Meal Planning Vs. Meal Prepping: Yes, There's a Difference

When life pulls you in all directions at once - as in, most of the time - basic necessities can fall by the wayside. You might cut back on sleep, see friends less often, or skip the grocery store and live on takeout. That last one, though, is especially ill-advised. Takeout is rarely healthy, filling, or all that tasty, and its costs sure add up quickly. That's why meal planning and meal prepping are so popular among Americans - and yes, the two are different. Learn more about the meal planning vs. meal prepping divide below.

Defining meal planning vs. meal prepping

Meal planning comes before meal prepping - think of planning as your route from point A to point B and prepping as the drive itself.

What is meal planning?

Meal planning is the process of deciding your meals for the week and when you'll eat them. The meal planning process can involve assembling a grocery list based on a rotation of your favorite meals and making time to shop for ingredients. It can also involve setting aside certain days to order fresh-cooked, affordable meals from a local meal cooking and delivery service.

That last part is key - you might have the urge to eliminate takeout full-stop, but you might not have time to cook every meal. Finding ways to semi-occasionally get a cooked meal that's higher-quality and more affordable can thus be key to meal planning.

What is meal prepping?

Meal prepping, also known as just meal prep, is the process of actually making the meals in your plan. For example, you might batch-cook or prepare all your meals for the workweek on a Sunday night. You might store the food you've made in one container or fill several meal-sized containers with a small amount of the whole batch. In either case, the steps involved in meal prepping are chopping, cutting, cooking, and washing dishes - but there are other options.

Meal prepping can also encompass ordering meals ahead of time. This doesn't mean takeout, which often gets soggy after just a day in the fridge or upon thawing from the freezer. It instead means ordering fresh, ready-to-go meals for delivery at a time that lines up with your meal plan. Same-day delivery or batch delivery ahead of time are both options for getting your meal deliveries on schedule.

How does meal planning help you cook healthy meals?

Meal planning may well be the simplest way to approach cooking healthy meals since it's how you:

  • Determine your meals ahead of time. Let's say your current dietary restrictions encompass eating keto. This takes a lot of food options off your plate, making it tougher to stick to your dietary goals. With a plan in place to get ingredients and eat certain meals at certain times, you're much likelier to follow your specific dietary guidelines.
  • Shop for groceries effectively. Supermarket aisles are filled with options, and that can be overwhelming when you go in without a plan. If you instead know exactly what meals you're prepping and what you need for them, you'll be in and out of the grocery store. That means you'll head home without any unhealthy extra items in your bag.
  • Eat all your leftovers. The leftovers from a healthy meal are just as healthy as the original meal. With ample leftovers due to your meal planning, you get several healthy meals rather than gaps you might feel compelled to fill with takeout.
  • Set aside clear times for meal delivery. Fresh, ready-to-eat meals made locally, with locally sourced ingredients, are a great alternative to takeout. They're also an inevitability in meal planning since time for cooking isn't infinite. Meal planning can help you decide which full meals to buy and when to have them delivered.

How does meal prepping help you eat well?

Meal prep is key to eating well since it:

  • Saves a lot of time. Unhealthy meals - say, the fast-food chain that's on your commute home - are an easy trap to fall into when you're at your busiest. When you take time ahead of your most hectic days to prepare your food, you can pull out healthy, prepared meals at any time.
  • Gives you full control. You can cook your meals exactly how you want when meal prepping. You get to decide how much seasoning and spices to add, and you can remove ingredients that don't fit your diet or taste. This can bring joy to cooking that makes you increasingly likely to prepare healthy meals time and again.
  • Incorporates smarter meal delivery options. Meal prep can also involve delivering fresh, ready-to-go meals at the optimal time for meeting your plan. These delivered meals are significantly healthier than takeout - they're not overly greasy, and their nutritional content is higher given their freshness. When you meal-prep the right way, you stick to your dietary goals while still cutting down on cooking labor just a bit.

Meal prepping vs. meal planning: Which is right for you?

While meal planning and prepping often go together, you can also focus on just one or the two. Meal planning might be better for you if you're especially short on time since it gives you more space to incorporate home-delivered fresh meals. Meal prep might be more up your alley if you like cooking and getting creative in the kitchen. It might also be the smarter choice if you're on a highly specific diet that you just aren't seeing reflected on grocery menus.

One option that makes a great full-on substitute for both planning and prep is ordering fresh, heat-and-eat meals cooked and sourced locally. You can easily lay out a schedule for ordering and eating as many meals as you need. That's the planning aspect of things - the prep portion is actually adding meals to your cart and scheduling delivery. It's easiest with a user-friendly delivery service that offers nutritious, delicious meals every day of the week.

Plan your meals and skip the prep with Meal Village

With Meal Village, the only prep work you have to do is hitting the order button. Before that, only meal planning - deciding what to eat and when - comes into play. Plus, all Meal Village meals are made in a Chicagoland kitchen with locally-sourced ingredients, resulting in meals as high-quality and healthy as they are delicious. Order now online or via phone to handle meal planning and meal prepping in one fell swoop.

That last part is key - you might have the urge to eliminate takeout full-stop, but you might not have time to cook every meal. Finding ways to semi-occasionally get a cooked meal that's higher-quality and more affordable can thus be key to meal planning.

Start Your Meal Delivery in Chicago Today

Now that you're on board with the many delicious, healthy and convenient benefits of meal delivery services, do yourself a favor and try our ultra-fresh chef-prepared meals today. There's no subscription or commitment required, and we're always here for you with daily delivery.

And our menu is always changing, so be sure to check out what's cooking this week.

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