What’s the difference & how to choose the best option for you…
Meal planning and meal prepping have the same end goal but are different methods of getting there. I’ve had experience with both and both work in different seasons for different outcomes but the same goal; to fuel your body!
What is Meal Planning?
Taking a block of time to plan out what you intend to make throughout the course of the week.
- The decision of “what to eat” is pre-determined.
- Better prepared for grocery shopping.
- Remove unhealthy options or last minute dining out expenses.
- You still have to cook daily.
- You may not feel like having what you planned.
- Obstacles in making meals may arise.
My Experience: I love the idea of not having to make dinner choices daily. It helped me immensely to save cost and trips to the grocery store because I already knew what I needed and making a list made grocery trips quick and budget friendly. But the challenge for me, was getting into the habit of doing this weekly. I found myself forgetting (even with a calendar appointment) which then became a ripple effect of poor decisions. Over and under buying for the week, which made it easier to dine out which then cost more because I was buying double to amount of food.
Best practice: Set a time weekly to sit down and plan out your week of meals. I like doing one week at a time so that I can look at our family’s schedule and decide what works for us. Use your Pinterest board of recipes (I know you have them) and take time to jot down your meal choices. There are multiple ways you can choose the menu.
- Pick a dinner theme – Italian Monday, Taco Tuesday, American Wednesday, Takeout Thursday, Favorite Friday, Sandwich Saturdays and Slow cooker Sunday.
- Enlist the help of your family – give each member a night to pick their dinner of choice.
- Keep it simple and choose proteins, greens and a carb and change it up nightly or better yet, double the recipe for one night and make the busy night a leftover night.
Recommended Products: I personally love this Meal Planning Notepad. It’s inexpensive and has a magnet to stick to the fridge. I also LOVE the fact that I can make my list on the same page and tear it off for easy shopping trips.
What is Meal Prepping?
Taking time to actually prepare the meals you intend on eating throughout the week.
- Meals are already prepared in bulk, less time in the kitchen.
- You can properly control portion sizes.
- Hardest decision is making the decision of when to eat.
- You are essentially eating days old leftovers.
- Bored of the same meals.
- Takes time to prepare all of the meals and keep them refrigerated.
My experience: I have a serious love/hate relationship with meal prepping. I know it works for keeping me in check and I love not having to be in the kitchen daily but if I’m being honest, I just don’t enjoy eating leftovers and every time I do meal prep, I feel like I’m on a broken record of options AND leftovers. But it does have its benefits. I’m much better to eat in structure versus eating based on my feelings which on some days can feel like a tantrum throwing toddler who is unsupervised in a candy store.
Best practice: Set aside a few hours and get to cooking. There’s nothing special when it comes to meal prepping. I personally keep it simple with choosing a protein, carb, veggies and healthy fat. This is where understanding what a proper portion size for your goals are imperative because over eating or under eating could be a challenge.
Recommended products: Besides all the ingredients for your meals, a simple single compartment containers. I like the look of these because pretty things makes it more doable. These are from Amazon.
Choosing the right option for you…
Honestly there’s no right way or wrong to prepare to eat. Either option works and I truly believe it depends on the season you’re in and the goals you set. I typically lean towards meal prep for more structure and towards meal planning on more of a regular basis. I also feel like meal planning is more conducive for families. But thats just my own personal thoughts… I would say try both for a month and know that there’s no right way to do it.