When it comes to making dinner, there are two types of common mindsets that I see in practice: the "By the time I get home from work, I'm waaaaay too tired to make anything" and the "By the time I get home from work I'm just so hungry I could eat the countertop and will destroy anything that gets in my way". I'm the latter. Both of these mindsets do have one thing in common: they both end up just throwing a frozen pizza in the oven.
Here's where meal planning can change your nutrition.
Admittedly, we just started doing this this year. I had a fun crafternoon and made an awesome chalkboard for the kitchen, so this seemed like the perfect use for it other than drawing happy stick figures on it.
Of course, meal planning helps with grocery shopping. This helps keep you focused on what you need to get and prevents straying too far over to things that just look so good, and makes sure that you have everything you need for the week. You can also resist the urge to visit the frozen food section. So no "there's nothing in the fridge" excuse.
Secondly, meal planning helps prevent the over-tired or hangry impulse to continually reach for frozen or pre-packaged meals. I don't know about you, but when I'm hangry I have ZERO brain power to figure out what to eat. There is no voice of reason. Piecing together a healthy option just wastes too much valuable time that I could be using to eat something. Of course, if you tend toward the over-tired side of things, you are also likely in brain-energy-conservation mode.
When you have a week planned out of meals, your dinner-making is simply an extra, pre-formed task, like how you need to get gas on your way home. You look at your chalkboard/fridge/post-it note and see that it's Thursday, therefore I make a stir-fry. Great. Get the rice on. Get out the chicken, etc. Chop chop veggies. Done. Zero brain power. Healthy meal.
Thirdly, meal planning helps cut down on prep time. Here's where strategy comes in. You can make sure you have healthy lunches and can make the rest of the week easier. For example, if you know you'll need quinoa in the next day or two, why not cook an extra cup now and just reheat it later? Less cooking time needed. Same goes for chopping veggies. Just chop up the whole pepper or the whole broccoli once, then grab-and-cook throughout the week.
Happy planning, healthy people!