Planning is essential to meet any budget goals – and advance meal prepping can help you meet those goals by saving you money on food and keeping you from eating out or hitting the expensive vending machines.
When you’re in a hurry, it’s difficult to think about taking time to pre-plan your meals, but when you consider the huge chunk that eating out or choosing fast food takes out of your budget, you’ll want to learn how meal prepping can help you meet your budget goals.
It only takes a few minutes to plan your meals a few days or a week ahead of time. It may be intimidating at first, but you’ll soon get used to the routine and will be amazed at how much time and money you’re saving.
Imagine not having to think about every meal you’re going to have to prepare and rushing to the store to grab last minute ingredients. It can become a time-consuming and expensive process.
Meal-prepping can keep you on track by helping you plan ahead and not have to think about every meal on a daily basis. There are many “helpers” that can move the process along and make it easier.
Food calendars that you can print and fill out before shopping are a handy tool as are various meal prep recipe management systems, calorie counters and calculators for how to divide your meals into portions.
Buying in bulk is also a good option for planning meals ahead of time while sticking to a budget by purchasing food items on sale or in bulk. Divide it and use it as needed. You can also tailor your meal prepping to use bulk items or use up extra ingredients.
Don’t forget to plan for snacks in your meal prep experience. Keeping healthy snacks in your desk drawer keeps you from reaching for change for the pricey vending machine and indulging in food that may sabotage your goals.
Check your pantry and refrigerator to see what you already have on hand before grocery shopping. This prevents items from having to be thrown out and keeps you from over-buying.
Try your local farmer’s market for the freshest and most seasonal food items. Prices are usually lower because you’re eliminating the middle man. Generic grocery items are often just as good as the big name brands you pay more for, so make sure you shop wisely.
You’ll want to plan your budget and your meal prepping to include an occasional treat once in awhile, but don’t let splurging or impulse eating upset your entire diet and budget plan.
A meal plan and grocery list can be a life saver for busy folks! Jot down your list and save it in your bullet journal, planner, or on a kitchen white board. It will help you manage your other activities and create more time for things you love to do.
But you also need to manage your meal prepping tasks by staying organized so that each meal week that you prep happens smoothly and easily.
Whether you’re sticking to a budget, working with time constraints, trying to eat healthy or simply trying to alleviate stress in your life, meal planning and prepping is key. Think ahead and prepare recipes and keep resources on hand that will help you stay organized and make the meal prep time an enjoyable task.
Before you begin, make sure you have the necessary tools to prepare and store the meals you plan to make. Containers of various sizes with an ability to stack or freeze are important assets to your meal prep organization. They’ll keep portion and calorie sizes ready to serve.
Slow cookers, blenders, mixers and whisks are also valuable tools to help the meal prep process go faster. Snack bags will help you break down snacks you purchase in bulk and dry erase markers for containers and sharpies for plastic bags help you identify what you’ve prepared.
Meal prep calendars and grocery lists are valuable assets for planning ahead. They take the hassle out of meal preparation because you’ll be able to glance at each day on the calendar and know exactly what you’re serving your family.
Printable grocery lists are also available online and can be organized by aisle or sections of the store. When you return home from the store with your items, sort them on the countertop into what you plan to make or divide now – and which you’ll serve later.
Washing and prepping fruits and veggies ahead of putting together a recipe is also a great way to organize your thinking and your meals. You can store the prepared items in baggies or containers in the refrigerator or freezer for instant use later on.
Bake chicken or brown your meat and store in the refrigerator to use for meal prep during the week. Keep in mind that cooked meat will stay fresh in the refrigerator for about 3 or 4 days. Cooked rice and pasta can also be cooked and stored for instant use.
Label everything so you don’t have to open containers to see what you’ve prepped. A bit of planning and organizing before meal prepping keeps you on track and cuts down on everyday stress.
How many times have you hurried into the grocery store after work, tired, with no idea of what you’re going to cook for dinner – much less for the rest of the week – and took more time and spent more money than you planned?
When you decide to meal prep, that type of grocery shopping will become a thing of the past. If making meals for a week or month ahead seems intimidating, then shopping for the items may seem impossibly overwhelming.
But, there are ways to make grocery shopping for meal prep a very manageable, and even enjoyable, event. Having the right staples on hand makes meal prepping much more streamlined.
When you have items such as oatmeal, flour, eggs, rice and a variety of spices in your refrigerator and pantry, you have the basics to prepare almost any meal. Add frozen chicken and vegetables to the mix and you’re way ahead of the game.
Before you grocery shop for meal prep, decide on the meals you’re going to serve and jot down the ingredients you’ll need. In the beginning, you may be concentrating on a few meals per week – or certain meals of the day.
This simple beginning will be good experience to prepare you for even more meal prepping and you’ll find it gets easier as you go along. Meal prepping can help you eliminate multiple trips to the grocery and keep you from having to decide which fast food is for dinner when you don’t have time to prepare a meal.
Organize your grocery list by aisles if you can. There are many online templates for groceries that you may want to use and are divided by produce, meats, baked items and more.
Consider the elements of a healthy diet – meat, veggies, fruit and dairy and make sure your meal prep plan includes them all. If you have leftovers after shopping and preparing the plan ahead meals, use them for the next round of meal prepping so there’s less waste – or for snacks if there are leftovers such as veggies and fruit.
Set up your refrigerator and pantry so unloading and storing the groceries will be an easy and time-saving task. If everything has a place, it will be much easier to unpack groceries next time.
Make your grocery shopping a fun task by trying new recipes for plan ahead meals and new spices and foods you may have never tried before. You won’t like them all, but it’s fun to try new things.
To further ease your grocery shopping experience, print out one of the many “grocery list” templates online and use it to organize your shopping list before you ever step foot in the store.