Choosing to pursue meal prep is wise, especially if, after research and experimentation, you find that meal prep is the method of weekly food preparation that works best for you or you and your family.
The cost of meal prep depends on how many people you are feeding and how much variety in food you’ll have every week.
What does that mean?
Well, there are different types of weekly meal and food preparation strategies that one can use, but each will not fit every person perfectly. We have different bodies, lifestyles, and diet goals that will help determine which method of food preparation suits us best.
Read on to learn which method suits you best, how much it might cost, and more!
Reasons to Choose Meal Prep
For example, meal prep is best for individuals and families who are busy and don’t have an opportunity before meals to put them all together.
For the Full-Time Employed
Perhaps you have to rush off to work in the morning, eat lunch at work (and the kids eat lunch at school), and then get home just in time to eat dinner.
Or you get back after dinnertime has passed, so you need to make sure your kids have something to eat while you’re away.
If this sounds like you, then meal prep should work best.
For Weight Regulation
Or perhaps you’re struggling to maintain weight or lose weight because you can’t stop yourself from overindulging during mealtimes.
Guess what would help with that? Meal prep!
With meal prep, you portion out your food for each meal so that you know what you have in the container is what you’ve got for that meal. If you dip into another container, you’ll be taking from future hungry you.
With this method, you’ll only eat what’s in that lunch container and be able to meet your diet goals!
For Financial Savings
If neither of these scenarios applies, perhaps you’re just struggling with money right now. As a poor college student, or perhaps new parents who are barely keeping their family afloat, you need affordable meal plans while also catering to your busy student or parent schedule.
Meal prep is perfect for you, too, as you’ll have meals prepared beforehand and save money. (There is a meal prep variation that will help you shave off a lot of your grocery bill that we’ll tell you about later in the variations section.)
Intrigued? Ready to learn more about meal prepping and how it can save you time and money? Great!
For Health Reasons
Eating food is a sacred ritual of putting something into your body that turns into nourishment and keeps you strong, healthy, and energized.
That said, ensuring you are putting nutritious, healthy foods that will benefit you and your kids is essential.
Perhaps you’re trying to save money by buying cheap foods like Uncrustables, frozen pizzas, and potato chips to feed your family.
Hopefully, you’re reading this article because you’ve realized how damaging it can be for growing bodies and adult bodies to be constantly subjected to those types of “foods” (junk food, also known as not actual food).
Let’s change this and give you an affordable solution so you can buy healthy, whole foods for your family and thrive! Read on, and we’ll satisfy your questions!
What Does Meal Prep Mean?
I’ve already alluded to the nature of said meal prep quite a bit in the introduction, so you may have already figured it out.
Meal prep is preparing all of the week’s food in advance, say, in one afternoon. You decide what meals you want to have all week, buy the ingredients at the store, come home and proceed to make all of your week’s meals, storing them in containers in the fridge.
Then, when Tuesday’s dinnertime comes along, you take out your Tuesday dinner container and eat Tuesday’s dinner. Make sense? Sort of?
Meal prep is excellent if you have a super busy week, especially if you have kids, but you’re not around at mealtimes, and they aren’t able to make their own food.
With Tuesday’s dinner already prepared in the fridge, all they have to do is take it out, reheat it in the microwave, and they can eat it without any trouble before you get home from work.
It’s great for quick school lunches for the kids, as they can take a container with their lunch in it, stick it in the lunchbox, and be on their way. Or, take leftovers from the dinner prepared the previous night and stick them in a container and then in their lunchbox. You get the idea.
Ways to Tackle That Meal Prepping Day
The only problem with this method of food preparation is that you’ll have to commit at one point in your week to make all of the food. Maybe a morning or afternoon over the weekend during which you can spend hours cooking?
Listen to a podcast or watch a movie while you’re at it. Or, maybe you can make it a weekly tradition for the whole family! Bringing the family into it is always a great idea.
You can have your kids feel important by having them each pick a day’s meals. They can accompany you to the store and help you get the ingredients for the meals they picked, then make those meals themselves!
It helps them make grown-up choices, like what they will eat that day and gives them the responsibility to make sure they’ve made the meal they promised to feed their family on their one assigned day of the week.
It may be enjoyable to all hang out in the kitchen that morning or afternoon, listening to music, talking, and cooking together. Or, have one kid come in at a time and turn it into a little date where you get to know your kid better and spend quality time!
And afterward, you can always go out for ice cream or watch a movie to celebrate!
Types of Meal Prep
There are two distinct types of meal prep.
The first is more for larger groups, such as families or multiple generations living in one home. In this version, you have all your meals planned out, and each day has different meals.
Monday has a specific breakfast, lunch, and dinner, and Tuesday has its own particular breakfast, lunch, and dinner, and so on. You may choose to have the previous night’s leftovers for lunches, but you get the idea.
