Are you new to meal prepping or a seasoned veteran? Either way, knowing how to meal prep on a budget and get the most out of it can be daunting. I remember the thought of meal prepping would make me go into a full on anxiety attack. My mom used to try to talk to me about it, and I would shut down!
Who has the time to meal prep ALL DAY! Who has the time to plan out meals for a WHOLE WEEK? Sound familiar? Have you thought the same things? If so, you are not alone! These were my exact thoughts until I just decided to try it. I have not turned back since then!
What has changed is how I prepare for meal prepping. I used to go into the store with general ideas and wing it. This method worked, kind of! This method also cost me so much money, and I ended up wasting most of the food I bought.
After figuring out some of the ropes, I decided to share these tips with you to make it easier for you too! Meal prepping is designed to make life easy and more cost-effective, not stress you out and break the bank! So here are my top 3 tips to help you stay on budget and enjoy meal prepping!
Shop Your Supplies, then the Ads
After you have an idea of what you need, double check your stock and make sure you don’t have anything frozen or in the pantry that you can use. Man, does this save some money! Not only do you not buy what you already have, but you use up what you have so your not letting it sit and waste! Often, I can make a meal or two out of what I already have. You can get creative doing this too! If you are not that creative, check out this website for help finding a recipe for what you have!
After you have checked your supplies, it is time to review ads. Every week, grocery stores send out advertisements for cost savings. I used to throw these away. Not any more! Take a minute to look at them and compare other stores sales. Shopping ads are a great way to make sure you are getting the best deal. Some sales are during the week due to the slower shopping times. This is a great time to stock up for a day of prep as long as it won’t go bad beforehand. We don’t want to waste money here either!
Buy Bulk Items
I used to think it was only worth it to buy non-perishable items in bulk because they wouldn’t spoil. Why would I buy spinach in a large size container and half go to waste? Well, because I was ignorant! Now, that being said, there are some guidelines for buying in bulk. First, make sure you have room to freeze a portion of what you purchase. Second, make sure you have the proper freezer storage materials.
Hint: Regular ziploc bags are not the same as the freezer bags!
Here are a few of my favorite items to buy in bulk and some ideas about how to use them!
Meat: I love, love, love buying meat in bulk. I prefer to buy from local farmers, but if that is not an option Sams Club and Costco have great deals as well! When buying my meat in bulk (over 5 lbs), I try to find ways to use it or I will freeze a portion of it.
Using meat in several recipes for the week is the easiest for me. For example, my husband loves Chicken Salad for lunch, and I like Grilled Chicken Spinach Salads. When I buy chicken, I cook it all the same and divide it between recipes. If I still have some left over, I will think of dinner meals I can use it for like Chicken Fajita or Chicken Pot Pie. If I find a good deal on ground beef, I will buy it and cook it up. You can then divide it into 1lb containers, freeze it and save it for later use!
Fruits and Veggies: My family enjoys fresh fruits and veggies, but sometimes, it is hard to eat them before they spoil if you don’t know how to prep them. With veggies like carrots or spinach, I will use what I can then before it spoils freeze it. Before freezing carrots, corn or other hardy vegetables, I recommend blanching them. You can also can them once they are blanched as well! Canning will help cut down on thawing time when you are ready to use them.
The fruit I always freeze if I am not going to use it. Freezing your fruit makes it super easy to throw in a blender later and make a smoothie or homemade ice cream!
Double Your Meals
When meal prepping and buying in bulk happen at the same time, one of the smartest things you can do is double your recipes! There will come a week in your busy life that you don’t make it to the store, and you don’t want to feed your family fast food. You will thank yourself in that moment for taking the extra 3 minutes to double the ingredients and freeze that meal!
Again, my mom used to tell me this all the time. Growing up in a house of 5 on a tiny budget, meal planning and prepping was her thing! She was extremely good at it too! It wasn’t until we had our son and my sister in law made us several freezer meals so we could toss them in the oven and not have to worry with cooking and cleaning that it hit me! THIS IS SO GENIUS!
You can pick up some aluminum pans with the aluminum lids at most of your grocery stores. These make it easy to prepare your meals, bake or not, and cover with aluminum foil before putting the aluminum top on. If you won’t have time to make dinner, set a meal out in the morning and give it time to thaw. Doing so will help it cook quicker and more evenly. If you don’t set it out, you can still cook it, just give yourself some extra time to cook it, as it is thick and will take a while to thaw and heat the center!
Making casseroles is one of the easiest ways to freeze meals and feel like you are getting that “home cooked meal” every time. However, these dishes can get boring. I am a fan one sheet pan meals that are quick to prepare and only dirty up one baking pan. These types of meals can also be quickly prepared and frozen for a fast, weeknight meal.
If you are low on freezer space, I have a solution for you as well! Got a friend or a neighbor? Ask them to split the cost of the ingredients with you, double the meal, or divide the ingredients. Both parties get the benefit of the bulk savings and a great meal!
Be sure to check out the links in this post for some of my favorite recipes! More to come soon! Don’t forget, meal prepping is supposed to be helpful, not stressful! Comment and let me know some of your favorite ways to plan meals for the week or meal prep! Reach out if you have any questions as well! I am here to help! 🙂