# BaptistHealthy Easy Eats: Meal Planning is About Time, Health and Money

What is meal planning? Meal planning means knowing what is for dinner every day.  There are manyreasons for meal planning.  Most reasons fallunder three categories — time, health and money. 

When you know what you are going to cook, you reduce the trips to the grocery store and spend less time walking the aisles. You can even reduce the amount of times you cook by choosing a recipe that you can batch cook (cooking in bulk).  When cooking in bulk you make enough to store the extra in the freezer for another day.    

Preparing your meals at home makes it much easier to eat healthy. If you are on a specific diet for hypertension, diabetes, weight loss or just want to eat healthy, meal planning gives you the opportunity to adjust ingredients and portions to meet your needs. You are also able to control for food allergens and sensitivities.

Meal planning saves you money by making use of what youalready have on hand, purchasing only what you need, and reducing the amount oftimes you order in or do take out. Estimates show that restaurant meals areabout five times more expensive than home cooked meals. 

There are many ways to go about meal planning.  Here are the basics.

  • Pick a day to spend a little time in thekitchen.  Weekend days are verypopular.  Make sure that you have time toshop for groceries before the week gets started. 
  • Take inventory of what you have in yourrefrigerator, freezer and pantry.  Prioritizefresh, ready to expire and leftovers. This allows you to use foods efficientlybefore they go bad and reduce food waste.
  • Select recipes. On average, families eat anaverage of eight or nine dinner meals. For those busy days, keep the mealsimple with recipes you already have on hand or know by heart.  Leftover day is a great way to save time,money and clear your fridge of all the extras left behind.  
  • If you are tired of the same old meals and needsome new recipes, search the internet. Use keywords to help you find what you are looking for such as, hearthealthy, diabetic friendly, healthy, easy and budget friendly.
  • Create a grocery list with the ingredients youneed.  Try to use what you already haveon hand, especially the perishables. Organize the list according to the layout of your store, if possible.Stick to the list.  Resist the temptationto buy extra just because it is on sale. Chances are if the item is not on your meal plan, you may end upthrowing it away later on.
  • Resources to help you succeed at meal planning areavailable online. There are apps with weekly meal planners, inventory andgrocery lists as well as printable forms for those who prefer to write it down. 
  • Using these tools and following the basic stepsfor meal planning will help you determine if you have time for a new recipe orif it is a Taco Tuesday, Reheat Wednesday, leftover Friday kind of week. 

About the Author
Terry Ochoa is a wellness dietitian at Baptist Health South Florida. She developed the nutrition component for an intensive lifestyle modification program available to employees. For the past eight years, she has provided nutrition counseling and education to its participants. Ms. Ochoa has collaborated on several research projects that examine the effects of intensive lifestyle intervention programs and their long-term effects on health-related behavior modification. Her study results are published in several reputable journals. Terry is involved with Homestead Hospital’s Healthy Homestead initiative and the system-wide Plant Strong initiative. Ms. Ochoa practices what she preaches. She doesn’t sacrifice taste or nutrition and exercises daily as a part of her routine. Her goal is to inspire and support those seeking to live a healthier and happier life. She earned her bachelor and master’s degree in dietetics and nutrition at Florida International University.

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