This version is great for families because, as many people are eating the meals, it’s hard to cook enough ingredients for three dinners of the same dish.
However, for individuals, there is another method of meal prep that you may prefer.
As an individual, you won’t eat an entire meal by yourself in a night. So, this method would be to choose one breakfast, one lunch, and one dinner to eat every night throughout the week. You may need to buy two meals’ worth for it to last the whole week, but it is just one lunch all week and one dinner all week.
This method is great for individuals because it saves a lot of room in the fridge (and you may have roommates who want to fit their food in too!) and saves a lot of time during your busy week (as a student or as a full-time employee).
Dedicating a few weekend hours to cooking your food will save you so much time during your crazy week. How often are we only given a small window of opportunity to eat, and without anything properly prepared, we end up just eating snacks or nothing at all?
With this meal prep, you can have your food ready to pull out as soon as it’s lunchtime. You can even put all of your lunches into individual containers, so all you have to do is grab one and go!
Or for Losing Weight
The above method of choosing one breakfast, one lunch, and one dinner to eat every night throughout the week is also excellent for those trying to lose weight or regulate their food intake.
By putting your food into individual containers, you can only have what’s in that container for lunch and no more.
This way, you don’t keep eating just because your brain tells you to because you know you need the rest to feed you the remainder of the week.
However, don’t starve yourself either! Make sure you have a filling, nutrient-rich meal in each of those containers, or you’ll be miserable and may resort to over-eating between meals.
Ideally, meals should have a serving of protein, grains, or legumes, two servings of vegetables, and some healthy fats to fully nourish your body and fill up your stomach.
Cost Differences Between Meal Prep Variations
Now that you’ve read the research part and know all the essential background information pertaining to meal prep, let’s get to the part you’ve been waiting for: how much does it cost to do meal prep every week?
Well, the cost of meal prep depends on how many people you are feeding and how much variety in food you’ll have every week.
The Least Variety
The cheapest meal prep (I know this is the one you’re wanting!) is to have one meal all week for breakfast, one for lunch, and one for dinner.
This is because all you have to do is buy that meal’s ingredients (possibly a little more depending on how much you need to get through the week).
This cuts down on the sheer variety that meals can contain, especially if you like having diverse foods during the week or letting your family members choose.
This method is not for those who like variety, however.
You can change to a new dinner the next week, but you’re going to be eating the same thing every day for dinner for a whole week. Can you handle that?
For example, I’m on my third week of eating taco salad for lunch every day because I love it so much!
This meal prep approach will not cost much. For me, depending on the ingredients I need, it costs between $40-$60 a week (I eat healthy, so all those ingredients are whole foods).
The Most Practical
The next version would be the most practical for families.
This version has the same or a few different breakfasts every week and a new dinner every day. Whatever is leftover from dinner, you eat for lunch the next day.
This way, you’re not spending too much on breakfast (not worth it, especially if you don’t have much time in the mornings to enjoy food or don’t care what you eat in the morning – the most important thing is that you eat!), and you’re not buying a bunch of lunches.
This cuts down on preparation time and also makes sure you don’t end up with a bunch of leftovers in your fridge from previous days.
Having a new dinner every night will be much more expensive than having the same one and will probably average between $150-$200 a week (when buying for an average-sized family).
However, if you don’t even want to be eating the same thing two days in a row, you’ll want the last and most expensive version.
The Most Variety
This last version is for:
- Very large families that can’t have leftovers because there are none at the end of a meal or not enough to carry over for the whole family.
- Those who love variety and couldn’t dream of having the same thing twice in a row.
In this version, you have a new breakfast, new lunch, and new dinner every day of the week.
It will take the longest to prepare and will take up the most room in your fridge, but you will still have that time-saving element that is so precious to busy families because it’ll all be ready – all you have to do is reheat and eat!
However, this is the most expensive version because of the sheer volume and variety of the foods you’ll be buying. Buying more food means spending more money, but some food items are more expensive than others, and if you’re buying a little of everything, it will add up.
This version will probably cost between $200 – $300 a week. The exact amounts will depend on how many people you’re feeding and how much variety in ingredients you’ll have.
The Bottom Line
Whether you’re considering meal prep due to an issue of time – you want to make sure you and your family are eating! – an issue with restraining your appetite, or out of a desire to save money, just within the meal prep category, there are multiple varieties you can choose from in order to get the closest to achieving your goal.
Meal prep saves time by having all of your meals for the week prepared beforehand and having them easily accessible in your time of need.
And meal prep saves money by cutting down on the variety of foods you purchase into calculated, planned specifics.
You’re on the right track – researching and learning as much about different methods as possible. I hope this article was helpful in your investigation, and I hope you continue to explore and expose yourself to all of the possibilities out there.
People are so creative. You’re bound to find something that works for you! And of course, remember to experiment.
Try out different grocery stores and see which ones have the most affordable options for your grocery list and budget. Happy meal prepping!