It might seem like an easy fix on a busy day but takeout is bad for your waistline, your health, and your budget.

Research shows that the average American spends only 30 minutes per day cooking, the least amount of time out of the 34 countries studied.  This is half of what we did in the 1960’s and our health has drastically declined. Not surprisingly, the reserach shows that we have the highest obesity rates and spend the most on healthcare.

When you outsource your cooking you tend to eat special occasion foods more often (think French fries and desserts) and consume more processed foods made with cheap ingredients.

The secret to quitting takeout is – drumroll please – meal planning! Nourishing ourselves should be at the top of our agenda, but it is often an afterthought. Having a meal plan is essential for optimum health. In addition to improving your health, there are many additional benefits including:

  • Saving time & money
  • Reducing stress
  • Escaping the “food rut”
  • Reducing food waste

Speaking of food waste, 40% of food in American is thrown out, equating to $165 billion per year! That’s a 50% increase just since the 1970’s.

What is a meal plan?  Simply put, it’s a written plan for breakfast, lunch, and dinner for the week. You’re on autopilot! I recommend including main entrées and the side dishes. It can even include snacks if you’re ambitious. Use a blank calendar, notebook, chalk board, or the Notes app on your phone.

Don’t get fancy -start by setting aside 20 minutes on a Sunday to meal plan. Pick simple recipes (your family probably won’t appreciate the six hours you spent preparing a complex meal). The most important thing is putting real food on the table! Make a master list of your 10 to 20 favorite meals.  This can be a fun family brainstorming game!

To save time, try these hacks:

  • Brown enough taco meat for two nights and freeze half. Cooked rice freezes well too!
  • Make a double batch of enchiladas, shepherd’s pie, or lasagna and freeze one for another dinner.
  • Make extra servings at dinner time to pack for lunches.
  • Cook two meals in one (a roast chicken can be turned into chicken soup the next night)
  • Use a crockpot!

The cost of not cooking is extremely high in terms of our physical, mental, and emotional health. In addition to reconnecting with loved ones, there’s science showing for children family meals lower the rates of obesity, eating disorders, drug abuse, depression, and teen pregnancy. Family meals have a postive impact on academic performance.

Meal planning takes a little time and organization, but it’s well worth it in the end. It’s okay to plan to eat out….just make it a special treat.

Take back your kitchen!