Auburn, Alabama — It’s 6 p.m. and you just got off work. You are too tired to go to the grocery store or make dinner, but don’t want to spend a lot of money to eat out. What can you do to change this habit?
In today’s fast-paced life, this happens quite often for many individuals. How does a person curb their hunger and keep their budget in check?
“The answer is simple, food preparation and meal planning,” says Helen Jones, a food and nutrition regional agent with the Alabama Cooperative Extension System.
Benefits of Prepping and Planning
With busy schedules, individuals tend to eat out more and lose sight of proper nutrition. Meal preparation and planning should be incorporated into a person’s schedule to counteract this habit.
Both food preparation and meal planning are two components of a healthy lifestyle.
“Whether you are cooking for yourself, one to two people or a large group, planning meals is a good place to start improving your food choices. Taking the time to plan a healthy meal can help you avoid a less healthful fast food drive-through dinner,” said Jones.
Meal planning allows a person to keep track of a nutritional diet by determining a food plan prior to a busy week. Planning meals can also assist a person with balancing and fulfilling their diet with the essential food groups.
Research from the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) states, “planning healthy meals ahead of time can help you stick to a healthy eating style. If you’re new to meal planning, start small and work up to more.”
“Not only is prepping and planning beneficial from a health standpoint, both are important for financial reasons too. Meal planning creates a grocery guide so you do not buy unwanted foods or items already in your pantry. Planning helps you stick to a food budget and limits the amount of money you spend eating out at restaurants. Following a plan will help you get the most bang for your buck,” added Jones.
Making a plan before heading to the store can also help you get organized, save money and choose healthy options.
Meals Made Easy
“Even with a busy schedule, food preparation and meal planning can be managed. For most people, Sunday is the best day to plan meals for the week. Meal planning can help you prepare larger recipes that provide multiple meals for the week,” said Jones.
The USDA provides many tips that can make food preparation and meal planning easy for a person to follow. When meal planning, it is important to know what your pantry holds, what your schedule looks like and recipes to follow.