How Does Meal Prep Help You Save Money?
Are you new to meal prepping? We discuss everything you need to know as a beginner! You must have heard about how this popular cooking trend helps you save time, effort, and money. People also talk about how it can be healthy. You can experience all these benefits if you approach meal prep correctly.
Meal prep is short for meal preparation, which is exactly what you expect it to mean. Your goal when going into meal prep is to plan your meals for a certain number of days. Most people conduct their meal prep weekly. Generally, meal prep involves buying your ingredients, cooking meals, and storing them for later. Here is a closer look into this practice.
By preparing your weekly meals ahead of time, you are saving money by following your food budget. Staying on budget can be challenging, especially since prices have been rising at their fastest rate since the early 1980s. So, it isn’t surprising if you want to try new things that can help you save money. With meal prep, you can save money in the following ways:
You Have Food Ready
Preparing your food ahead of time ensures you have something to eat when you need it. This way, you can save money by avoiding non-essential outside meals. Granted, you might have to practice a little self-discipline when it comes to spending on fast food or eating outside.
Going out to dinner at fancy restaurants or even using online food ordering apps can be tempting. You might end up doing them when you feel too lazy to cook. Remember that the money you spend on those one-time meals can also pay for ingredients to pay for multiple meals.
For instance, instead of spending $15 on Uber Eats, you could buy chicken breasts and prepare meals for one week. You can even use different recipes for more variety in your flavors. Take a few moments to assess your spending habits when it comes to food and reconsider your choices.
You Can Limit Your Ingredients
Picking up from the last point about saving money on spending on eating outside, meal prepping helps you put your meals into perspective. In other words, you get to save money by knowing what you will be eating for the week. As such, you won’t waste time wondering what you’ll have for dinner and then spend money buying ingredients on that day.
For example, you set aside some time on Sunday morning to prepare your Monday and Tuesday meals. Suppose you decide that you’ll be having chicken that week. In that case, you can skip buying other protein products and focus on buying ingredients for those chicken meals. You can change up your menu since chicken is quite a versatile ingredient.
In addition, you can worry less about food going bad when you limit your ingredients for specific days. You account for the meals you have each day, so you already know that you’ll be using up all the ingredients. That way, nothing goes to waste and you get to consume all the food products you purchase.
You Can Save Money on Groceries
Related to limiting your ingredients, you can save more grocery money when buying food for meal prep. Having a list of the ingredients you will need to prepare your meals and following it helps you stick to your budget. Once again, it becomes a matter of self-discipline when sticking to the items on your list.
When buying groceries for your meal prep, consider going into the store with just enough money to buy everything on your list. As such, be sure to calculate how much you might need once you’re at the store. You might also want to leave your credit and debit cards behind. Without extra money or cash cards on you, you are less likely to make impulse buys on random, unlisted food items.
In terms of your listed food items, especially the general foods, consider buying generic brands if they are more affordable. You can always alter the flavors of those foods with different cooking methods and recipes. As long as they provide the same amount of nutrients, generic brands should be good.
Another money-saving tip when it comes to grocery shopping for your meal prep is to buy certain items in bulk. Spices that you frequently use for your meals are examples of things you can buy in bulk because they don’t expire quickly. Meal prepping also includes non-food materials, such as cleaning supplies for your dishes.
You Can Save on Utility Bills
Meal prepping helps you save money on your utility bills, particularly on gas, electricity, and water. This strategy may be useful if you discover that you have been spending more on these areas. It goes to show that meal prepping also offers a positive environmental impact by saving energy on top of money, time, and effort.
Preparing your meals ahead of time means you won’t have to use your stove daily. As such, your LPG tank may last longer, saving you more money in the long run. Similarly, you could get a smaller electricity bill if you use an electric stove. You’ll only be cooking once or twice a week to prepare your meals.
Finally, you can save on your water bills simply by meal prepping. If you have a dishwasher, you won’t be using it as often if you only have one major dishwashing duty in a week. Normally, you might spend a lot of time (and water) washing your dishes, pots, and utensils after every meal. But with meal prepping, you’ll only wash whatever containers you use for your prepared meals.
You Are Living a Healthier Lifestyle
“Health is wealth” is an age-old proverb that bears repeating. When you live a healthy lifestyle, you get to save more money on expensive hospital trips, especially for conditions that you could easily avoid just by eating right.
With meal prepping, you can monitor your food intake to analyze your diet. Knowing what you intend to eat ahead of time allows you to adjust your calories, ensure you are eating the right amount of every food group, and even avoid junk food.
