5 Meal Prep Time Savers That Save Money, Too

5 Meal Prep Time Savers That Save Money, Too | Coupons.com

If you’re on Instagram, I’m sure you’ve seen containers stacked high, showing off all the meals for the week, virtuously prepared in one sitting on a Sunday afternoon. Meal prepping is a skill, and one that I have not quite mastered. Logically I know that planning ahead and prepping my food would make for a much easier week with piles of money and time to spare. But I just haven’t been able to get it together.

The excuses are just excuses — no time on the weekend, I don’t like leftovers, I get bored of the same thing, etc — but I’m determined to figure out how to get better at meal prepping. I’ve been doing a lot of research on blogs and reddit forums, and while lots of people meal prep for nutritional purposes, I think the money saving aspect might be extra motivation for me. I hate seeing my bank account dwindle as my husband and I order takeout yet again, so meal prep is clearly the answer.

Here are some of the basic meal prep principles that I think will help me — and you! — save even more money at the grocery store. (Please leave me some comments with suggestions and extra motivation!)

Happy Meal Prepping!

1. Buy and Cook in Bulk

5 Meal Prep Time Savers That Save Money, Too | Coupons.com

Convenience foods are, well, convenient, but you’re paying a price for that, too. Get to be friends with the bulk bins at your grocery store. Stock up on grains, cereals, spices and flours from the bulk aisle. The price per item will almost always be cheaper from the bulk bins rather than buying small packages. Then you’ll want to use your stocked pantry to plan and cook for the week. Maybe your menu includes tacos, a casserole, and a stir-fry, all including brown rice. Instead of cooking a new pot of rice for each recipe, cook in bulk once and use it all week.

TIP: Rice and other grains freeze well, too! Portion the cooked grains into individual servings in Ziploc bags and freeze. When you need a serving or two of rice, just pull out your Ziploc bag and microwave what you need. 

Save with Ziploc Coupons on Ziploc bags and containers. 

2. Get Started with One Meal a Day

5 Meal Prep Time Savers That Save Money, Too | Coupons.com

Some people just don’t like leftovers. I can make my husband’s favorite meal for dinner and he’ll go back for seconds and thirds, but he won’t want to touch it the next day. Unfortunately for him, I’m on the Meal Prep Express Train, and I’m determined to make this work. We’ve compromised with breakfast and snacks. I prepare cold brew, yogurt parfaits, and snack packs for the whole week, and he’s curbed his habit of dropping $12 at Starbucks every morning. Maybe next month he’ll ask me to add his lunch to my meal prepping, but I’m content to start with breakfast and snacks. (That’s my real picture, too!)

If you’re having a similar struggle, think of where you feel the most rushed. Is it breakfast? Or is it those long lines at lunch? If you can see how meal prepping is helping this big pain point in your life, it might help you get over your distaste for “leftovers.”

3. Think in Meal Templates, Not Recipes

5 Meal Prep Time Savers That Save Money, Too | Coupons.com

Here’s a problem I kept running into when I was cooking almost every night of the week: I would find a new recipe that looked interesting. I would buy a bunch of new spices or special ingredients. Then….it just wouldn’t turn out right. Whether I screwed up the recipe, or it just wasn’t a very good recipe, I would find myself either eating food that was disappointing or wasting money on takeout at the end of it all.

My solution now: Meal templates! I save a new recipe for the weekend when I have more time to fiddle in the kitchen, and weeknights are for Taco Night, Pizza Night, Sheet Pan Night, Pasta Night. I always have the base of these meals on hand, and then I can customize with whatever produce looked good at the farmers market, or what I need to use up for the week.

4. Individual Serving Containers are your Friend

5 Meal Prep Time Savers That Save Money, Too | Coupons.com

Whether you’re portioning out each individual meal, or just storing components to assemble your meals later, you’ll need a lot of storage containers on hand. Hard core meal preppers will portion out every breakfast, lunch, dinner, and snack for the week, and more power to them. But as I’m easing my family into the meal prep lifestyle, I’ve found it works best to portion out breakfasts and snacks, but for lunches and dinner, it works best to assemble and cook a little fresh.

For example, I’ll have rice cooked and stored in a big Ziploc, and chicken breasts cooked and stored in another Ziploc container. Then I’ll put them together for dinners with freshly cooked vegetables and barbecue sauce one night, and teriyaki sauce another night. It may not be full meal prepping, but when I only have to ASSEMBLE, and not COOK my meals, I’m much more likely to stay away from the takeout menu.

Save on $1 on any 2 Ziploc containers with a coupon from Coupons.com. 

5. Start Your Shopping in the Pantry

5 Meal Prep Time Savers That Save Money, Too | Coupons.com

Meal preppers are big on stocked pantries, and this is one of the best tips to adopt to save money on your grocery bill. Before you head to the grocery store with your shopping list in hand, take a peek in the pantry. What is lurking in there that could make the start of a great meal? Random taco shells? Jars of pasta sauce? Canned beans? If I start shopping in my pantry and freezer and use the grocery store to fill out the remainder of my menu, I bet I’ll save at least $10 on my grocery bill, every week.

Are you a meal prep expert? Leave your favorite tips and inspiration for those of us who are trying to get on board the Meal Prep Train