How to save time and money with meal prepping

Meal prep in process

Meal prepping is the art of preparing multiple meals all at once, which you either refrigerate or freeze until you’re ready to eat. It may sound difficult and time consuming, but the reality is that it will save you both time and money. And it’s not that difficult. There are a few steps that will allow you to get through it quickly and a few hacks that will make it easier. Here’s what you need to know:

Meal Prepping

1. Meal Plan – Simplify your meal plan by limiting your variety. You can of course change things up from week to week and plan and plan, but keep it simple within each meal prep cycle. This will not only make it easier to prep, it will save you money at the grocery store because you won’t need to buy as many ingredients.

2. Choose wisely – Select meals that freeze or keep well. Luckily cooked food tends to last longer than certain uncooked foods, but be mindful of how far out in advance you’re prepping your food.

3. Start Prepping – If your meals for the week include rice, cut and/or cooked vegetables, or other items that need to be cooked, make them all at once. For instance, you may choose to have a breakfast sandwich with an egg every morning. You can prep your eggs in advance by scrambling several of them, baking them or even poaching them in the oven using a muffin pan. Make your eggs all at once so they’re ready when you start assembling.

4. Assemble Your Meals – For the meals you’re going to pack like sandwiches, lay all the ingredients out on the counter. If you’re making five turkey sandwiches, lay out ten slices of bread, swipe some mayonnaise or mustard on each slice, add your turkey, cheese, lettuce, and tomato, then top them all, cut them, and wrap them individually. Five sandwiches made all at once will take far less time than making one every morning. You can do the same with egg sandwiches for breakfast.

For dinners, try to plan meals that you can make in your slow cooker or on a sheet pan. Cut all your vegetables for the week and pack the veggies for each meal into a baggie. Clean your meats and package them in baggies for each meal too. If possible, double up when making a meal so that you only have to cook once and have ready-made meals for a few nights.

5. Store Your Meals – Now that all your food is prepped and packaged, you need to store it in your fridge so that it’s easy to find. Use some plastic bins to store your breakfast meals and lunch meals so that you can easily grab-and-go in the morning. If you’re packing extras like yogurt or chips, place those together too (of course your chips should be portioned out into small baggies to make them easy to grab).

Store your vegetables and meats for dinner in a designated area as well so after a long day you can just grab your baggies and throw dinner in the skillet or on a sheet pan and cook. Or you can toss everything into the slow cooker on your way out the door in the morning.

Meal Prepping Hacks

  • Don’t over complicate your meals, look for simple ideas to reduce the amount of prep.
  • Cook two different dinners at once by dividing your sheet pan with foil and baking each meal in its own foil pouch.
  • If your meal requires re-heating, try to keep items relatively similar in size to help them heat evenly. For example, individual pieces of chicken will heat up faster than a whole breast of chicken.
  • You may want to consider separating out any significantly moist ingredients to prevent the rest of the meal from becoming soggy.
  • Use clear storage containers to make everything easy to see.

Taking some time on the weekend to meal prep for the week ahead will not only save money on groceries, but it will make it easier to get through the week knowing it’s already done.

For simple, effective tips on grocery saving, check out our definitive, pain-free guide to reducing your food spending.

Tagged in Reducing expenses, Savings accounts

Emilie writes about overcoming debt, while balancing trying to eat healthy, stay fit, and have a little fun along the way. You can find more of her work at BurkeDoes.com.

  • The Consumer Federation of America (CFA) is an association of nonprofit consumer organizations that was established in 1968 to advance the consumer interest through research, advocacy, and education. Today, nearly 300 of these groups participate in the federation and govern it through their representatives on the organization's Board of Directors.
  • The National Council of Higher Education Resources (NCHER) is the nation’s oldest and largest higher education finance trade association. NCHER’s membership includes state, nonprofit, and for-profit higher education service organizations, including lenders, servicers, guaranty agencies, collection agencies, financial literacy providers, and schools, interested and involved in increasing college access and success. It assists its members in shaping policies governing federal and private student loan and state grant programs on behalf of students, parents, borrowers, and families.

  • Since 2007, the Homeownership Preservation Foundation (HPF) has served as a trusted, neutral source of information for more than eight million homeowners. They are partnered with, and endorsed by, numerous major government agencies, including the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development and the Department of the Treasury.

  • The mission of the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) is to create strong, sustainable, inclusive communities and quality affordable homes for all. HUD works to strengthen the housing market in order to bolster the economy and protect consumers; meet the need for quality affordable rental homes; utilize housing as a platform for improving quality of life; and build inclusive and sustainable communities free from discrimination.

  • The Council on Accreditation (COA) is an international, independent, nonprofit, human service accrediting organization. Their mission is to partner with human service organizations worldwide to improve service delivery outcomes by developing, applying, and promoting accreditation standards.

  • The National Foundation for Credit Counseling® (NFCC®), founded in 1951, is the nation’s largest and longest-serving nonprofit financial counseling organization. The NFCC’s mission is to promote the national agenda for financially responsible behavior, and build capacity for its members to deliver the highest-quality financial education and counseling services.