Mon. Mar 4th, 2024

Lunchboxes in the fridge

Meal prep can save you time and money (Picture: Getty Images)

In the cost of living crisis, saving money when and where you can makes all the difference – and the food shop is always one of biggest outlays.

Even though inflation is finally falling, the price of food is staying high, with the cost of some supermarket staples almost tripling in the last two years.

Pre-packaged foods are often the worst offenders – In a study by Which? in July, the worst contender was a pack of six Mr Kipling Bakewell Cake Slices at Sainsbury’s, which swelled in price by 175%, from £1 to £2.75.

The cost of cheese, meat and bread has also soared, with some experts saying the cost of our food shop is worse than rising energy bills.

One way to cut costs is to ‘meal prep’ – by deciding what you’re going to eat for the week and preparing it in advance – but how does it save money?

Let’s find out.

How does meal prep save money?

Planning your shop

By taking time to decide what to eat for the week, you’ll be able to plan exactly what to buy.

Wooman in supermarket with shopping app on phone

Shopping apps can help with compiling lists (Picture: Getty Images/iStockphoto)

This means that once you’re in the supermarket, you won’t be tempted to throw a pile of random things into the trolley in the hope they’ll somehow go together and make meals.

It also reduces food waste, too.

Fewer trips to the supermarket

Planning a week’s meals – or even just weekday ones – means you can get everything you need in one trip.

It’s so much easier to get it all at once (Picture: Getty Images)

If you”re driving to the supermarket, this cuts down on fuel bills, and that helps the planet, too.

Reducing the temptation to grab a takeaway

We’ve all been there – you’re on the way home from work and the thought of cooking – or even thinking about it – is just all too much.

Meal prepping is a lot healthier (Picture: Getty Images)

That’s when the lovely smell wafting out of the local takeaway is just too good to pass up.

But if your dinner is waiting for you in the fridge and is either ready to eat cold or just needs a few minutes in the microwave/wok, you’re far less likely to fork out on that Bargain Bucket. Plus, it’s healthier, too.

Choosing cheaper ingredients

Knowing what you need means you can incorporate cheaper ingredients, and you can also be flexible when you get to the supermarket/do your online shop.

Ingredients in most recipes can easily be swapped out if you find something else is particularly good value.

Frozen fruit is often much cheaper (Picture: Getty Images/iStockphoto)

Frozen fruits and veggies are also often a cheaper choice and work well when used in meal prep – if you’re having fruit you can pop it out of the freezer the night before.

Cutting energy bills

By batch cooking your meals at once, you can drastically cut the amount of time you’re using your oven and hob, and your dishwasher, compared to cooking every day.

Batch cooking can save on energy costs (Picture: Getty Images)

As anyone with a smart meter knows, using the electric oven is far from cheap, and sends the energy dial firmly into the orange.

It saves you time

Time is money, as they say.

Less time cooking means more time for fun (Picture: Getty Images)

By spending less of it sorting out meals every day, you have more time to spend on everything else – such as getting debts sorted and switching your energy bills or phone to a cheaper tariff – plus to enjoy yourself, too.

How to meal prep

The first step is to plan your meals for the week, and make a shopping list – you can use a meal prep app such as Anylist.

If you haven’t got them, you’ll also need to pick up some reusable, freezer-proof, clean plastic tubs with airtight lids to store everything in.

Store prepared food carefully (Picture: Getty Images/iStockphoto)

When it comes to meal prep, the best option is to set aside some time and batch cook the lot at once.

For example, you could make a giant shepherd’s pie, then divvy it up into individual containers and freeze some of them.

Or you can prepare a lot of the ingredients by chopping, slicing, or roasting, and store so you can quickly make a recipe later.

BBC Good Food has loads of ideas for meals, such as pasta bakes, curries and soups.


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