Meal prep is one of those things in life where I’m either spending a lot of time or a lot of money. I can obviously save some time by purchasing many pre-packaged foods for work and the kid’s lunches. Or I can save some money by making most of this stuff myself and making it healthier at that.
I refuse to think I can’t have my cake and eat it too. So like any responsible Mum, I scoured the Internet for answers. And I have to say the meal prep hacks I’m about to give you are ones I use all the time. And they really work.
Buy In Season
This one probably seemed so obvious to our grandparents. But somehow, through the years, we’ve lost the power of buying in season.
Not only does the produce taste better. It’s also more nutritious and often dirt cheap. You see, the bulk of the cost that goes into fruit and veg isn’t the planting, cultivating, and harvesting. It’s transporting, storing, and dealing with spoilage when they can’t sell it in time.
If you buy in-season, you’re slashing those costs, and you will be rewarded with all the tomatoes, carrots, cucumbers, and apples your little family can eat.
Even if you’re not one to grab a sweet pepper and start chomping down. You can make some amazing salads with seasonal vegetables or work them into your casseroles. You’ll find a lot of recipes on this site like carrot and rosemary soup.
With some canning supplies and a little food storage knowledge, you can even make a big batch of soup while the ingredients are in season. Preserve it and store it in a cool cellar or cupboard for two to three years.
Not that it ever lasts that long in my house.
Buy Your Go-To’s in Bulk
Evaluate your food buying habits. If you find you’re buying something once a week because you use it up but that whatever would last for months otherwise. Get more of it at one time if you can save some money doing so.
But here’s a tip. Never go into debt to buy in bulk. Any interest will outstrip the savings if you’re buying food on credit, which isn’t a great long-term plan anyway. And that’s no way to improve your credit score. Sigh!
Set Aside One Day a Week to Prep and Cook
It’s a whole lot cheaper and faster to just block off some time for meal prep than it is to dig through the refrigerator for something to cook on a Wednesday night, then Thursday, then Friday.
This also allows you to use bulk ingredients, so double the savings.
Use this prep time however you choose. It’s a great time to make up some quick sauces you add to any meat later in the week. Chop and bag up a bunch of vegetables into individual servings for quick snacks or to send with the children to school.
Sometimes, if I’m feeling extra energetic, I even prepare an oversize healthy meal, portion it up, and freeze it for 5-6 easy meals later.
Don’t Underestimate Simplicity
Who says a meal has to be complicated to be considered a meal. A handful of walnuts or some dried meats can become a very healthy, tasty, and filling meal on the go. This takes virtually no prep. Just transfer them into a reusable container and be on your way.
Failing to plan is a plan for failure…or something like that. If you don’t take a little time to evaluate where, when, and why you’re spending excess money and/or time, you can’t fix the problems.
If you know that weekdays are super busy with school, work, sports practice, and what-not, leading you to the frozen pizza aisle or the closest McDonald’s, come up with a plan. Be proactive, not reactive. These meal prep hacks will certainly help.
Then you have more money to spend on things you want, like visiting a North Aurora dispensary or buying new shoes. You make the rules. Your choice. I could share mine, but I’ll let you wonder.
Overlap Your Ingredients in Your Meal Plan
Before you visit the grocery or local farm co-op, plan out 3-4 meals for the week. And choose ones that have similar ingredients. Now, you have somewhere to use that other half of an onion or those lentils you boiled the night before.
You’ll have less food waste, so you save money. But you’ll also save time.
Let’s say I wasn’t as diligent as I should be with overlapping ingredients in the meal plan. I can still use that unexpected leftover potato from yesterday to make something new today. If my little ones didn’t eat all their vegetables last night, I could now add them into a casserole. When I prepare meals on the spot, I always look at the leftovers and try to build off that first.
Give those veggies a second chance and find their way into your children’s bellies.