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7 strategies that helped me stick to meal prep and save hundreds of dollars

  • Basic stuff like writing my meal plan and cooking foods that I really love made meal preparation more enjoyable.
  • I listened to personal finance podcasts while preparing meals to motivate myself to reach my savings goal.
  • I ordered groceries for pickup or delivery to save time and to help me stay on budget by avoiding impulse buying.
  • Read more stories from Personal Finance Insider.

I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again: I hate cooking meals with the fire of a thousand suns. Meal preparation is complicated and time consuming, and meals don’t really end up being good during the week. Nothing is more depressing than microwaving the same unsatisfying meals over and over again.

No matter how much I hate it, there’s no denying that having food on hand during the week is a lot cheaper than ordering take out or having dinner with friends. Last year, to save for a six week trip to New York City to see my family and friends, I saved $ 700 over six months by diligently preparing meals, and I plan to continue the usual in 2022. to save even more money.

Here are six strategies that help me stay on track with meal preparation.

1. I wrote down my meal plan for the week

It sounds really basic, but skipping this step got me into the week without a clear idea of ​​how much groceries I really needed to buy. Without writing down my meal plan, I ended up buying too many veggies that were less enjoyable later in the week when they weren’t crispy anymore.

With a written plan, I was able to keep track of which meals I actually enjoyed and which weren’t as memorable. A written plan also helps me plan recipes around the same three or four key ingredients so I don’t buy too many different items.

2. I did not cook all the meals

I fell down a rabbit hole while watching YouTube videos with chefs and influencers displaying their perfect meal prep stations. I had to give up perfect and stop comparing myself to their videos early on in the process. I embraced the reality that I don’t have the same endless counter space and kitchen stamina that YouTubers seemed to have.

When my meal prep sessions were short, I relied on instant ramen, frozen dinners, or leftovers from a Filipino dinner with friends.

3. I cooked three evenings a week, instead of cramming everything into one day

Kudos to the folks who manage to make 21 meals a week in one afternoon of meal prep, but I’ll never be like you.

Even though I hate preparing meals, I really love to cook. I have found it easier to prepare extra servings of a recipe several times a week. Spreading the cooking over three nights instead of cramming everything into one day made it a lot easier to manage, and I was motivated to tweak recipes that didn’t work by adding new spices or ingredients.

4. I cut all my vegetables in one day

My favorite part of cooking is setting up the set-up, those magical little bowls of pre-chopped ingredients that kitchen hosts like Rachael Ray made while preparing meals. I realized that I would save a lot of time and be all the more motivated to cook if I didn’t have to cut up vegetables before preparing these meals.

I started keeping a batch of diced shallots, white onions, green onions and garlic in my fridge to save time each night I was cooking. Since I’m the self-proclaimed Los Angeles smoothie king, I’ve also pre-chopped veggies and fruit and put them in zippered bags to keep in the freezer so I always have my greens consumption ready. for each day of the week.

5. I cooked foods that I really liked

Again, this one looks really basic. But when I put meal prep on my New Year’s resolution list, I had to focus on the money first, before making the healthiest meals.

I realized that a lot of the YouTube influencers whose meal prep videos I watched for inspiration were mostly white, and they made chickpea pasta, salads, and Eurocentric foods that were marketed as “Healthy” but weren’t really singing when they hit my taste buds.

When I switched to Asian ingredients like soba noodles, oyster sauce, dried shiitake mushrooms, and miso paste, my take on meal preparation really changed.

6. I listened to personal finance podcasts while preparing meals

Sometimes meal prep got so tedious that I just needed to remember why I was doing all of this in the first place. Listening to a personal finance podcast motivated me to keep going and helped me learn new budgeting tips along the way.

7. I ordered groceries for pickup or delivery to save time

After implementing the first five strategies into my meal prep routine, I was still spending my entire Sunday afternoon preparing my meals for the week ahead. Because I wanted more downtime to relax and work on my creative projects, I decided to bite the bullet and order groceries for pickup or delivery to save time.

I try to order my groceries in the middle of the week to avoid excessive prices and to make life a little easier for the workers who have to pack and deliver my order. Ordering groceries online or through an app also helps me stay on budget and stop buying groceries that I won’t actually eat.

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