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I think by now most of us know that meal planning can save you money, time and stress. But do you know the benefits of minimalist meal planning?
What is minimalist meal planning, you ask?
The concept is that you prepare a small number of recipes on a rotating basis. The number of recipes you need is based on how often you want to repeat them.
For my family, I have four weeks of menus that I rotate. There are four to five dinner main dishes per week, which means I make between 16 and 20 different dinner recipes each month (not including sides). Our breakfasts, lunches, and snacks are pretty consistent from week to week, and nobody seems bored yet. 🙂
I take my minimalist meal planning a little bit further and limit the number of cooking methods I use. For example, I only cook our dinner main dishes (meat) four ways: in the Instant Pot; in the slow cooker; in the oven; or on the grill (this is my husband’s job). I don’t poach, fry, or saute a main dish… ever.
Okay, enough with the explanations. Let’s get into the benefits of minimalist meal planning!
1. You don’t waste as much food.
According to the Natural Resources Defense Council, the average American throws away more than 400 pounds of food per person per year. That means a family of four wastes approximately $1,800 per year!
I felt sick when I read those stats because we used to be part of the problem. It’s more than just wasting food and money, though. Think about the impact on the environment and the amount of water it takes to grow these foods. California, where I live, is coming off of a seven-year drought. California’s farms use about 80 percent of the state’s water supply, which means that we waste a lot of water when we throw away food.
2. Cooking becomes easier because you master the recipes.
Trying new recipes takes time and effort. But when you consistently make the same meals, you are able to master them much easier and cooking becomes faster.
3. You use ingredients more than once.
How many of you have spent $10 buying new spices for a recipe that you make one time? I know I sure have, many times! But when you make the same recipes, you actually use up ingredients. Other times I’d buy a bag of fancy rice for a recipe that I never made again. That bag sat in my small pantry, taking up prime real estate.
4. Your pantry and refrigerator/freezer are less cluttered.
See benefit #3. I just don’t have the space to buy much food in bulk or to make 50 freezer meals. For a while, I wanted room for a deep freezer in the garage and a large walk-in pantry. But I’m glad now that I only have a couple cupboards in our peninsula (not even a real pantry!), because I would’ve filled it with a lot of ingredients I wouldn’t use or unhealthy, processed foods.
5. Your mind is less cluttered.
I should probably move this to number one. It’s HUGE! Your mind is less cluttered because your recipes and your kitchen are less cluttered. Put your meal planning on auto-pilot and have one less thing to worry about!
In addition, a lot of meal planning tips say to buy in bulk and to make freezer meals. I get it; you save money when you buy in bulk (but only if you actually use it). But now you have to keep inventory of what you have. You, my dear, have way too many other things to think about and keep track of.
6. Grocery shopping is easier.
When you know exactly what you need, your shopping becomes infinitely easier. You don’t wander around the store trying to figure out what to make. You don’t have to make last-minute trips to the store because you’re trying a new recipe and don’t have all the ingredients. Plus, you know where things are in the store which makes getting in and out even faster.
7. You learn the prices of food.
I don’t cut coupons or plan my meals around what’s on sale because it takes too much time. But as I’ve purchased the same types of meat and produce, I’ve started to learn the prices and I’ll choose what kind (strawberries versus a pineapple, for example) based on what’s the better deal. I’m embarrassed to admit that I never knew whether what I was paying for meat or produce was a good price or not. This is especially important if you’re trying to buy organic produce and grass-fed meat.