How Meal Prepping Can Help Your Weekly Food Budget

Meal Prepping To Reduce Your Weekly Food Budget Messy Money

Our second largest budget category is food! Let me share our totals from last year for your viewing pleasure (or horror)?

On a weekly basis, it works out to $151 for groceries and $45 for fast food. Usually once a month we will have a $145 splurge at a “fancy” restaurant.

food spending last year messy money

Some people might find our food spending high for a family of 4, but this is a HUGE improvement. A few years ago, I sat down and added up all our fast foot and restaurant bills and estimated that we were spending approximately $700 dollars a month on take out alone. Never mind what I was spending at the grocery store. I am still a work in progress but I keep trying to improve and…

Help has arrived.

Today, fellow blogger Anum Yoon from Current On Currency is joining us to share her tips and some great resources to help trim the that grocery bill.

How Meal Prepping Can Help Your Weekly Food Budget

It happens to the best of us. You hit snooze one time too many times and you wake up with 15 minutes to fling yourself out the door and get to work. Your good intentions of making a spinach and mushroom omelet fly out the window as you grab a coffee and McMuffin on your commute. Then the kids’ soccer practice runs late, and if you make grandma’s famous meatloaf like you had planned, dinner won’t be on the table until midnight. Pizza it is – again. 

Break the unhealthy and expensive cycle of fast food reliance by planning and prepping your meals. Take care of a few things ahead of time, and you will find yourself saving money, eating healthier and maybe even feeling a little less stressed.

Meal Planning 

Planning your meals for the week will save you money in several ways:

  • You can compare. Knowing the ingredients you need ahead of time will give you the opportunity to do some comparison shopping in the weekly grocery circulars. You also know what coupons to watch for.
  • You can plan your meals around what’s fresh. Plan your meals around produce that is in season and grown locally. Shopping at your local farmer’s market will provide you with much fresher produce, and it comes at a lower cost.
  • You won’t be as tempted to purchase extra items. Finally, a meal plan keeps you from wandering aimlessly in the grocery store and putting everything that looks tasty into your basket. Armed with your list you can get in, get out and stay on budget.grocery list messy money

Once you have been meal planning for a while, you will most likely find that your favorite meals keep popping up. When you figure out what recipes you will be making most frequently, you can start buying those ingredients in bulk. Buying things you need in bulk can save you money. You don’t need five gallons of pickles. Trust me.  

Meal Prep 

Now that you’ve purchased what you need to make a week’s worth of healthy meals, take some time to prep meals before you need them. Doing so will greatly reduce the stress of morning madness or late evenings after practice.meal prep messy money

Make overnight oats so you always have a grab and go breakfast on hand. You can prep a variety of Mason jar salads for lunch. One of my favorite money and time-saving techniques is to always make a little extra for dinner and then pack that for lunch the next day.

If possible, spend a few hours on the weekend washing, chopping, dicing and marinating ingredients for dinner. Freezer meal parties are very popular right now. These gatherings give you a chance to spend fun time with friends while making meals ahead that can be finished with minimal effort. One pot meals are another fast and easy way to get a healthy dinner on the table – and the bonus is having fewer dirty dishes!

If you need help getting started with meal planning, there are meal planning services that for a small fee will help you plan your menu and create a printable shopping list. There is also nothing wrong with using good old pen and paper. So get planning and start prepping your way to budget-friendly healthy family meals.

Anum Yoon is a personal finance blogger who started and maintains Current On Currency for fellow budget conscious millennials. You can sign up for her weekly money newsletter here. (It’s awesome!)


But before you go, I want to leave you with these dining disasters. Proof that no matter how bad you think you are in the kitchen, others who are worse. There is hope for all of us. Check out the woman with the lobsters at 0:15!


*Part of Financially Savvy Saturdays on brokeGIRLrich, A Disease Called Debt and

Fun Money Mom

32 Comments


  1. Meal planning has been a huge time, money, and stress saver for me. I don’t enjoy cooking, but it takes the guesswork out of what’s for dinner every night. I no longer stand in front of the fridge, wondering what I have the ingredients to make. It’s been so important for me to make it a routine, that I included creating a weekly meal plan in my 12 goals for 2015!

    Reply

    1. Oh that is cool. I just saw that you actually post your meal plans – that is handy, I will have to go check that out. Thanks Amy.

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    1. Our food spending is hard to believe sometimes- but even a few minutes of planning has a major return.

      Reply


  2. Wow, I thought our take-out bill was bad. I think we spend $300-400 and then about $200 in groceries. Unfortunately, I can’t sustain cooking for more than a week or so. And it takes me a while to even work up to it.

    It’s mental (depression) and physical (fatigue). My husband has skin issues and is weird about getting stuff on it. Well, probably not weird, but it’s annoying.

    More annoying, his stomach is uber-sensitive. If he tries to eat something that doesn’t sound good, you’ll see it again in a matter of minutes.

    So I’ve compromised the best I can. Protein bars — easy breakfast/snack/dessert substitution — and frozen Healthy Choice meals. Still not cheap, but it eases the budget a little for my husband’s relentless fast food consumption.
    Abigail @ipickuppennies recently posted…Why you? Why not?My Profile

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    1. It can be so HARD to live with people that are picky eaters or have food sensitivities or allergies. My kids hate everything and there are a number of things my husband can’t eat. You are right – sometimes compromises are in order.

