Though the best of us occasionally lack a little morale to go to work, there’s no denying that we enjoy spending our hard-earned dollars as we please.
Nobody cautions us against spending on our hobbies, buying one pair of pants over another or eating the occasional meal out. When it comes to that last pleasure, however, somebody probably should.
Given our daily requirement for sustenance, the money we spend and the choices we make on food should not go unchecked.
Thankfully, meal planning is good for your physical health, mind and budget:
Fast food isn’t the burger-and-fry marketplace it used to be, but most meals still are far from wholesome. Eating at chains like Chipotle are about the best you can do depending on what you order (brown rice vs. white, bowl over a burrito, etc.) but most things instant and fast not only contain little nutritional value, but they’re also loaded with sodium, added sugars and trans-fat. And that’s not even counting the soft drinks commonly consumed with these meals, which can cause diabetes, cancer and an increased chance of stroke, among other adverse health effects.
One of the most important aspects of meal planning is being able to control the ingredients in your food. If you have kids, it’s even more important to get them used to wholesome tastes instead of processed food. Meal planning apps like Yummly, Paprika, and PlateJoy—among others, make it easy to shop for and prepare healthy recipes.
Save Substantial Money
It’s certainly possible to eat your meals out and still get nutritional value. However, consuming healthy to-go and sit-down meals will cost you hundreds of dollars — potentially over a thousand — per month. Even if you skimp on health, you won’t save any money. Per AOL, a typical fast food meal costs between $5–7, compared to $1.50–3 for the average at-home meal. This 40–79 percent savings reduction is just a baseline.
If you’re used to buying each meal out and can get better at making filling foods for cheap, there’s no limit to how much you can save. When you factor in the long-term health costs associated with consuming unhealthy foods, the savings are even higher You can use apps like Clarity Money for money saving tips and features that bring greater visibility into how different spending areas impact your bottom line.
Thwart Instant Gratification
It feels good to get things the moment we desire them. That’s why the Starbucks drive-thru is packed in the morning while the inside sits empty. There’s nothing wrong with taking advantage of modern convenience, but getting used to this instant gratification can have long-term side effects far beyond our eating habits. It can make us more willing to delay challenging tasks for low-level ones, less patient and not as mentally disciplined.
Regularly incorporating meal prepping into your routine can fight off the instant gratification the world constantly dangles over us. And as good as a meal out can be (especially among friends and family), tasting our own prepared food comes with a certain satisfaction that eating out can’t provide.
Make the Most of Your Time
A common reason people give for not cooking at home is how long it takes. Cooking does take time, but meal prepping cuts weekly cooking times down considerably. Instead of getting out the pots and pans every night to whip up a meal, you make everything in one session.
And some of the best meal-prep recipes are also the simplest, meaning you don’t need to spend your undivided attention over a hot stove. You could do laundry, listen to a podcast or audiobook, catch up with friends or family, quiz your children on their homework — whatever complements your kitchen downtime!
A lot of personal finance advice should be taken with a grain of salt as every financial situation is different. Meal prepping is an exception though. Any lifestyle tweak that can save you money and bring you health — especially one that strengthens your mental discipline and makes you more productive – is undoubtedly one worth integrating.