Money saving, meal prep: they go hand-in-hand. Learn some tricks and tips about how to save money while meal prepping!
Everyone loves saving money, which is one primary reason most people get into meal prepping. With meal prepping you can easily save time, money, and stress. It takes the guesswork out of the process if you've thought ahead to make it happen, but it's so worth it. You can meal prep on a budget. They kind of go hand in hand, believe it or not!
When meal prepping, it is still possible to overspend or to waste. So, we are going to help you overcome that difficulty with ease. We have put together a list of 5 money-saving meal-prep hacks to help you and your family!
Buy What’s On Sale
Finding out what is on sale at your local grocery stores helps you to know what to prepare for the week. You'll know where to shop along with what and how much to buy. For many of us, we just go to the same store(s) and don’t even give it a thought. However, you could be saving more money by planning your purchases based on what is on sale. For example, if you are prepping steak for the week, the full-price to sale-price difference may be as much as $10 savings per steak!
If you don’t have the time to search several grocers’ websites and apps, there other tricks of the trade to help you. Check out MyGroceryDeals.com to put in your area to see what is on sale and where. Another great site and phone app is Flipp which can help you plan your meals based on your desired meals.
Does that sound like too much work ahead of time? If you're a confident home cook and want to cook based on what is on sale, that's fine. Some of us don't want to be bothered with apps or websites, but we still want to prep. So in those cases, when you see chicken thighs on sale, buy more and freeze. Nab two pounds of high-quality ground beef when it's on sale and pop one in the freezer!
RELATED: 15 Budget-Friendly Meal Prep Recipes
Homemade vs. Store Made
If you can make a meal at home yourself, it will almost always cost you less than buying it at the grocery store. Not everything is this way, but there are some staples that can be made at home with very little time commitment but money saving. For example, buying a high-quality tomato sauce for pasta, pizza, or calzones can cost $5-$10. And sometimes maybe that's in the budget. But if you purchase a can of crushed tomatoes and add your own spices and put it into a blender or food processor, you can have a homemade sauce for a fraction of the cost. Even imported canned tomatoes are less expensive than a jarred sauce, often buy at least half.
And as always, remember the freezer is your friend! Freeze any leftover sauce, and you've got a meal in minutes the next time your family wants pasta. (This is also very true for meatballs; store bought versions tend to be expensive and don't taste nearly as good, and are often have fillers in them you don't likely want.)
You can, however, be a bit strategic about this homemade vs storebought situation. For example, if you buy a rotisserie chicken at the grocery store for under $10, right off the bat you'll be able to serve a family of four, for example. You'll also have a carcass left over for soup and/or stock. That adds more meals to your $10 spend on a pre-cooked bird.
PRO TIP: Batch cook things like rice and beans by buying them bagged (not canned or pre-portioned) and freezing them!
Join a Wholesale Club
If you have a family, there is a strong likelihood that you already have a wholesale club store membership. These are great ways to save money with bulk purchases like buying large quantities of meats, veggies, fruits, chips, eggs, cereal, toilet paper, paper towels, and more. These clubs do require a paid membership, but that is usually offset by the savings you'll experience throughout the year. If you are a single person or a household of two people, it might not be worth getting a membership to a wholesale club. However, it depends on how much you are meal prepping, eating, and freezing. Stop into a BJ's, Sam's or Costco and check it out, or scroll through their to do some research ahead of time.
RELATED: Meal Prepping on a College Budget
Eat More Plants
It is becoming more common for people to eat less meat a few days per week, whether for health reasons to save money. With the price of meat, poultry, fish, and eggs going up across the board, changing your meal prep to incorporate more plants and plant-based mains can help you save money. If you are doing it for health or cost-saving purposes. When you omit meat a few nights a week, it saves you money. Vegetables are much less expensive, and plant-based proteins such as tofu and tempeh are not going to break the bank the way a nice cut of beef or pork might.
PRO TIP: Buy frozen veggies if desired! They're just as nutritious as fresh. Consider a bag of peas, corn, and chopped spinach as freezer essentials for veggie sides in a pinch.
Make a Grocery List
This is going to sound really obvious, but make a list before you leave the house. Otherwise, it's so easy to go off the rails when you grocery shop. A list helps you strategize and stay within a strict budget, resulting in less waste and more savings. Take inventory of what you have as you think about what you want to make for the week (or check out the sales, as we suggested!). Write down the ingredients you need. It's also a great idea to make sure you have the proper containers and freezer bags for storing any meal prep efforts (or leftovers) in your pantry, refrigerator, or freezer.
PRO TIPS: Write your list in the layout of the store so you won't forget anything, and don't go shopping on an empty stomach. It will KILL your grocery budget!
What are some of YOUR favorite meal prep money-saving tips and tricks? Let us know in the comments below!