How Meal Planning Helps You Be a Sustainable Eater

Think meal planning is just for saving time? Think again! Here are four simple ways that adopting a meal planning habit can help you be a more a sustainable eater.

Vegetables on a pink table with the words "one simple shift to make now to a be a more sustainable eater"


We’ve heard it all before—the lifestyles we lead, the products we buy and the foods we eat have detrimental effects on the planet. From the amount of meat we consume to the fruits we buy out of season, our collective food purchasing decisions and modern agricultural systems are one of the biggest contributors to greenhouse gas emissions.

The scale of the global sustainability crisis is so large that it can be daunting to eco-conscious individuals who would like to make a difference. What can only one person do that will make a difference?

The answer is simple: meal planning! Yes, meal planning may seem like an odd defensive tactic to adopt in the fight for our planet, but planning the purchasing and preparation of food can have a major impact on a household’s waste, water, and carbon outputs. Here are four ways shifting to a healthy meal planning habit can make you a more sustainable eater.

1. Planning meals means less last minute (bad) decisions.

Yes, we’ve all been there. It’s late, you’re famished and one thing leads to another and suddenly you’re elbows deep in a pizza and there may or may not have been a dessert. Reducing overall overconsumption has been named one key factor in the shift to dietary patterns that will sustain the planet while continuing to feed the world’s growing population. Planning meals in advance, shopping with a list, and preparing pre-planned meals can reduce over-purchasing, over-spending and over-eating.

2. Meal planning means less wasted food.

How many times have you found a sad, moldy bag of vegetables or fruit in the back of the refrigerator and thought, “How did I forget about this?” Meal planning decreases food waste by eliminating the buying of foods that are not planned as part of a meal, and will only be lost and forgotten in dark crisper drawers. Save yourself an afternoon of cleaning out science-project looking produce from the back of your fridge and put that produce to with with a meal plan!

3. Meal planning allows for more creativity–meaning more plant-based meals!

You know devoting one day or even just one meal a week without eating animal products can have a profound collective impact on the environment, but don’t know where to start. Planning the week’s meals in advance will allow for more kitchen creativity than standing in front of the refrigerator on a #MeatlessMonday after a long day at work. Instead, have a meal planning brainstorm to search for or create 1-2 vegetarian meals for the week. Good for you and good for the environment!

4. Planning meals means zeroing in on local seasonal harvests.

Shifting to sustainable, seasonal and local eating becomes all the easier with a little planning! Stock up on and freeze produce when its in season to enjoy all year round and avoid the high off-season prices. Not only will you have the best tasting frozen berries in the winter, but your wallet will thank you for it!

Eating sustainably means making thoughtful food purchasing decisions and eliminating unnecessary waste and overconsumption. Shifting to an intentional food purchasing mindset is the first step to sustainable eating—and meal planning is the tool to ease this transition. Have fun planning new and creative meals with different seasonal ingredients and flavor combinations and pat yourself on the back for putting Mother Nature in the forefront of your food philosophy. Happy planning!

Want more green eating tips? Join to the Green Living Community for meal planning guides, seasonal eating tips, and sustainable living resources straight to your inbox!
Kristina Todini, RDN of Fork in the Road cutting vegetables in an outdoor kitchen.

Author: Kristina Todini, RDN

I'm a registered dietitian who believes that food should be good for you AND good for the planet. Join me in taking the "fork in the road" to eat green and live sustainably.

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