I enjoy cooking, but spending time in the kitchen each night is pretty time-consuming. We have a busy daily schedule, and I’d honestly rather not cook each day.
At the same time, we’re trying to eat healthy and avoid buying a lot of takeout for convenience. I’ve found the best solution to be meal prepping.
Meal prepping does require a strategy if you want to do it well and possibly even lower your grocery bill. Here are some of my favorite meal prep tips and ideas to save you money.
Best Meal Prep Tips to Start Implementing
1. Learn How Long Food Will Last
One of the biggest drawbacks of meal prepping is taking a ton of time to stack meals in the fridge only to have food go bad.
I use Eat By Date which is a free site that will advise you on the shelf life of certain types of food. We tend to shop every two weeks so using this site is a must for me. I like to know how long I can freeze certain things along with how long certain types of produce will last.
Once you know how long certain items and meals will last, you can plan and prep your meals more efficiently.
2. Keep Breakfast Simple
When it comes to meal prep, most people focus on dinners, but don’t forget you can prep your breakfast as well. In fact, this is something you may want to prioritize since mornings can be hectic for some families.
There’s no need to make an Ihop-worthy breakfast. Just keep it simple by doing things like boiling eggs for the entire week, cutting up fruit, or making a few pancakes that you can store in an air-tight container for a few days.
One thing I like to do for my family is make bacon, egg, and cheese cups in the oven at the start of each week. I use a muffin pan so I can prepare at least 12 breakfast cups at a time.
3. Label All Your Regular Staples
Each family has their regular staples for meals whether you tend to cook a lot of veggies, pasta, or rice to add to each dish. How your meal prep is totally up to you. When I’m meal prepping for my family, I tend to use bigger containers for each type of food that I prepare instead of portioning everything out in single-serve meal containers.
Single-serve containers for each of our meals would likely fill up the fridge and not leave room for anything else. That said, there have been too many times when I’ve made a batch of quinoa or rice and lost it in the fridge.
One thing you can do to organize your food better is label each container whether it’s rice, pasta, veggies, chicken, etc. and add a date. That way, you know what’s in the container and what day it was prepared. You can even buy color-coded containers to help you find prepared food in the fridge so you can quickly warm up a meal.
4. Keep a Menu on the Fridge
“What’s for dinner tonight?” is a question you might commonly hear if you’re a parent. As an adult, I sometimes even find myself asking that question. It’s so easy to go grocery shopping or even meal prep then forget what you planned to eat for dinner.
This is why I always write out a weekly menu whenever I go grocery shopping and meal prep. I purchased a small whiteboard from Target for around $5. I use this to write out all our dinner meals, and it’s magnetic so it goes right on the fridge.
Knowing what we’re eating each day and having the satisfaction that the meal is already prepped helps us save time and eliminate food waste.
5. Prepare a Few Freezer Meals
One of my favorite meal prep tips is to actually freeze some of the meals you prepare to use in the distant future. It’s no secret that most food lasts way longer when you freeze them.
Plus, it’s easy to prepare meals in batch with a slow cooker or Instant Pot. You can make large batches of soups, stew, beans and rice, chicken and rice, etc. Then, place the meal in a Ziploc bag, label it with the date, and stick it in the freezer.
When you have a hectic day or don’t know what’s for dinner, just pull the ready-made meal out of the freezer and warm it up. That way, you won’t have to spend extra money on convenience meals from restaurants.
Other Quick Meal Prep Ideas and Tips to Save You Money
Cook two meals at once – If you’re baking, split up space on the sheet pan by placing two meals on it or you can cook two meals in separate pans in the oven at the same time. Bake something, prepare another meal on the stovetop, and boil eggs all at the same time. You get the picture.
Look for coupons and sales on everything you eat – If you shop in-season, you will likely save money on produce and other types of food. However, don’t forget about coupons. Manufacturers offer coupons on their products all the time and stores have sales each week. It just takes a minute or two to check to see if you can save money on something you already buy.
Substitute proteins with inexpensive options – If you usually prepare meat with your dinner, step outside of your comfort zone and try a few meatless recipes utilizing other sources of protein like beans, eggs, and legumes.
Buy food in bulk – See if it makes sense to invest in a Costco or Sam’s Club membership, especially if you plan on batch cooking your meals.
Summary – Meal Prep Tips and Ideas That Work
These meal prep tips and ideas can really save you money and help you guard your time as well. While cooking is essential, it doesn’t have to be done each day.
Meal prep will make it easier for everyone in your household and help you stick to your grocery budget overall.