Slicing fresh tomatoes on a wooden cutting board surrounded by other fresh vegetables.

Meal Planning – The Best New Year’s Resolution You Can Make, from Sally Kuzemchak, RD

If you have resolved to eat healthier this year, you don’t have to go to extremes to achieve your goals and stay the course long past January. Take a smart approach this year with a resolution that will not only improve your eating habits but also save you time, money and stress. Make this the year you master meal planning!

Maybe you’ve dismissed meal planning in the past as a tedious chore, but trust me, it’s a small investment with huge returns. Here are five life-changing perks:

  1. You’ll feel less stressed.

Standing in front of the refrigerator at 5:30pm when you’re tired, hungry and clueless about what to make for dinner adds stress to your day. When you have a dinner plan for each night, you’ll feel more relaxed and organized.

  1. You’ll eat healthier.

Having your meals mapped out means no spins through the drive-thru or bags of take-out. You get bonus points for prepping vegetables in advance for weekly meals, like jarred salads for lunch, washed greens for salads or even a veggie tray to snack on all week. You can pick up those veggies, including a variety of organic choices, for great prices at ALDI.

  1. You’ll save money.

I plan my week’s meals and make my grocery list at the same time. That way, I can get everything I need in one trip and avoid last minute outings to the store for a forgotten ingredient. Shopping at ALDI not only means you’re in and out faster (thanks to fewer aisles) but also that you’ll save up to 50 percent* compared to regular grocery stores. I created this free meal planning worksheet that includes an aisle-by-aisle shopping list.

  1. You’ll save time.

Scrambling around the kitchen searching for dinner (or dashing out for a pizza) sucks away valuable time. With a plan in place, you can take a moment the night before to put any frozen meat or poultry in the fridge to defrost and set out items that you’ll need, like an onion or spices. Take it one step further by prepping some of your meals on Sunday—or simply prep part of the meal, like grilling chicken breasts, roasting veggies or cooking up a batch of rice.

  1. You’ll waste less food.

Each American throws away more than 20 pounds of food each month**! That’s bad for the planet and your wallet. When you plan your meals, you only buy what you need, so you automatically waste less. Stocking up at ALDI instead of bulk warehouse stores means you’re not left with a lot of unused food.

So where should you begin? Plan just a few dinners a week to get you started. I always build in a night for leftovers and one for going out, too. Post your meal plan either where your family can see it—like on a white board in the kitchen—or on your phone so you can access it anywhere. Once you get the hang of it and start seriously reaping the benefits, you’ll be hooked!

*Based upon a price comparison of comparable products sold at leading national retail grocery stores.

**Based upon statistics provided from the Natural Resources Defense Council.

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