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  3. Great video at the end there, May! I have recently started preparing bulk food on the week-ends, freezing some, and not needing to cook through the week. It saves a ton of money and stress : ) I think you are brave to share your fast food and fancy restaurant stats. We’ve cut way back in this area as well, but I don’t think we’ll ever eliminate it. I wonder if it’s possible to know what the average North American family spends on meals out?
    Prudence Debtfree recently posted…2 Nominations (Liebster & Sunshine) Warning: LOTS of Random Facts About PrudenceMy Profile

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    1. Thanks. The local pizza place definitely noticed the change when we stopped ordering all the time and called us and asked if there was a problem and if we were happy with the service. My husband told them that we were disappointed that the didn’t send us a Christmas card. We get a card from them every year now. LOL

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  4. Keep meals as simple as you can to save time and to keep the stress of cooking down. Keep bags of frozen veggies in the freezer for quick side dishes. Learn to cook a big meal on Sundays that will last a few days. Make another meal midweek that will feed you until the weekend. Varying the side dishes helps with the monotony. Breakfast foods are always a quick supper as well.
    Mrs. LC@LooseChangeLiving recently posted…Tuesday Tips: Eliminate Fruit Flies With Red WineMy Profile

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    1. Thanks – Lots of good advice. How does the red wine work? If you drink enough, you don’t notice the fruit flies anymore? Is that it? I will have to go see….

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  5. One thing I do well at is make a pot of beans over the weekend and then I add it to our meals during the week. It has helped cut down our grocery bill and increased our fiber intake!

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    1. It is a rule in our house that when I serve beans, I also sing the “Beans, beans the musical fruit.” song to the family. Beans are so thrifty and healthy I really should cook with them more. I made baked beans for the first time a few months ago and they were divine!

      Reply

  6. Meal planning is the way to go to save money. I like the idea of one pot cooking, and I need to try it asap. Thanks for the tips, and I will hopefully save some dollars this year on food expenses.
    EL @ Moneywatch101 recently posted…The Sad State of RetirementMy Profile

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    1. I am slowly learning how to use my crockpot for easy meals and while my repertoire of recipes is not great (yet) I can say that it is a life saver sometimes.

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  7. Not only can meal planning help control your spending, but it also helps control what you put in your body. Eating out always seems to be a sodium extravaganza, as well as a temptation to eat all kinds of things I really don’t need.
    Brock @CleverDude recently posted…How to Help Loved Ones Manage Their MoneyMy Profile

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    1. Good point. Eating at home better for waistline, blood pressure and wallet.

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  8. Meal planning and prepping really helps keep things organized. But I still find there are days that don’t go quite to plan, so I like to cook batches in advance (such as lasagna) and freeze individual portions for nights when you need something quick and easy. Just so you don’t end up with expensive and unhealthy takeout again.
    Gary @ Super Saving Tips recently posted…Make Your Next Job Interview A Big SuccessMy Profile

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    1. Nice to see you Gary. The freezer is definately my friend. Sometimes I will “double up”on dinner and freeze half for another night.

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    1. Ordering a pizza is just too tempting after a long day if I have not planned. Thanks for stopping by Femme!

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  9. What a fab blog post with some very helpful tips! I love meal planning and now do it weekly before we do any top-up shops.

    I make sure I do a stock-check and see what we have left and what we can eat and then only add to our grocery shop the ingredients we need to make a full meal!

    We spend about £40-60 per week on all food and have little to no food waste thanks to meal planning! And it’s not all beans and lentils either 😉

    Have you ever calculated how much of your monthly spend is wasted by throwing away unused food?

    Love how much you have reduced your bills already!
    Natalya @Cottage Retreatist
    x
    Natalya recently posted…The debtfree dilemmaMy Profile

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    1. Great idea about measuring the food waste. I might do that for a month and see how we are doing. Just this week I had to throw away some cheese curds that had come moldy. What a waste and cheese is so expensive too.

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  10. Cooking is not one of my strong points but I have a few dishes that I can do really well that at the same time aren’t time consuming to make. I tend to bulk cooks batches of these dishes and freeze multiple portions for later. Half the battle is just thinking about what to eat in advance as you say rather than leaving it to the last minute.
    Hayley @ Disease Called Debt recently posted…Financially Savvy Saturdays #100My Profile

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    1. Batch cooking has saved my bacon a few times when I have been too busy or tired to cook. I have found that even 5 minutes of planning can make a huge difference.

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  11. One thing I’ve found helps immensely is having teens in the house to task with cooking dinner.

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    1. good idea. Mine do the majority of the eating (all they do it eat!) so trying to get them more involved in the kitchen. Thanks for visiting.

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  12. I am so guilty of being a terrible meal planner. I also really hate cooking, but it is super simple to make things like grab and go salads or even overnight oats – I mean, heck, even just putting on water to boil and making regular oatmeal is pretty simple, it just takes a few days to get into the habit of doing it.
    Mel recently posted…Financially Savvy Saturdays #100My Profile

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    1. I can be out of sight – out of mind. With everything tucked the refrigerator or pantry it can be hard to remember. I have sent myself emails at work wit the subject line : CHICKEN IS DEFROSTING LOL

      Reply

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