Let's face it -- food is one of the most common areas where we overspend our money. Just a few short years ago, I was a stressed-out-of-my-mind special ed teacher with a bank account that I was scared to check, zero energy, and was carrying around some extra pounds.
A lot of how I felt and looked had to do with my weekly or daily trips to the drive-thru after a hard day at work. Now, I eat food that fuels my body and gives me confidence. And I do it in a majorly budget-friendly way.
Meal prepping was the answer to all my healthy eating, money-sucking problems. Now I actually look forward to meal prepping for my boyfriend and I every Sunday!
Luckily, my strategy for frugal weight loss is nothing drastic or crazy. In fact, it all boils down to just 3 steps. If you start implementing these steps right away, you'll see for yourself how you can prep lots and lots of meals for less than $100. And don't worry, this isn't going to be about spending hours couponing and scoping out deals because if you're like me, you don't have time for that kind of scavenger hunt.
Step 1: Take inventory.
I hear from people who are trying to get on the meal prep train that they're spending hundreds of dollars every week on groceries. If you're like I used to be, you head over to Pinterest, your favorite recipe blog, or browse cookbooks to find what looks yummy and just buy whatever the recipe calls for, which often leads to spending way more than you need to.
Instead, take inventory. This just means taking a few steps to your kitchen to see what you've got already in your pantry, fridge, and freezer. Plan your meals around those foods, instead of just ignoring them. You'll probably be surprised at all the goodies you have stored away that you've forgotten about! Take it one step further and jot down every single item on a piece of paper so you can visually see the amount of food you already have to work with.
Step 2: Write it out.
It turns out you're a lot more likely to spend extra money at the grocery store when you don't have everything you need written down. So after you've followed step 1 and taken inventory of everything you have, get creative and formulate some meal prep ideas out of them. Write down what you plan to have for breakfast, lunch, and dinner and write down every single ingredient you need.
Once you get to the store, stick to that list! If it's not on the list, don't get it. This will save you time at the store, save you money from impulse buys, and prevent you from accidentally grabbing a candy bar at the checkout line.
Step 3: Eat before (or shop online).
This last tip gives you two options based on how you like to shop. I go back and forth between the two. Let's discuss both options:
Option A: If you like grocery shopping, eat before you go!
It might sound crazy to some, but most of the time I enjoy my grocery trips. There's a certain satisfaction that comes from filling up my cart with nutritious, delicious, budget-friendly foods. Plus, it can be fun to see new healthy options that are getting more common these days as more people are prioritizing their health (yay!).
Going to the store can you good ideas for future weeks' meal preps, as well. However, it can be a recipe for disaster if you go grocery shopping on an empty stomach. Suddenly you're perusing down every aisle, buying 3 different kinds of chips, cereal, candy, and cookies because you're getting hangry and want all the food. So make sure you fill up before you head out so you can avoid all those unnecessary expenses and stay on track with your health goals.
Option B: If you don't want to deal with people, shop online!
While most of the time I enjoy my Saturday morning grocery trips, there are some days where I'm just not feeling it. On those days, I'm super grateful for all the online shopping options available these days. Many grocery stores offer grocery delivery, where you purchase all your items online and they bring them right to your door for a delivery fee.
Another option is grocery pickup, where you still purchase your items online, but then choose an available pickup time slot and drive to the store to get your groceries brought out to your car. I do the grocery pickup because Walmart offers it for free! The online pickup method can save you money too because there is literally no way to be tempted by things not on your shopping list. Plus, if you're a busy mom with kids that always beg you to buy them things, grocery pickup can be a lifesaver (I assume).
So there you have it: the 3 steps I follow every single week to save me money at the store for my meal preps. I'm sure my boyfriend and I have saved thousands of dollars since I started meal prepping for us a few years ago. And as a public school teacher, any money savings are a win in my book.
Did these frugal meal prep tips inspire you to join me on the meal prep train? Grab my free meal prep guide, where you can try out these steps with delicious recipes already created for you! It even includes a shopping list!
Carly is an Arizona school teacher by day and devoted meal prep coach by night and weekend. Through meal prepping, Carly has been able to ditch diets, lose weight, and increase her energy and confidence. Her mission is to help busy teachers, moms, full-time students, and 9-5ers learn how to meal prep around their jam-packed schedules so they can easily lose weight and feel their best!
Follow her on Instagram @NutritionNewbies
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