- Bettina Applewhite
Meal Prep Can Save Time & Money
The task of preparing meals for the week can appear daunting but it actually saves money and time. The key is to use ingredients that can be used multiple times throughout the week and in different ways.
Many people get overwhelmed by the idea of taking a few hours at the beginning of the week to prepare meals. It feels like it is harder to tackle than a bear. But it's actually faster than preparing meals daily.
Once you start getting into the groove of meal prepping and planning, it starts to become your "me time". On Sunday afternoons I get 2 - 3 hours with my favorite music and me in the kitchen. The steps to prep usually aren't very complicated. It's mostly chopping, roasting, sauteing, and boiling. Then separating and arranging in your fridge so it's easy to find and is grouped together by meal or category.
I've found that I'm not the type of person to like to eat the same thing for breakfast, lunch, and dinner everyday for a week. Some find the repetition is not a bother. I still need some variety in my life. I can have a slightly different breakfast everyday by changing the toppings on my oatmeal but I will get bored of my repetitive lunch and dinner options by the end of the second day. So I came up with a plan of making items separately so when it's time to eat, I just put them together differently and I have a completely new meal!
If I make one big skillet of sauteed spinach, I can pair it with eggs for breakfast, add it to a wrap for lunch or have it as a side in a quinoa bowl. I can roast several chicken breasts on one sheet pan but flavor each one differently so it's not the same meal. I also find that taking 5 minutes each day to put foods together helps my brain to think it's freshly made and gives me options for creativity.
I used to believe that meal prepping was a luxury task for those hyper-organized and too-much-free-time kinds of people. Then one week I was too busy and too tired to do any meal prep. All I wanted to do was sleep. That following week was awful. I ate out too much, spent too much money, and didn't eat in the way that I felt good about. Later that week, I paid the price when I had GI issues throughout the weekend, and I realized that I had to make meal prepping a priority in my life.
Sometimes your brain gets overrun with ideas. Leave what to eat out of the race. Here are some benefits to #mealprep for the week:
1. Save Money
Cooking at home is cheaper than eating out. That same bowl of oatmeal from McDonald's will cost you over $2, but when you make it at home, it's less than $0.50. Also, when you meal prep you have all your ingredients and can double dip with those ingredients. You can roast your carrots in a pot roast and use the leftover carrots for a snack with hummus. You're eliminating waste.
2. Save Time
When you cook, chop, and measure out everything at the beginning of the week, the time from start to finish at the dinner table drastically reduces. Sometimes the time is really just popping something in the microwave for a minute or two or just grabbing it out of the fridge and immediately sitting to eat. A complaint that many people have is that they can't find 2 - 3 hours at the beginning of the week to prep. I say you either do it now or you do it later. When you have a day where there's less on the schedule, it's easier to find the energy to prep meals than after a long day of work.
3. Helps you stick to a healthy diet
When everything is made up and ready for you to eat, it's hard to think of throwing all that hard work away for a bowl of ice cream for dinner. When you've had a long day and don't feel like cooking or even thinking of what to make, you already have something at home waiting for you. It's the best feeling! I'm an emotional eater so bad days call for dinner out, but when I've already put effort into something at home, I'm not wasting the time or money on stopping somewhere.
4. Encourages creativity
When I have a lot of the same thing, I have to get creative to make sure that I'm keeping my palate excited. I can have salmon every day for dinner but I'm going to season it differently and pair it with different sides to make sure I don't get bored. I can have roasted salmon with brown rice or a salmon bowl with quinoa and spinach or salmon in a salad with a citrus vinaigrette. And all of these dishes started with roasted salmon.
There are so many benefits to planning your meals ahead. In order to be successful, you've got to plan ahead. I plan my meals on Friday, grocery shop on Saturday, and meal prep on Sunday afternoons. I get to stick to my plan during the week and I feel so accomplished. When my weeks are busy, meal planning is most important for my success. When I know that I have a long day, I'll pack a half a peanut butter sandwich or yogurt and fruit to make sure that I stick to my plan. Looking ahead and being realistic about my days helps me to stay on track. You've heard the saying that an "ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure". Meal prepping for the week is that ounce of prevention that you've been looking for that will positively impact so much of your life. You'll be hooked!