These money-saving meal prep hacks can be the difference between meeting your health and fitness goals, versus giving up because you’re overwhelmed by the cost of groceries. Eating healthy food doesn’t have to be expensive. Try this to get the most value in the kitchen:
Invest time in meal prepping.
But start small. If you’re new to meal prepping, leave planning a full month of meals at once to the wizzes on Instagram. Instead, try organizing enough meals – and groceries – to cover the next three days. That way you get to practice with only buying the groceries you need, instead of impulse buys. Plus, all the food you buy gets used, and not wasted.
Use frozen produce.
Never underestimate how nutritious and tasty frozen fruits and vegetables are. One of the unsung heroes of the grocery store, every bite of frozen produce is picked at the height of freshness, and ripeness, and often peeled or trimmed and possibly par-boiled (meaning partially cooked). Not only are they affordable, but you can add frozen veggies in place of fresh veggies in almost any cooked dish (like roasted cauliflower you don’t even have to chop!) and ditto for fruit (for example, the easiest cobbler you’ll ever make–and maybe the yummiest too).
Make proteins go further by adding beans and veggies.
Instead of cooking with meat exclusively, a mix of meat plus mushrooms or canned beans is always less expensive. Both offer a different nutrition profile than meat (for example, beans are full of protein AND fiber). Plus, this allows you to inexpensively stretch a meal to feed a crowd or make extra leftovers, which leads to another of our favorite money-saving meal prep hacks.
Many leftovers get forgotten and thrown out. In fact, food waste is the number one contributor to landfills, which also add to greenhouse gasses. What a waste! With the simple addition of one ingredient, taco leftovers can become taco pop tarts, taco soup, or gluten-free taco boats. Even coffee and smoothies can have a new life as frozen ice cubes. Add smoothie cubes to future smoothies and enjoy those coffee cubes in an iced coffee that never gets watered down. Giving leftovers a second life not only saves you money but reduces your carbon footprint at the same time.
Buy staples in bulk.
Flour, oats, sugar, chia seeds, cinnamon, sugar. All these things can be purchased in bulk which is almost always cheaper. Don’t shy away from store brands either. It’s the same quality for a better price. You have quality ingredients that you can use in tons of ways: chocolate baked oats, overnight oats, homemade granola bars, DIY granola, and more… And when you save time by not dragging yourself to the store as often, you save money.
Make two and freeze one.
When you have something stashed away in the freezer, you’re less likely to order pizza. It’s an added expense, not to mention the lack of nutrition. Any kind of rice or pasta bake is made for this; they freeze beautifully and reheat like a dream–without spending an extra dime.
Invest in clear glass containers.
Spending money on new gear might not sound like one of the best money-saving meal prep hacks, but hear us out: Do you know why so many heads of lettuce end up brown and soggy in crisper drawers? Because they’re out of sight, and out of mind. Organizing the fridge in a way where you can see your fresh ingredients helps them not get wasted.
Use what’s on sale.
The best deals at supermarkets are usually seasonal produce (which tastes amazing) or weekly sales. Managers put food on sale when there’s a surplus but you can’t always know what to expect. In order to take advantage of both, you’ll need a flexible menu. For example, if Tuesday’s dinner calls for 4 zucchini, consider whether you could substitute 2 pounds of green beans that happened to be on sale. And think ahead to seasons you can count on like juicy tomatoes for a steal at the end of summer. In the throes of August, add seasonal favorites like balsamic bruschetta and shortcut tomato pies to your weekly rotation.
Get into eggs.
What are the most underrated, protein-rich, bursting with brain food like omega 3s and have the polite taste to be inexpensive? Eggs! Of course, you can go all eggs on breakfast but don’t forget all the ways eggs can become lunch and dinner: egg salad, omelets, quiche, poached in tomato sauce, fried, and perched on a thick layer of bruschetta with toast.
Adopt a couple of go-to meals for busy nights.
Even with all the planning in the world, life is unpredictable. It’s awfully tempting to pick up takeout or grab a prepared meal to microwave when you unexpectedly have 15 minutes to get dinner on the table. Both are much more expensive than homemade meals, not to mention full of extra calories. Having the staples on hand, and the know-how at the ready, anything from breakfast for dinner to pasta with brown butter, tuna melts, and applejack sandwiches, can make a meal in minutes.
Use meal planning apps.
YouFit Premium+ members have access to the incredible meal planning app, EatLove. With over 6,000 recipes approved by registered dietitians, you’ll get a customized daily menu based on your goals, protein preferences, dietary restrictions, and level of interest in cooking! EatLove can even save time by organizing a grocery list and even having it all delivered. Going out? EatLove suggests smart substitutes at restaurants near you. By taking all the guesswork out of healthy meal planning, you’ll waste less by reusing key ingredients throughout the week, enjoy a menu that works for you (no matter where you are), and best of all, nourish your body every day.
Diet is a major part of living your healthiest life and these money-saving meal prep hacks keep your nutrition goals in step with your budget.