meal-prepping. it’s scary at first, i know- but trust me, it’s worth it.
from shopping tips to budgeting tricks, keep reading for ways to save yourself time and money by meal prepping.
my meal-prepping tips and tricks
tip #1. the quality of food diminishes faster than you think
think avocado, pasta, certain sauces and even potatoes. there are so many meal prep ideas on pinterest and honestly, i don’t think that the majority of the recipes were truly tested. some things just do not look, taste or even feel the same after a few days in the fridge.
when i first started meal prepping, i made a salad on sunday night to take to work with me on monday. when lunch time on monday came around, i was extremely disappointed to find my salad had turned a mess of soggy mush. it might’ve been a noob manuev but i saw it work for someone else on the internet so how could it go wrong for me!
salad trick #1. keep the dressing separate and pour over the salad just before eating.
salad trick #2. before closing the container to put in the fridge, place a paper towel or napkin over top of it; this will prevent moisture from soggin’ up your lettuce!
tip #2. get familiar with “shelf-life”
did you know cooked chicken is only good in the fridge for 3-4 days? do your research (a quick google search should do the trick) and keep these things in mind when planning your meals for the week. it will save you money and your stomach will thank you for it.
tip #3. make small flavor changes to mix things up
eating the same meal for days in a row can get boring. i’m sure you have thought this before. this reason alone deterred me from trying meal prepping for quite some time. i try to keep my meals as simple and affordable as possible, but just because i set a budget does not mean that i eat a peanut butter sandwich every day (but hey if that’s your thing, go for it!).
recently i ate plain chicken salad for like 7 days in a row, by choice, because i just really love chicken salad. it was cheap, healthy and i didn’t get bored of it. if you can’t picture yourself eating the same exact thing every day for a week, try mixing it up a bit. i have found that minor tweaks to my meals really makes a difference. if you do want to make peanut butter sandwiches for the week, mix it up by putting banana slices on one, maybe some honey and figs on another, or you could try my dad’s favorite- peanut butter and mayo (i have not tried it, and to be honest i probably never will, but he swears by it!). the best part of cooking, besides eating the result, is being creative, and no one is more creative than a cook on a budget.
budget trick #1. stretch that dollar; make it easier for yourself and only buy ingredients that work with each other. that way, even when supplies are low, your options are unlimited!
budget trick #2. buy only what you need. yes it may be a hassle to run to the store if you ran out of a key ingredient. but the idea is simple: most food goes bad. it is much better to not have enough broccoli than to throw out an entire head of it.
tip #4. shopping list is *key*
i get sidetracked very easily. even with a detailed list, i can spend hours in a grocery store. who can decide on spinach or kale when there are new candles on display!? ..that’s one of the main reasons i try to avoid shopping at super stores like walmart and target, there is just too much stuff i do not need but want to look at (and end up buying) anyway.
shopping list! yes, plan it! and plan it well! check pinterest for inspiration, check blogs (like this one!) and just really get your ideas together. then, put it on paper (or store it in a cloud). be very specific, don’t leave anything out and try not to add anything extra.
shopping tip #1. avoid super stores like target and walmart supercenter when all you need is groceries. sure they have low prices but these companies have teams dedicated to making sure you buy more than you intend to.
shopping tip #2. get familiar with your grocery store. plan your shopping list according to where items are located in your store. this will allow you start at one end, finish by the registers and not run from one end of the store to another and then back again.. six times. you will exit the store in a timely manner whilst keeping your head on your shoulders.
tip #5. prepare a backup plan
i can’t tell you how many times i’ve walked into the grocery store, shopping list in-hand, excited to get the ingredients for my next masterpiece, only to find out that the last item, usually the main ingredient, is not available. NOOOOOOO! what then? can i substitute it? usually not. do i put everything back and go to a different store? do i purchase the items in my cart and stop somewhere else afterwards and hope my groceries do not spoil in the florida heat? do i start from scratch- no, i’ve been here for 3 hours! ..it’s a nightmare. trust me. just know that you could prepare a perfect shopping list for an extravagant chicken meal, reach the poultry aisle with a full cart only to be extremely disappointed when you see the guy you let take the better parking spot earlier because you’re just that nice, take the last package of chicken. it happens. be prepared.
backup plan tip #1. keep your meals flexible. i used to make the mistake of aiming for super specific dishes, which necessarily isn’t a bad thing, but i’ve been let down more times than not. these days, i keep my shopping list a bit more flexible, putting “meat” instead of “4oz rib eye steak, thin cut”; i find what is on sale that works with the flavors i want to use.
backup plan tip #2. keep your pantry stocked. there is no harm with keeping your pantry stocked with nonperishable items that you love. what you want is items that can be quickly thrown into any meal you make. these items will vary based on the kind of cooking you’re into. for me, i always have canned fruit (typically pears or peaches), canned meat (tuna or salmon) and rice. make sure they are items that you and your family actually enjoy, or else they will just take up precious space in your pantry for years to come.
i hope these tips and tricks help you as much as they help me. check out my mealprep tag for more tips and recipes.