The pandemic lead to a big spike in online shopping, including groceries. In addition, meal prep companies also saw increases in their sales amidst stay-at-home orders and remote school and work.
Delivery services like GrubHub and Postmates also saw business increase, but these services deliver a lot of fast food, which also led to some people adding a few pounds during quarantine. As places open back up, marrying the convenience of food accessibility and the importance of healthy foods is quite doable… even on a budget!
Weekly meal planning is a great way to keep costs down and also to ensure you’re getting enough nutrition from all of the different food groups.
Here 5 Five Tips for Healthy, Affordable Meal Planning.
Pick a Day and Make it Fun
Adding meal planning to your weekly routine is easier said than done, and does, indeed, take up a few hours of your time. Choosing a day to reward yourself after meal prepping is an excellent way to get into a routine. For instance, right now is football season, so Monday night meal prep and football could become a thing!
As you get better at your meal planning trade, you’ll learn how to cut corners and make the prep time shorter and shorter. Utilizing grocery delivery is an excellent way to do this, as well, but there’s also something nice about picking out your produce for many people.
Scan the Cupboards
When planning out your meals for the week, take a look at what you have leftover. The best way to stick to a grocery budget is to use things you’ve already purchased. There are a lot of healthy foods that can be substituted for one another, and if you have some at home, time and money are saved!
You can also plan to help you by buying items you enjoy cooking within the bulk. It takes time and trial-and-error to determine what quantities will fit your routine efficiently, but make a running list of things you use (and run out of) frequently.
Scope Local Deals
Most people don’t want to eat every meal at home. Though it is almost always a less expensive option than dining out, having someone else make your food is a relaxing and deserved treat for anyone working many hours.
Taking the time to see what kind of weekly specials and happy hour deals restaurants near you have doesn’t take too much effort and can also be quite a money-saving move if you enjoy going out a couple of times per week. The meal you take yourself out to could also be your reward after taking the time to prep for the rest of the week!
Plan for Leftovers
Cooking for groups is almost always less expensive than cooking for yourself. If you can handle the same thing a couple of times each week, you can be that “group” of people, ultimately saving money (and generally, time).
Crock Pots are great ways to make large portions that will still taste fresh a couple of days later, and as with the other tips on this list, you’ll start to realize what foods are better as leftovers and can streamline your process even more.
Another way you can save some cash is by buying whole foods, such as a block of cheese, or oats, rice, and most unprocessed foods. Whole foods do, however, mean more significant portions, so be ready for the leftovers!
Remove the “Processed” from Your Process
Processed foods are rarely healthy, and though they may seem like good deals compared to eating out, they’re still more expensive than cooking from scratch. Avoiding these serves a three-fold practice, as it saves money, promotes wellness, and allows you to use more of your excess food.
There are a few healthy options for processed food, but they generally don’t fit into most grocery budgets of folks trying to save money.
Meal planning is a no-brainer for those looking to save some money while simultaneously getting healthier, but the latter can be kicked into high gear with some other practices that might have got brushed aside during the COVID stand-down.
Be sure to drink a lot of water with your prepped meals, and if you’re working from home, at least do enough exercise to make it comparable to a day of travel and activity in an office setting!