As you monitor your food intake, you have better chances to avoid developing conditions associated with having a poor diet. Such risks include digestive problems, mental health disorders, heart disease, and cancer.
How Can You Start Meal Prepping?
There are three principles that you must consider if you’re new to meal prepping: your schedule, supplies, and storage. Once you understand each one, you can adjust accordingly and find a successful meal prep strategy that works for your lifestyle. Here is a closer look at each principle:
Set Your Meal Prep Schedule
Meal prep is a routine that requires dedication to guarantee success. Consider starting small, just like you would when you start exercising. You wouldn’t want to shock yourself into a new regimen that you can’t maintain.
When scheduling your meal prep, start with half a week instead of one whole week. Perhaps you can prepare your meals for Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday on that week’s Sunday. Or, you could prepare single meals for your entire week. As much as possible, don’t exceed five days when allotting days for your meal prep.
According to the Economic Research Service of the US Department of Agriculture, Americans spend an average of 37 minutes a day preparing meals. Different groups have widely varied times between them. For example, women tend to spend 51 minutes while men spend 22 minutes on average when meal prepping.
Take note of any changes you experience when you schedule your meal prep. You might notice that you clocked into work a few minutes earlier than usual, or you saved lunch money on a certain day. Over time, you can adjust your approach to your meal prep and eventually develop a schedule that works for you.
Purchase Meal Prep Supplies
Meal prepping involves more than groceries. You’ll need good supplies to support your new lifestyle. In particular, you’ll need high-quality kitchen supplies to keep up with the demands of preparing your meals ahead of time. Think of it as an investment in the best materials to help you save more money in the long run.
For instance, you could take a look at what cooking experts suggest are the best kitchen knives. One of the items they mentioned stays sharp a long time, requiring fewer honing sessions, meaning they last longer. In the long run, you can worry less about buying a new knife.
Alternatively, you can invest in gadgets that help you save time in the kitchen. Vegetable slicers are some examples, which are tools that let you slice and dice onions in one motion. This way, you can avoid spending too much time chopping them for your meal prep.
Meanwhile, other supplies that are integral in a meal-prepping lifestyle are storage containers. Glass containers are much better than plastic ones because they last longer and are generally safer. Some plastic containers may contain BPA, which is hazardous to your health.
When choosing glass meal prep containers, consider their sizes and whether they are dishwasher- or microwave-safe. Also, make sure that they are airtight. Consider choosing among the best food storage containers highlighted in The New York Times.
Establish Your Meal Prep Storage
Once you have your meal prep containers ready, be sure you know how to store the meals you prepare. Make some room in your refrigerator to accommodate your food containers. As such, you might want to invest in containers designed to save space, such as those that you can stack on top of each other.
Similarly, you might want to rearrange your pantry and kitchen cabinets to store some food containers. You could prepare meals that don’t need refrigerating, such as trail mixes and protein bars. In essence, you want to organize your kitchen to make your food easily accessible. Think of it as your present self looking out for your future self.
When storing your prepared meals, experts at My Body My Kitchen suggest that you should only refrigerate them for no more than a few days (four days are ideal). You can also freeze some meals as long as they are safe to store in the freezer. Dairy products and cooked pasta are some foods you must not freeze.
Choose the Right Food
When choosing the food that you want to prepare for your future meals, be sure they check all the boxes for essential nutrients. Generally, a balanced meal would include one protein item, one carb food, and fresh fruit or vegetable. One budgeting tip you can consider when choosing food for meal prep is to include ingredients that are in season.
Note that you don’t have to cook everything at once when preparing your food. Meal prep simply means you are making things easier for you when you decide to have a meal. For instance, you can cut the vegetables that you intend to use for your meals for that week. Once you’re ready to eat, you cook them as you want.
Saving money with meal prepping is possible through budgeting. Preparation is the core of meal prep. You would dedicate some time off your day to set a food budget and stick to it. When you know how much you allow yourself to spend on your meals, you can avoid unnecessary spending on food items that aren’t on your list.
You can also save money with meal prep by offsetting other expenses, particularly with your utility bills. With meal prepping, you would only spend one major cooking session, saving gas and/or electricity. Likewise, you would only do heavy dishwashing after your meal prep sessions, saving water.
When starting meal plans, be sure to assess your capacity and schedule to see if it is doable. Your overall goal when meal prepping must be to cut costs and make things easier for you. Consider preparing smaller meals if you are only starting to see whether this regimen makes sense for your lifestyle.