This summer, my husband and I did the 21 Day Fix to challenge ourselves to eat healthier. The fix involved meal planning for the week and prepping our meals every Sunday. Aside from the obvious health benefits, we saw something happen that we weren’t expecting; we were saving a ton of money.
On average, I was spending close to $70 less at the grocery store with every bi-weekly trip. On top of that, my husband and I were both seeing extra money at the end of our pay periods. A few days before payday usually had our bank accounts close to zero. Instead, we were seeing anywhere from $50-$100 extra in our accounts around that time. We couldn’t believe how much we were saving. Then we started looking at the numbers.
How Meal Planning Saves Money
There are a few reasons planning our meals each week was saving us money. We were going to the grocery store with a precise list and precise measurements, so we weren’t just buying anything, nor were we buying too much of any specific ingredient. And because we planned the meals, we could plan them around what meats were on sale that week. Since everything we ate was planned out, it was easier to avoid buying food that was not on our list – especially snacks. And because we had a meal or snack planned for every ingredient on our list and we were no longer buying too much of one ingredient – and we were using all of our ingredients the day we prepped for the week – we didn’t waste as much food.
While saving money on groceries was awesome enough, saving money on dining out was even better! I hate to admit it, but my husband and I were spending a ton on fast food spots and restaurants. Having meals already made and ready for lunch and dinner saved us from grabbing lunch at work, or dining out because we were too tired to cook. Even fast food restaurant bills can add up if you’re frequenting them more than a couple nights a week.
10 Meal Planning and Prepping Tips
Now that you know how meal planning can help you save money, you’re probably ready to get started. It’s pretty self explanatory: you plan your meals for the week, then prepare your meals in advance. It may sound simple, but it can be tricky. Luckily, there are a few tips that can help it go smoothly.
- If you want to save even more money, look in your pantry first, and plan meals that include ingredients you already have.
- If you can’t think of what to make, check out Pinterest. There is an endless amount of meal plans and recipes you can use.
- You’ll need a ton of tupperware containers. A ton. To keep your meals easily separated(breakfast, lunch, dinner, snack), I recommend using specific color tags or even use dry erase markers to write meals on each container.
- Buying your meat in bulk can be cheaper, so plan a few meals that center around the same protein. Buy a ton of ground beef or turkey (a healthier option) and make meatballs, hamburgers, tacos, chili, and spaghetti. Enjoy a rotisserie chicken, then use the leftovers to make chicken salad sandwiches and chicken caesar salads.
- To make more food at one time, cook something in the crockpot (or multiple crockpots) while you prepare other meals. I love this super simple crockpot buffalo chicken recipe from AllRecipes. With this chicken, you can make wraps, sliders, or salads.
- Write it out. Use a blank calendar and fill it with your planned meals. Write out everything. It will make it easier for you to stick to your plans and to create your grocery list each week.
- Schedule your meal prepping. Pick a day and give yourself a few hours to grocery shop and prepare your food for the week. We do our prepping on Sundays since we have more time. It’s a great way to start the week, too.
- Make grab and go meals for your busy days. When you don’t have time to heat up your food or you’ll be in a place that won’t have a table or utensils, plan to eat a delicious wrap and finger-food snacks that day. While I try to be eco friendly when I can, days like this may require throw away wrapping like foil or plastic wrap. You’ll most likely need something to store your food in something that isn’t bulky. Something you can slide in your bag. Reusable sandwich bags are great for this.
- Build a recipe bank. As you find out what meals work best for you, keep them in a bank you can return to as you create your plan each week. Soon, you’ll have enough where you can just draw from your bank for every meal.
- Host a prep party. Make it fun and invite a few friends over to prep meals with you.
Keeping Track of Your Success
Along with your calendar and recipe bank, try keeping a food journal to track what you eat. I also like to write out my food expenses per month to see where else I can save. Maybe there was a super cheap meal I could use more often – or a meal that cost more than expected that I should cut.
What are your best meal planning tips?