With most Americans staying home during the pandemic, meal planning is an activity that can really help your fitness lifestyle. It can be the difference between getting in better shape or putting on the pounds.

Meal planning is about planning and preparing your food in advance. It eliminates (or reduces) the impulse buying and eating of food. It creates the opportunity for healthier eating and limiting bad food choices.

Meal planning saves money because you plan your shopping. You can strategically purchase foods on sale and foods that cost less. Compare the cost of a prepared meal to the same meal eaten at a restaurant. You are also eating much healthier food. You know what is in the meals you are cooking. If you eat out at restaurants often you are eating more calories due to higher sugar and fat content. You can also account for the different food choices your family likes to make. Meal planning allows you to see what you need to prepare and cook to satisfy a variety of tastes and appetites.

Build Your List of Foods
Build a list of the general foods you or your family eat. Make choices about the primary foods you eat the most. The healthier the better. For example, try to eat more skinless chicken than hamburger. Add more squash and zucchini than pasta. We generally eat the same 50 or 60 food items all the time anyway. You can have snacks and desserts on your list. You just want to limit the frequency and amounts of eating them.

Build Your Meal Template
Build your template for your breakfast, lunch, and dinner meals. What are the primary meals you eat and when do you eat them? Having a template and shopping for the foods on this list will guarantee you always have these foods and meals available. Stick with your core recipes that you know you can make quickly and easily. Try not to get bogged down with creative meals in the beginning. Stick to the basics to get used to the concept.

Do Your Food Preparation
After you have completed your shopping, do your food preparation? Prepare your meals in advance and put them in containers in your refrigerator. Your meal prep may not include all the items in the meal, but it gives you a head start. If you have your meal plan and your prepared ingredients you are far more likely to follow through with the meal than going out to eat. Meal planning is as much about convenience and choices as it is about nutrition.

Make Enough for Leftovers
Leftovers are a great way to make meals more convenient and limit your time in the kitchen. You can cook a meal once and get two or three meals out of it. Over time you learn the foods you like to eat as leftovers. It will save you time and money.