Eating out is expensive. Even with the lunch special deals at many restaurants near my job, I end up spending at least $10 per meal. Multiply that times 5 and that’s 50 bucks that I’m spending each week – and that’s just for lunch! If you include daily coffee purchases, snacks and dinner you can wind up spending well over $150 a week on food!
I’d also be willing to bet the food isn’t very healthy. I know whenever I don’t bring food from home, I take way too long to head out to eat and then I’m STARVING and end up either buying way too much food or buying something that’s really unhealthy.
The problem is that I don’t have time during the week to make dinner, let alone lunch for the next day. The solution? Meal prepping!
Every Sunday, I take time out to cook all of my meals and snacks for the week. Depending on what you cook, meal prepping can take a few hours to do, but the amount of time and money it saves makes it well worth it!
I usually try to cook things in bulk and plan a bunch of meals that can be used with similar ingredients. So for example, I might make a whole bunch of brown rice, and use it in a burrito bowl or just as a side with chicken and vegetables. Here’s what I did this week – and how much each meal costs after adding up the ingredients:
Chicken and Roasted Cauliflower
I really wanted to use roasted butternut squash as a side, but my grocery store was out of the pre-cut, cubed containers and I didn’t have the time or energy to peel a butternut squash, so instead I grabbed cauliflower which was on sale.
First I preheated the oven to 425. Then I put two chicken thighs in a small baking dish and added oil, balsamic vinegar, salt, pepper, onion powder, garlic powder, and a little paprika. You can add any seasoning you’d like, these are just my go to choices. Make sure the chicken is fully coated in all the seasoning then throw that in the oven. Cook for about 35 min, turning over about half way through.
Then, wash and cut a head of cauliflower. Throw small chunks into a bowl and coat with olive oil, salt, pepper, and any seasonings you’d like. Then spread the pieces of cauliflower on a baking sheet covered with aluminum foil before placing that in the oven. Cook that for about 35 min as well. Make sure you flip the pieces about halfway through to overcooking one side.
While the chicken and cauliflower were in the oven, I laid out the rest of the ingredients for this week’s meal and started to multi-task.
Hard Boiled Eggs
First, I hard boiled a dozen eggs to have for breakfast throughout the week.
Chicken and Rice Bowls
Then, I cooked the brown rice and the spinach for the chicken and rice bowls.
Once the rice and eggs were finished cooking, I set them both aside to cool, threw a bag of frozen corn in the microwave, and chopped up the chicken breasts and put them into a frying pan. Once everything was finished cooking, I grabbed three plastic containers and started to build the rice bowls. The ingredients were enough to make three bowls.
Then, I put my snacks together.
I cut up celery and cucumbers, and added them to ziplock bags along with carrot chips. I have no self-control with dip, so I decided to portion out the humus a head of time so I don’t mindlessly eat the whole container. I sectioned out a bag of cheese puffs into separate ziplock bags to avoid the same problem.
I put the left over olives, corn, and cucumbers into separate containers and will use them to build salads throughout the week. I’m not a fan of pre-building salads, but I try to at least have the ingredients pre-cut which saves time during the week.
The whole process took about 2 and a half hours (including clean up) and I made five cooked and ready to go meals (one of which I ate for dinner), 5 days of breakfast, 6 servings of snacks, and the ingredients for at least 3 salads ready to go.
Now for the cost! Here’s what each meal ends up costing once all the ingredients are added up:
Chicken Thighs and Roasted Cauliflower
Chicken Thighs ($3.18 for 4) = .80 each
Cauliflower (3.99 for the head) = $2 per serving
Total Cost = $2.80 per meal
Chicken Rice Bowls
Rice (5.32 box of 6) = .89 / bag = .30 per serving
Chicken Breasts ($9 for 5) = $1.80 each
Olives ($2 can of 5 servings) = .40 per serving
Corn ($2.39 per 6 serving bag) = .40 per serving
Spinach (2.00 per 3 serving bag) = .67 per serving
Total Cost = $3.57 each
Hard Boiled Eggs
3.68 / dozen = .31 each
Carrot Chips ($2.29 per seven serving bag) = .33 per serving
Celery ($2.50 per pack) = .25 per serving
Cucumber (.79 each) = .26 per serving
Humus ($3.99 per 10 serving container) = .40 per serving
Total Cost = $1.24 each
$3.99 per 4 serving bag = $1 each
The total cost of breakfast, lunch, and dinner for the week, adding in the salad, is $32.14. That’s less than it would cost to buy JUST LUNCH for an entire week!
I’d say it was well worth the 2 and a half hours!