A week of food can be costly. Breakfast and lunch out followed by the occasional dinner ordered in. For me, eating in was relatively uncommon, especially for lunches and it was costing me a lot of money. In total the expenditure could easily amount to over £70 a week. It’s not that I can’t cook, I just don’t tend to find the time to cook or pack lunches and dinners when I need to. But regardless, it is something which is costing me way too much money. I’m trying to save for a mortgage and business venture and therefore I need to be avoiding this unnecessary expenditure. I was searching the web for recipes when I found something which can be easy, healthy and cheap. Welcome to the world of meal prep.
What is meal prep?
Meal prep or meal preparation is the idea of preparing meals either fully or partially for the entire week in advance. You simply pick one day to prepare the entire weeks meals, either by chopping up ingredients to go with the meal or actually cooking the whole meal in advance ready for the day. The benefits of this is that you can prepare healthy meals instead of eating out and picking up unhealthy things, whilst also saving money as it is often the case that buying and cooking food yourself is cheaper than buying food out.
It is important to find something which works for you, this may be preparing just dinners, just lunches or a combination of everything. You might want to just prepare some meals and cook others. Find out the days/times you are most busy and prepare those meals.
How it worked for me
I started out with basic recipes. I would cook batches of things like curries, pastas, chilli con carne and stir fry dishes. They would provide me with lunches and dinners for a whole week and would be prepared on the Sunday to start the week. Everything would go into the freezer and be taken out the night before I needed it. Sunday became a busy day where I was creating a fair few meals. However because I was willing to make similar meals, that used the same ingredients, it wasn’t the worst. I also can see that the time it took on a Sunday was far less than it would have taken me to prepare all these meals separately on the day the meals were needed.
My breakfasts are the same daily – just some cereal and some fruit, so there was no preparation needed there. Lunches sometimes ranged from sandwiches which I made the night before, or cold pasta which would be made and stored from the Sunday onward for a couple of days. Dinners were the ones which need more preparation, but I used similar ingredients and tended to keep towards the same few meals most weeks. This is something which might not work for everyone, if you want more variety, but you can still meal prep different meals.
As for the results, not only did I save a fair amount of money by not buying breakfast and lunch out five days a week, along with buying dinners from a takeaway once or twice a week, I also lost some weight. Yes, a fantastic side effect to trying to save money was the fact I was eating healthier. I was eating more vegetables and less fatty food because I was avoiding the processed foods that I was previously buying out. I ended up feeling a lot better and a lot more motivated as well, as I was making a positive change to my life which was leading to multiple results.
Overall I was spending roughly £70 a week, usually just on breakfasts and lunches under my previous ‘eat out’ system. Nowadays, I estimate I spend less than this amount on food for the whole week, for every meal. My current expenditure on food for the entire week now sits around £50 on average. This is quite a decent saving when you consider the added benefits to my health.
Some basic meal prep tips
- Plan your meals that you need before you need to make them. Try it for just a few days to begin with and try to make the meals you have use similar ingredients (e.g. chicken breasts)
- Prep the food, pick a time. I would do this on a Sunday for the week and freeze what wasn’t needed soon. I love good taste, so I was sure to prep food I was actually going to enjoy. Dedicate a few hours of your home life to make the food you need for the week, or at least a few days to begin with. Getting it out the way worked the best for me.
- Cook/prepare. The idea of meal prep is to make things easier for you. That doesn’t always mean cooking everything ready. Instead you can cut ingredients ready for use or make the sauces you need ready to go for the week.
- Buy some meal prep containers. These can be reused and if you pick decent ones you can use it to heat up the food in the microwave. They are decently cheap but will help you portion and store the food.
Do you meal prep or are you interested to try it? Let me know what you think of this money-saving move.