In today’s fast-paced world, it can be challenging to find time to cook healthy and nutritious meals every day. Between work, family, and social obligations, cooking can often fall to the wayside, leading to unhealthy eating habits and increased spending on takeout or dining out. However, with a little planning and preparation, it is possible to save both time and money by implementing weekly meal planning hacks.
Meal planning involves organizing your meals for the week ahead, including grocery shopping, prepping ingredients, and cooking. By planning your meals in advance, you can save time by avoiding last-minute trips to the grocery store and spending less time cooking each day. Additionally, meal planning can save you money by reducing food waste and preventing impulse purchases.
In this blog post, we will explore some simple and effective weekly meal planning hacks to help you save time and money while still eating healthy, delicious meals.
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The first step in successful meal planning is to plan your meals in advance. Take some time at the beginning of each week to plan out what you will eat for breakfast, lunch, and dinner each day. This can be as simple as making a list of meals or as detailed as creating a meal plan spreadsheet. Whatever method you choose, make sure to include all meals and snacks to avoid any last-minute scrambling.
Setting aside a specific day for meal planning can help you stay consistent and make it a habit. Choose a day that works for you and stick to it.
If you’re looking for an easier way to plan your meals, consider using a meal-planning app. These apps can help you generate meal plans, create grocery lists, and track your progress. Some popular meal-planning apps include Mealime, Paprika, and Plan to Eat.
Having a well-stocked pantry can make meal planning and preparation much easier. Stock up on staple items like rice, pasta, canned beans, and canned tomatoes. Additionally, keep a variety of herbs and spices on hand to add flavor to your meals without adding calories. Having a well-stocked pantry also means you will be less likely to make last-minute trips to the grocery store, saving you both time and money.
While meal planning, keep in mind that you may have some food left over so try to incorporate that into your meals for the next day. For example, leftover roasted vegetables can be added to a salad or used to make a frittata. Leftover chicken can be shredded and used in tacos or mixed with pasta and sauce for a quick and easy dinner.
Planning themed dinner nights can make meal planning more fun and exciting. Choose a theme for each night of the week, like Taco Tuesday or Meatless Monday, and plan your meals accordingly.
Meat can be one of the most expensive items on your grocery bill. Embracing meatless meals can save you money while also promoting a healthier diet. Try incorporating vegetarian meals into your weekly meal plan, such as lentil soup, veggie stir-fry, or chickpea curry.
In-season produce is often cheaper and fresher than out-of-season produce. Check your local farmer’s market or grocery store for in-season fruits and vegetables, which are often displayed at the front of the store.
If you have storage space, consider buying items in bulk. This is especially true for pantry staples like rice, pasta, and canned goods. Bulk items are often cheaper per unit and can save you money in the long run.
Check for coupons and loyalty programs offered by your grocery store. Many stores offer rewards points or discounts for frequent shoppers. Additionally, check your local newspaper or online for coupons you can use for specific items.
Pre-packaged and processed foods are often more expensive and less healthy than fresh foods. Stick to fresh fruits and vegetables, whole grains, and lean proteins to save money and eat a healthier diet.
Don’t be afraid to shop at multiple stores to get the best deals. Check weekly ads and compare prices for the items on your grocery list. You may find that certain stores have better deals on specific items.
Shopping on an empty stomach can lead to impulse buys and overspending. Eat a snack or meal before heading to the grocery store to avoid unnecessary purchases.
Generic or store-brand items are often just as good as name-brand items but cost less. Consider trying generic brands for items like canned goods, pasta, and cereal to save money.
Once you’ve made your grocery list, stick to it. Avoid impulse purchases and only buy the items you need. This can help prevent overspending and reduce food waste.
The perimeter of the grocery store is typically where you’ll find fresh produce, meats, and dairy products. These items are often healthier and less expensive than the pre-packaged and processed foods found in the aisles. Try to stick to the perimeter of the store to save money and eat a healthier diet.
