Meal preparation and planning just makes sense. The reasons are endless. With all the stay-fresh containers, extremely efficient appliances, and busy lives, there’s no reason not to be as practical as you can possibly be in every part of your life. If you’re looking save time, money, and stress – start with dinner time.
1. It saves time.
I can spend hours and hours on a great meal for my family. When I make a meal the day I intend to serve it, I generally begin around 3, and end just in time to eat it around 5:30. With all the things I have to spend my time on, this is a huge chunk. While I could be blogging, running my Tastefully Simple business, spending time with my kids, or doing homework, I’m dedicating hours to an event that, while enjoyable, is consumable. All that time and labor, a half hour of eating, and then another half hour of dish washing. Then it’s done. As busy as my schedule is, even as a stay-at-home-mom, it just doesn’t make sense. It’s a waste of an extremely precious resource.
2. It saves money.
How many times do we catch ourselves running to the grocery store in the evening, or calling our partner on their way home from work to grab one thing or another from the supermarket? Every time I would begin a meal, it would happen without fail, no matter how much I planned for my shopping trip in the first place. Of course then, the sale that I found on that particular item would be over, and I’d end up paying full price. Since we don’t live by a chain or discount supermarket, we’d pay even MORE for the convenience of the store being “on the way” home. When that happens day after day, those dollars add up extremely quickly. My husband and I are full-time students raising two children. We need those dollars.
3. It alleviates stress.
Our errands occur between the time my husband comes home from school, and the time the kids go to bed. Usually that runs right into dinner time. I don’t have time to come home and start cooking after we’re done. We eat out on occasion, maybe even make a McDonald’s stop as a treat, but I don’t want that to have to be our only option. When we don’t have freezer meals in the house, I get a little (or a lot) uptight. I don’t want to have to be worried about whether we’re going to have for dinner that I can cook in a hurry. I have a routine, and getting out of that routine makes me a bit dysfunctional, which causes stress on the whole family. It’s irritating to have to rush to get everything done because I didn’t plan.
4. We eat more healthfully.
I’m a big advocate of fresh, unprocessed food. While we don’t always eat organic, we a don’t keep boxes, cans, or prepackaged freezer bags in the house very often either. I like to eat homemade food. If you get to know me, I make almost everything from scratch. I like to know exactly what’s going into our bodies. I understand that’s not everyone’s style, and it most definitely doesn’t have to be. It’s just nice to know exactly what you’re putting onto the table without having to obsess over labels. Again, if we leave the house starving, without a plan for when we get home, we’re most definitely stopping to get something. I hate being hungry and lethargic. First world problem? Probably, but it’s what we’re accustomed to.
5. I can spend time focusing on other things.
Eating is a pretty important part of life, but it’s not something I should be stressed over. I have a lot to do that gets me a lot better of a payout, like watching my children grow and paying attention to them instead of being on lock down in the kitchen, hollering because they’re getting into things while I’m not looking, or missing them do something they’ve never done before. People have to be away from their kids sometimes. It’s just a part of life, but the blessed time I do get to be with them, I want to actually be with them. When they’re old enough to help, the situation might differ slightly, but for now, while I have to choose one activity over the other, I’ll pick them any day.
6. Dinner time can be more than just a meal.
Our time around the table is bonding time. No electronics, no distractions, it’s just us being together and discussing our days and plans (and possible trying to avoid broccoli getting flung across the table or at the wall). That time isn’t something that I want to associate with all the stress and time consumption that comes along with it. It’s the only part of the day I get to relax and do what I enjoy doing, with the people I love the most.
7. It aids in weight loss.
There’s no way I could stick to a certain meal plan or calorie range if I didn’t plan my meals in advance, and have them in the refrigerator ready to go. When I’m hungry or craving, I can reach in and grab the meal or snack I’m supposed to be eating. I don’t have to worry about not feeling like making something in favor of grabbing something more convenient, because there’s nothing more convenient than an already-made meal.
8. We waste less.
When I make a meal plan for the week or month with the intention of making meals the day we eat them, there’s always a change in plans. Sometimes we go out, sometimes I decided I don’t want what I originally had planned, sometimes life gets in the way and I just don’t feel like starting to cook at three in the afternoon. When that stuff happens, either every meal gets pushed back a day, or it gets ignored. If I bought a fresh ingredient, especially an obscure one, specifically for that meal, it sits in the fridge until I remember that I shoved it back there. Then a few weeks later, it goes in the trash. When I store my ready-made meals in the freezer, however, life can get in the way as much as it likes, and that meal and all of its ingredients are still ready until “I remember I shoved it in there.”
There are so many reasons to plan and prepare your meals ahead of time. Some items are just better when prepared fresh, but it’s a lot less stressful when you’ve planned your day-of meal for a day you can guarantee you have the time and energy to make it.
Besides these reasons, why do you prepare your meals ahead?