The 5 Benefits of Meal Planning to Overcome the Overwhelm

overcome Jan 31, 2021

Hello Sunday Succulent readers! Thank you so much for returning to this series. Each week, I bring you relevant topics that focus on the emotional, physical, and spiritual elements of the overwhelm. This week, we continue the focus on the slight adjustments we can make in our lives to address the physical elements of overwhelm.

Meal Planning

Meal Planning. Yes. Meal planning. It is not glorious or sexy, but a little bit of control in our healthy habits pays dividends for our mental, physical, and spiritual health. Additionally, since much of the world is still battling Covid-19 spread and surge, meal planning not only helps get our week planned, but it helps us reduce unnecessary trips to the grocery store.

Let's talk about the 5 benefits of meal planning:

  1. Saving Time
  2. Saving Money
  3. Increased likelihood of eating greens
  4. Reduced likelihood of inappropriate snacking
  5. Peace of mind

Saving Time

As a mother, side-hustle entrepreneur, amatuer musician, and full-time grad student, my time is pretty segmented. Let's face it: I'm busy. You, too? It's no surprise. So, to survive and thrive, I focus on what I can control, which is Sunday afternoon. If you have a different workweek, maybe Sunday isn't your day, but my nine-to-five day job dictates that Sunday is the day that works for my schedule.

Meal prepping on Sunday takes me approximately two to three hours, not including the grocery store run. While this time is all concentrated, it saves me approximately two to three hours throughout the week on busy worknights when I do not always have control of my time. It also means less dish washing. Yes, please! I try to get all those pots and pans washed immediately so I don't have to touch them again during the week. 

Meal prepping is peaceful. When I have time blocked out for a single task, I find that I can be fully present in that moment. I am not anxious about the next thing that needs to be accomplished. Since I have been meal prepping for years, this task now comes to me easily. I am efficient and comfortable in this space. I find myself humming, which is has long been my sign of inner peace. What is your sign to yourself that you are at peace in the moment?

Saving Money

 "Running to the grocery store while hungry" has proven to cost our family easily over 50% more in grocery bills. Eating out costs a family generally over $3,000 per year. A little bit of meal planning can have a significant impact on your budget.

Plant-Based Proteins

Our family eats meat, but when I meal plan, I tend to add in quite a few beans, legumes, and other plant-based proteins. These proteins can cost up to 25% less than meat-based proteins. If we eat even one or two meals per week with less meat, we have saved 10% on our overall food bill. To compromise with the meat lovers in the family, I will often prepare something like tacos or burritos that have both meat and beans. Less overall meat is consumed (yeah, budget!) but the protein profile of our meal is maintained.

 Veggies & Greens

Don't love to eat your greens? It's true, many people don't love lettuce or "eating like a rabbit." I admit, I am no lover of salads, but I do love vegetables. To be honest with you, I love how my body feels when I eat a balanced diet with vegetables. If you are not a vegetable-lover, pay attention to how you feel the day after a well-balanced diet. Perhaps that is all the motivation you need to take a few extra bites at each meal.

It is winter where I'm writing today, so let's focus on nice winter vegetables: roasting vegetables on a sheet pan is fantastic for your economic budget as well as your time budget. On any given Sunday, I blend any of the following based on mood, availability, and quality:

  • Sliced eggplant
  • Brussel sprouts
  • Asparagus
  • Carrots
  • Parsnips
  • Tomatoes
  • Fingerling potatoes

 As the week goes on, try sprinkling different spices on them for variety.

Planned Snacks

Our household now has a teenage boy who is intent on eating us out of house and home. A successful weekly meal plan includes healthy snacks...maybe even a few bags of chips. By incorporating apples and oranges into our day and our diet, the junk snacking is reduced. Clementines are a favorite staple. I peel and arrange the clementines sprinkled with cinnamon for the teenager. Since this snack has been a go-to for him since he was three years old, it is almost as comforting as cookies.

Snacking is not going away anytime soon in our household. However, I find that if we have enough healthy, quick-grab food items like protein bars, carrots, and apples, it reduces the likelihood the child will be suddenly banging around in the kitchen to bake himself a batch of brownies. Those impulse brownies seldom make it to the evening, let alone breakfast the next morning.

Peace of Mind

Are you a busy professional trying to keep crazy schedules together during a pandemic? Trying to keep some sense of sanity and healthiness during the week while maintaining a budget? Sunday meal prep day is for you!

When we talk about mindsets and goal setting, we focus on what we can control. I would like to tell you that I am in control of my weeknights. However, I inevitably work late at least one unplanned evening a week. The teenager has forgotten THE MAJOR ASSIGNMENT DUE TOMORROW until the very last second. Sometimes my workout simply took longer than anticipated. In short, I am seldom in complete control of the events that come at me during the week. However, how I approach the evening has much to do with my Sunday prep.

Running late? No worries. Yes, I have vegetables that simply need to be roasted or warmed. Yes, we have prepared protein that is easily accessible. Yes, we have a healthy carbohydrate available. The five to ten minutes I spend tossing a meal together in the evening is healthier, more budget-friendly, and time-effective than any take-out I can find near me. I do not have food-related anxieties. When I have food prepped on Sunday, I avoid the negative self-talk that can arise when I feel I haven't fulfilled my motherly duties. In short, Sunday prep prepares me mentally, physically, and spiritually for unforeseen events during the week.

The peace of mind I find helps control "hangry" outbursts in the family. Hunger and low sugar are combining factors that impact emotional well-being. With a teenager in the house who has joined me in long-distance running, we now have at least two individuals who are hungry "right now." Once hormones spiral, the stress of the day creeps into interpersonal relationships. Easy access to healthy food helps us avoid mis-spoken words.

Are You Ready?

If you are ready to get started with meal planning, click here for your free meal planning worksheet.

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More Reading

How to Meal Plan on a Budget

Overcome the Overwhelm

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