Same same but different: Meal planning vs not meal planning

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Meal Planning vs Not Meal Planning

So, you have to get dinner on the table. It happens every night – sometimes it’s organised and easy, other nights it’s chaotic. So in today’s same same but different post I want to compare getting dinner on the table using a meal planning approach and a non meal planning approach. I’ll highlight the pros and cons of each so you can decide what works for you, or which choice you think you might want to try.

A warning though: I am totally pro meal planning so you might get a slight bias in the comparison. But it’s because I think it’s so awesome that I want you to give it a go too, so that’s why I wrote today’s post the way I did.

The anything approach to dinner

Definition: By the anything approach I mean that you are figuring out what to cook each night after work and more nights than not you’re heading to the supermarket to buy something for dinner. Or you end up getting takeaway cause you have no idea what to make.


  • Food shopping and meal prep can be done last minute.
  • You can make whatever you feel like or crave that night.
  • Inspiration can come from the foods around you at the supermarket.
    You can grab something on the way home from work.
  • You’ll be able to try new products regularly as they come on the shelves or on special.
  • You’ll be an expert at knowing the layout of the supermarket and can probably help hapless shoppers better than supermarket staff can.
  • Dinner can be made faster as you’re likely to throw premade things into the microwave or oven.
  • There are plenty of takeaway options so you have plenty of choice in what you eat.


  • You’re tired after work and it seems like too much effort to go to the supermarket after work.
  • If you do make it to the supermarket the lines are long because everyone else is there shopping for dinner after work too.
    You’re more likely to give up and order takeaway.
  • You’re less likely to get much variety in your meals as you’ll probably choose the same meals often.
  • There’s a greater chance you’ll eat food from packets and jars, essentially reheating stuff rather than cooking.
  • You’ll waste more food as you’re likely not to finish the half jars and packets purchased on other nights.
  • You’re more likely to spend extra money and eat extra calories because of impulse buys.
  • You’ll eat a diet higher in salt because of all the packaged, pre made and takeaway foods you’re eating.
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If you don’t meal plan you’ll be at the shops every day.

The meal planning approach to dinner

Definition: By the meal planning approach I mean planning out meals for a week or month ahead. It also involves going grocery shopping with a list, buying food once a week after you’ve done the meal plan and that you’re cooking off the plan each night. You can plan in nights out and grab takeaways or switch meals around too – it’s a flexible meal plan. If you’re really prepared you’ll also have pre chopped some foods ahead for the week or partly made some meals ahead.


  • No thought is required on the night because all planning has been done ahead – it’s a case of home, cook, eat, done.
  • All grocery shopping has been done ahead so you have all the ingredients ready to go.
  • You only need to spend time once a week or once a month thinking about what to eat.
  • You’ll save time every night because everything is ready and just needs to be cooked.
  • Save time because you don’t need to spend time getting inspired and finding recipes each night.
  • You save money because you know what to buy from the supermarket and only buy those items.
  • Less food is wasted as you plan leftovers into your meal plan and use up the foods you have on hand.
  • You get greater variety of meals.
    You know exactly what you’re eating so you don’t have to worry about extra calories, fat, carbs or macronutrients.
  • Your intake of salt will be lower as you eat more fresh foods and less prepackaged meals.
  • You’ll feel relaxed each week knowing you’re eating well and you’ve actually cooked for yourself.
  • You’ll have planned out quick meals for weekdays and more involved meals for weekends.
  • Meal planning can help you lose weight.
  • You can spend more time on weekday evenings being with your family or pursuing your hobbies rather than standing in line at the supermarket or being in the kitchen all evening.
  • You can easily switch meals to another night because you have all the ingredients at home anyway. And you have the flexibility to make something else with the same ingredients if you want to.
  • You only need to go grocery shopping once a week (a bonus if you hate grocery shopping!).
    You’ll build more muscles lifting more grocery bags at once.


  • It takes a chunk of time to make a weekly or monthly meal plan.
  • You need to find recipes ahead.
  • A grocery list is needed and you need to go shopping ahead.
  • You might not crave what’s on the meal plan that might.
  • You need more cash in the one weekly shop to buy all the groceries at once (ie it’ll be a $200 rather than $20 shop – but at least you only do it once a week!).
  • It’s hard work carrying so many groceries up the stairs into your apartment (much easier if you have a house!).
Meal planning means simple meals on the table in less than an hour


Maybe you haven’t seen meal planning in action, and maybe you always thought it was too much trouble. Think about the pros and cons of meal planning and give it a try, because it has many many benefits that you’ll love. And if you work full time there is nothing better than coming home knowing you don’t have to worry about what to cook. It’s great to come home and just start cooking without having the hassle and stress in figuring out what to cook. Trust me on this, I menu plan every week (or mostly monthly now) and it allows me time to go to the gym and to write all these posts for you to read.

Meal planning has literally saved my life, so when are you going to let it save yours?

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