story & photos by Phillis Lewis
Do you constantly find yourself spending way too much on fast food? Do you lack the energy to prepare meals every day? Do you find yourself preparing the quick and easy when it’s time to eat?
I, and many others, completely understand. That’s why I think meal prepping may be a wonderful option for you. But what is meal prepping? Well, it’s simply making meals ahead of time, tucking them away in the fridge or freezer, and taking them out one meal at a time when you’re ready to serve. It’s a method to help you make meals at home that are usually healthier than carry out, always cheaper than eating out, and so easy to just grab and go.
How does meal prepping save money? Rather than spending money eating out, you’ll eat tasty, home-cooked meals for a fraction of the cost. Take one of my favorites, chicken Caesar salad. When I buy the salad’s ingredients from the store, I pay between $8-$10. When I get home and prepare four salads from these ingredients, those four servings are only about $2.10-$2.50 each. If you were to buy the same salad from a restaurant, you’d easily spend between $6-$12 per salad. I eat about 20 salads per month and save at least $4 per salad. That’s $80 a month, just on salad! See the savings? If you multiply that by 12 months in a year, that’s $960 a year in salad savings.
The time it takes on meal prepping can take as long as you want it to, but it depends largely on how big your household — bigger household equals more time, but it also equals more savings! You’ll also need to invest a bit in the containers for your prepped meals. I like to use re-useable ones to avoid waste.I found that Groupon is the best place to find meal prep containers. If you’re lucky, you’ll be able to find a code you can use to get a discount.
Meal prepping is so popular that there are websites that offer recipes where the ingredients are increased for multiple servings. My favorite sites are Tasty (tasty.co/topic/meal-prep), and Delish (delish.com/meal-prep/). They both also have Facebook pages and YouTube channels where you can sign up for notifications with meal ideas. The meals are super easy to make, and if you need recipe modifications for special diets (gluten-free, low carb, diabetic friendly) it’s an easy switch.
OK, so now that you’ve saved all that money with meal prepping, what are you going to do with it? How about a nice long weekend at your favorite vacation spot (or week if you’ve been really good at it)? Yep. Me too! See you there!
Other ways to eat smarter per dollar (from moneyunder30.com)
- Go to lunch or happy hour instead of dinner. Restaurants tend to have better dining deals earlier in the day.
- Split an entree with someone else or take half of your food home. Just don’t forget to use the leftovers.
- Eating just appetizers helps cut the cost of your meal down, plus many restaurants have tons of options when it comes to appetizers, making it easy to mix and match.
- Skip the extras like drinks (go water only), desserts, and appetizers.
- If you have favorite dining establishments, sign up for their e-mail alerts and follow them on social media. You’ll be alerted to deals and bargains.
- Bring your own beer (BYOB) to restaurants that allow it and save on costly drinks.