It’s not just easy to spend too much on food — it’s fun.
Who doesn’t love splurging on a takeaway every so often? Who can’t resist treating themselves to a meal out at the end of the week? Even buying a chilled pizza from the supermarket is a naughty treat that’s hard to resist.
But those here-and-there treats all add up, and not just in financial terms either — the calories can quickly stack up too.
Thankfully, eating healthy and delicious meals doesn’t need to break the bank. It’s entirely possible to enjoy tasty, nourishing, and above all, affordable meals with ease, simply through careful preparation.
So grab your knife and fork, unfold your napkin, and tuck into these money-saving food prep tips you need to know. Bon appetit!
Plan your meals in advance
I can’t stress enough the importance of planning your meals. Not knowing what you’re going to eat each day gives you choices, and too much choice generally means you opt for the quickest (and often most unhealthy) option.
This is especially true if you’re looking to lose weight or bulk up. Planning your meals in advance helps keep you on the straight and narrow, preventing you from splurging on a takeaway or a shop-bought snack mid-week.
Breakfast is generally the easiest. Buy a big bag of oats for porridge, or get some Greek yoghurt and add some honey or frozen fruits for a nutritious morning meal.
Lunch and evening meals require a little more planning. Decide what you want and write up a shopping list for all your meals. If you think you’ll get bored of eating the same thing, mix it up a bit — if you’re food prepping for weight loss, a little variety will help you stick to your goals.
Batch cook for the rest of the week
One of the simplest and easiest ways to save money is to simply batch cook.
Set aside a few hours every week (I find a slow Sunday is best) to cook all your meals for the following week. You could just make your lunches for work, or you could do your evening meal as well — it’s up to you.
Compare the cost of a batch-cooked pasta dish to buying a supermarket meal deal every day — you’ll find the cost difference staggering.
Batch cooking doesn’t just help save you money either — it’s also a great time saver. How many times have you come home from work and been too tired to cook anything nutritious? Instead, you just chuck some burgers and chips in the oven or, worse, order a takeaway.
Batch cooking saves you the trouble, giving you a nourishing home-cooked meal that you can heat up in mere minutes. While this might sound arduous, with time you might actually find it quite relaxing. Listen to some tunes or a podcast, or even put a film on while you cook — just watch your fingers when you’re chopping!
Save time by freezing everything
Is your freezer looking a little bare? Nothing but ice cubes, frozen chips, and a packet of Soleros from last summer? Perfect — it’s time to fill it with your meals for the next week.
You’d be surprised at how well some food freezes. From cooked rice and flour to grated cheese and eggs, there’s an immense amount of food you can throw in your freezer and forget about.
Remember to let all food reach room temperature before throwing it in the freezer, and keep everything properly wrapped — especially meat.
Food with high water content (looking at you, lettuce) won’t have the same quality once they’re defrosted. But if you’re cooking with it, that’s okay — you won’t notice the difference.
While disposable food containers or freezer bags are available and perfect for freezing, they’re not great for the planet. Invest in some good-quality plastic containers to keep your meals in instead and they’ll last a lifetime.
Embrace the magic of one-pot wonders
Cooking one-pot wonders might be the best money-saving food prep advice I can give you. Delicious meals, all cooked in one pot for less washing-up, that last for days — what’s not to love?
Here are a few of my favourite one-pot wonders you absolutely need to try:
- Chilli: con Carne or totally veggie, this spicy dish is the perfect winter warmer. Pair with packet rice or noodles to help it go further.
- Curry: is there anything better than a home-cooked curry? Ditch the sauce jars and invest in some big packets of spice — they’ll make it taste so much better.
- Soup: so much variety and so much flavour — perfect for leftover vegetables from your Sunday dinner.
- Daal: lentils are an unappreciated superfood — filling, nourishing, and packed with fibre, vitamins, magnesium, zinc, and more.
These are all easy to scale up, freeze perfectly, and can provide meals for a couple of weeks if you make enough of them.
Shake up your shopping routine
Part of food preparation includes actually buying it in the first place. Rather than heading to a big-brand supermarket each week, shake up your shopping routine and shop around instead.
Ethnic supermarkets are a great place to get cheap foods in bulk. Asian supermarkets often sell huge bags of rice at very affordable prices, for instance, and the same goes for spices. Ditch the tiny jars of supermarket spices and buy bigger packets of the same, but for less.
It’s worth mentioning your classic greengrocers here too. Not only are greengrocers generally cheaper than supermarkets, but they also often sell local produce and use less plastic packaging. Beyond that, by shopping smaller, you support an independent retailer too.
Many fruit and vegetable shops often do mixed bags of produce going past its sell-by date. These are great for dicing up, throwing in a soup or curry, and freezing for the next week. Keep an eye out for these at the till.
Who says healthy and tasty has to cost more? With these simple money-saving food prep tips up your sleeve, you’ll be whipping up affordable appetisers and delicious dinners in no time.