repetition that happens with meal prep.
- There are different diet options
A variety of diet plans is something that meal delivery usually offers. It can be very helpful if you have dietary preferences or needs. Additionally, if you just want to eat dairy-free, eat clean, gluten-free, Keto, Paleo, plant-based and the list goes on, you can get that with meal delivery service.
The final word
We mentioned some good sides of meal planning, meal prepping, and meal delivery. But, everyone has to decide which option is the best for them. Look at the responsibilities, options, goals, and wallet, and make the choice.
The common thing for all three is that you are making a good choice for your health. Additionally, you will also save time on grocery shopping, cooking, and prepping if you organize well.
The good news is that there are different options to choose from. Find the right combination of cost-effective, healthy options, and convenience. We can help you, too, if you need our help, or have any questions. Whatever option you choose – enjoy your meals!