Prepping ingredients in advance can save you a lot of time when it comes to cooking. This could mean washing and chopping vegetables, marinating meat, or cooking grains like rice or quinoa. By prepping ingredients ahead of time, you can cut down on the time it takes to prepare meals during the week. You can even set aside a few hours on the weekend to do all your meal prep for the week ahead.
A slow cooker can be a lifesaver when it comes to meal planning and preparation. Simply throw in your ingredients in the morning, and by dinnertime, you’ll have a delicious, slow-cooked meal ready to eat.
One-pot meals are a great way to save time and minimize cleanup. Consider making dishes like chili, soups, or stir-fries that only require one pot or pan to cook.
If you enjoy starting your day with a smoothie, consider prepping them in advance. Chop up fruits and vegetables and store them in individual bags or containers in the freezer. In the morning, simply toss the pre-prepped ingredients into a blender, add liquid, and blend for a quick and easy breakfast. This saves you time in the morning and ensures you have a nutritious meal to start your day.
One of the easiest ways to save time and money on meals is to cook in bulk. When you cook a large batch of food, you can portion it out into individual servings and store them in the fridge or freezer for later use. This is particularly useful for meals that reheat well, such as soups, stews, and casseroles.
Cook large batches of grains, proteins, or vegetables and use them throughout the week in different meals. Cooking proteins, such as chicken, beef, or tofu, in bulk can save you time during the week. You can use them in multiple meals, such as adding grilled chicken to salads or using it as a base for stir-fries.
Using pre-cut produce like bagged salad mixes or pre-cut vegetables can save you time when meal planning and preparation. They may cost a bit more, but the convenience is often worth it.
Sheet pan meals are a simple and easy way to cook a meal with minimal cleanup. Simply place all your ingredients on a sheet pan, season, and roast in the oven. You can use a variety of proteins and vegetables to create a balanced and flavorful meal.
Using multi-functional appliances like an Instant Pot or air fryer can save you time and make meal preparation more efficient. These appliances can be used for a variety of cooking methods, from pressure cooking to baking to roasting.
Marinating proteins like chicken, fish, or tofu can add a lot of flavor to your meals. Consider making a batch of marinade and using it throughout the week to add variety to your meals. Plus, marinating proteins can also help tenderize them, making them easier to cook and prepare.
A slow cooker can be a game-changer when it comes to meal planning. Simply add your ingredients to the slow cooker in the morning, and by dinnertime, you’ll have a hot, delicious meal ready to eat. Slow cooker meals are also great for cooking in bulk, as you can make large batches of soup, chili, or stew with minimal effort.
When it comes to meal prep, choosing the right containers can make a big difference. Look for containers that are reusable, microwave-safe, and dishwasher-safe for easy cleaning. Glass containers are a great option because they are non-toxic, durable, and can be used in the oven or freezer. Mason jars are also a versatile option, as they can be used for storing salads, soups, and smoothies.
Consider investing in containers with compartments to keep your meals organized and prevent them from getting mixed up. This can be especially helpful for packing lunches for work or school. Additionally, choose containers that are the right size for your meals, and ensure they have a secure lid to prevent leaks and spills. By choosing the right containers, you can ensure your meals stay fresh and are easy to transport.
Finally, remember to keep it simple. Meal planning should not be a stressful or time-consuming task. Stick to simple, healthy meals that can be prepared quickly and easily. Don’t be afraid to repeat meals throughout the week or reuse ingredients in multiple dishes.
Weekly meal planning can help you save both time and money while still eating healthy, delicious meals. By planning your meals in advance, using a meal planning app, keeping a well-stocked pantry, cooking in bulk, prepping ingredients in advance, using a slow cooker, using leftovers creatively, shopping sales and using coupons, buying in bulk, choosing seasonal produce, embracing meatless meals, making use of your freezer, and keeping it simple, you can create a stress-free meal planning routine that works for you. With a little bit of effort and planning, you can make your week a breeze and enjoy healthy, delicious meals every day.
May 11, 2023
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