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Save money and eat better. Sounds easy enough right? I’ve decided to try to meal prep on a budget for 90 days and see how it goes. I even shared some fun recipes to meal prep all the way at the bottom 😉 All it takes is a little planning and here’s how to do it!
I don’t know about you guys but I’m tired of wasting money and eating out all the time because I failed to plan ahead. My goals this year are to:
- Reduce my debt by 40%
- Make healthier choices when it comes to food
- Cook more
- Start saving up for a down payment to buy my own house
That sounds terrifying and impossible… but, it’s not.
I recently shared with you how easy it is to eat healthy on a budget and I have to say, it’s been working out for me.
The best (and only way in my opinion) to eat healthy and save money is to planning ahead. I’ve found that when I plan out a menu, I’m less likely to eat out and that’s where meal prepping comes in handy.
Save Time And Money By Planning Ahead
Honestly, I’m so busy growing my business from home and running my life that the thought of adding one more task to my weekly to-do list didn’t sound appealing. AT ALL.
Skeptically, I approached the idea of meal prep. Would this really help me save money? After all, don’t you have to spend money on meal-prep supplies to even do it?
Yes, you do. And, it’s totally worth it.
What I discovered is that I actually saved money when I planned my meals ahead of time. I might have spent some money on some glass containers and some more freezer bags but it was something I needed.
As for food, I used what I have at home in my fridge and pantry. I didn’t even realize it but I had been stockpiling ingredients every time I went to the store and didn’t cook.
I even had a couple of 2 lbs of Wild Alaskan Sockeye Salmon and Free-Range Chicken from Butcherbox stocked up in my freezer!
How to Meal Prep on A Budget
Want to know how I did it?
I’m going to share what I learned within those 90 days so you can save time and money, too.
Follow these 5 simple tips for easy meal prep on budget and you’ll be able to plan out a week’s worth of meals of lunches in no time at all!
1. Create a Budget
First, you need to set a budget. Do you know how much you spend on your lunches each week? Would you like to stay within that same budget or would you like to spend even less?
Set a dollar amount and then put a little star by it and adjust this amount after your meal prep for a few weeks. It’s tough to really know exactly how much you will spend until you actually do it.
There are a few apps you can use to create this budget. Of course, Google Docs is free. If you use a spreadsheet, you can access it from any online device, and it calculates it for you. It’s so nice!
You can also use any of your other budgeting apps. Some of my favorites include:
2. Get All The Meal Prep Tools
Next, assemble all the tools you need. I personally don’t use plastics in my home. So I’ve been really trying to maintain a plastic-free meal prep.
Surprisingly, it is so easy!
Here is what I use when I meal prep:
- Slow Cooker
- Instant Pot
- Mason Jars
- Glasslock Containers
- Reusable Stasher Bags (eco-friendly silicone zippered bags you can freeze)
I use both my slow cooker and my Instant Pot for meal prepping. I probably use my Instant Pot more often because it cooks things faster and can make an entire week’s worth of meals in one day.
The slow cooker is fantastic to use when I am heating up the meals for which I prepped earlier in the week.
In the list above, I included some links for food storage products that aren’t plastic. I like to store my lunches in mason jars or I’ll keep each meal’s ingredients together in their own containers.
These Stasher Bags are amazing and super helpful! They are made of silicone instead of plastic and you can reuse them over and over. They act just like disposable freezer bags.
3. Make a List and Stick To It
This next tip is very important and will save you a lot of money. Whether you like paper lists or prefer to use a list-making app, just make one and stick to it.
You will need to create two lists – the weekly menu and the shopping list.
If you prefer making a paper list, this magnetic one from Bloom planners is the best. It hangs on your refrigerator and has a perforated shopping list. You can plan all three meals on one sheet of paper.
For my techy friends (like me), AnyList is my favorite list-making app. You can create grocery lists and share them with other people. Plus, it organizes everything by category, which helps you shop faster. It also works seamlessly with Siri.
I seriously love this app.
4. Buy in Bulk
Additionally, you will save a lot of money if you buy your food in bulk. I love shopping at Costco!
Try to fill up your pantry with non-perishable foods that you know your family will eat. For me, this includes chickpea pasta and whole-grain quinoa.
You can also buy your meat in bulk (I get mine from ButcherBox!) and store the extra in the freezer.
While you can’t buy fresh fruits and vegetables in bulk and expect them to stay good very long, you can buy frozen vegetables.
I actually prefer using frozen chopped onions instead of fresh.
Buy Seasonal Vegetables for Meal Prep
This is my favorite cooking hack of all time!
Seasonal vegetables cost less than out-of-season ones.
You’re probably wondering: What vegetables are in season? It just really depends on where you live.
This guide explains the seasonal veggies by state-it’s really handy!
5. Make a Meal Prep Schedule
Finally, make a meal prep schedule that you can stick to.
For me, Sundays are meal prep days. I literally spend a few hours just chopping and organizing ingredients into containers.
If I make food that can be frozen, I’ll do that on Sundays too.
Depending on how busy you are, do all your meal prep on one day or split it up over multiple days.
The key to saving money is having all your food ready to go in the refrigerator so you don’t order food from takeout.
Meal Prep on A Budget Questions
Now that you know my tips, I want to answer a few questions about meal prep! If you have more questions, let me know in the comments and I’ll add them to this list.
Is it expensive to meal prep?
No, it really isn’t expensive. When you plan ahead, buy in bulk, and use the right supplies, you can actually save money.
Which are the best containers for meal prep?
Since you are probably going to be freezing or warming up your food in these containers, I prefer not to use anything plastic. I don’t like the thought of toxins leaking into my food.
Instead, I prefer to use glass containers with BPA-free silicone. There are lots of choices out there. Read the descriptions and choose one that is safe and toxin-free.
Should I freeze or refrigerate my prepared food?
You will definitely want to freeze or refrigerate your prepped meals!
Almost all meals and ingredients will last about a week in the refrigerator. If you think you won’t be able to make your meal within a week, freeze it.
If you do freeze your food, remember to take it out of the freezer the night before. This gives it time to thaw out before you bake it and it cuts down on cooking time.
I hope this guide helps you understand how to meal prep without spending a lot of money. I think you’ll really like it!
Favorite Make-Ahead Recipes
Here are some of my go-to make-ahead meals. My family adores all of them. We make them a few times a month, I think you’ll love them too.