Why we meal prep
Meal prepping has become a Sunday routine at my house, but it didn’t start off that way. When my husband and I started our journey together, we focused so much on our careers and paying off debt. This time in our lives felt a little overwhelming and exhausting. That honestly, the last thing we wanted to do was to cook or clean up the kitchen. So did Happy Hour more frequently and increase our food budget while throwing unused groceries out of the fridge every week.
During our new budget meeting, we constantly got frustrated with how much we were spending on food in general. Especially since we were trying to pay off our debt and cashflow our wedding. At this point, my husband saw a lot of fitness people on Instagram that were meal prepping. We started meal prepping to stop ourselves from going out to eat and throwing money away on uneaten groceries. It took a lot to finally find balanced meals that worked with our lifestyle. Now that our meal prep is in a good place, I want to share my tips to successfully meal prepping.
Love to hate meal prep
Here is the behind closed doors love and hate relationship I had with meal prep. It’s a lot of work! At first, we did a lot on Sundays. We would buy all of the groceries, cooking all of the meals, and then having to clean the whole kitchen. We later started making some modifications so we could maintain this new routine. We focused on buying groceries on double deal days and from stores that specialized in meat or fruits and vegetables. We also only meal prepped for 3 days instead of 5 to make sure the food was still fresh. After a few years of tweaking, we now feel like we have this meal prepping thing under wraps.
Our meal prep routine
Moving forward, now we have two babies and I can’t imagine my daily routine without meal prep. So here is the strategy that works for us:
- Review grocery store Ads on Flip App
- Shop at specialized stores
- Look in the fridge and cupboards
- Create a balanced meal menu
- Categorize days of the week
- Use the notes app
1. Review grocery store Ads on Flip App
While grocery shopping, we noticed that the older ladies strictly bulk up on items that were on sale. One lady told my husband that she figures out her meals depending on what’s in season and on sale. So we decided to give that a try and check out what was on sale before going to the store. We personally use the Flip app, where we can see all of the grocery store ads in just one place. This makes it easier than looking through a bunch of mail ads or searching online.
2. Shop at specialized stores
Meats and Bulk items
We usually bulk up on meat and other staple items at either Costco or at our local grocery store. Some of the staple items we buy at Costco is almond milk that comes in a box of 8 cartons. This way we can bulk upon them and not have to buy milk at the grocery store each week. With meat, we usually bulk up on Fridays when our local grocery store has extra deals 0.78 cents/lb of chicken. We also head to Costco for seafood or other meats that we want but aren’t usually on sale.
Fruits and Vegetables
Now that we have all of our staple items, we only go to our local farmer’s market grocery store. We only have to focus on purchasing fruits, vegetables, and some snacks on a weekly basis. We usually go to Sprouts, our local farmer’s market, on Wednesdays which are a double Ad day. We also head over to Trader Joes for small snacks, wine, and some frozen foods for our lazy days. I also want to note, that Trader Joe’s specializes in healthy frozen meals and snacks that are mom-approved.
3. Look in the fridge and cupboards
One thing that really helped us was to actually clean out our fridge before heading out to the grocery store. That way we clear room for the new food and have a clear note of what we already have. We usually find pasta in the cupboards and then only need pasta sauce. That cuts our grocery budget every time and we can get a little more creative on the meals.
4. Create a balanced meal menu
Back in the day, I was obsessed with making one big baking sheet of roasted vegetables for every meal. My husband hates it till this day, so I had to make some modifications to how I designed our meals. This meant creating a balanced meal menu that incorporated what was on sale and only two vegetables to stay healthy.
Here are some of the staple items that I switch around depending on the sales and how I lay out all my meals:
- Starch: rice, pasta, sweet potatoes, quinoa or any other rice supplement
- Protein: meat, fish, tofu, beans or other meat supplements
- Two vegetables: broccoli, zucchini, brussel sprouts, green beans, etc.
5. Themed days of the week
Once we got into our meal prep routine, we decided to spice up the days of the week by having a theme each day. So we decided to write out all of our go-to recipes and categorize them by days of the week. Then we would just pick and choose which recipes we wanted to for the week depending on the themed day.
Here are our current themes:
- Monday: Pasta
- Tuesday: Taco/ Mexican
- Wednesday: Fish/ Baked
- Thursday: Vegetarian
- Friday: Happy Hour Appetizers
- Saturday & Sunday: Large Family Dinner/ BBQ
6. Use the Notes App
My husband was known for leaving the grocery list and we would end up missing ingredients for our meals. This was very unfortunate since we decided on such specific meals and only purchased what we needed. To fix this problem we started adding our grocery list to a shared note on the note app. We would also add in the meal menu to this shared note to make sure we always knew what was on the menu that day. If you both don’t have iPhones then you could use a google sheet or another note app.
In my experience we get tired of meal prep by Thursday, so I usually only cook 3 meals to cover lunch and dinner for Monday – Wednesday. On Wednesday I will cook one large meal to cover Thursday and some of Friday. I supplement some of the lunches with light meals like fruit salads and sandwiches. This gives me more free time away from the kitchen and nutritious ready-to-go meal for my family. I hope this blog helps you through your meal prep journey and please share what has helped you stick to your meal prep.