If you’re pursuing a healthier lifestyle and you’ve read all the blogs, but you don’t know where to begin, I have ONE trick that I do to get on top of my health each week.
Can you guess what it is?
Okay, I’ll tell you in
3… 2… 1…
Yep, you read that correctly: preparation.
Without overstating things, planning, and shopping for all your weeknight dinners at once is life-changing. It brings the stress down and the deliciousness radar up. That’s why I prioritise preparation over pretty much anything else.
But Lee, what do you mean by preparation.
I can see the trickle of sweat starting to fall from your forehead, but do not fear! When I talk preparation, I’m not talking about a fridge full of containers with brown rice, broccoli, and chicken. I refer to a few time-saving tools, a curated pantry and fridge, and partially prepared meals to streamline the meal preparation station. Preparing meals is the most significant way to save time and money.
With a little bit of planning, and some valuable tips, buying and preparing wow-worthy food isn’t as complicated (or costly!) as it looks.
Here Are My Ten Top Tips for Preparing Your Meals While Being Money Savvy:
- Plan your Meals
When it comes to saving money on groceries, planning is a must. Pick one day each week to plan your meals for the upcoming week. I pick a Sunday but choose what works best for you. Then, make a grocery list of everything you need to create those meals.
This is an excellent activity to do with the family and can even be fun if you get the little ones excited and involved. Make sure you scan your fridge and pantry to see what you already have for some extra inspiration.
Only plan to purchase what you’re going to use. Nobody likes food waste.
- Choose to Shop Seasonally
While food grown out of season is easily accessible nowadays, it’s always best to eat according to the seasons. Produce that’s grown in season is generally cheaper than out-of-season options. Plus, it’s usually higher in nutrients and flavour. Produce that’s not grown in the season has often gone through transport from far away, which isn’t good for the environment or your budget.
- Focus on Whole Foods
If you’ve ever thought that eating healthy is expensive, you’re not alone. However, a nourishing diet doesn’t mean you need to include costly superfood powders, blends, or exotic fruits.
For example, whole grains like brown rice and oats are packed full of nutrients and cheaper per serve than most processed cereals.
If you don’t believe me, check out the price differences of potatoes below:
A serve of potato is one medium potato – or 150g:
- Potatoes per 150g = 50c
- Frozen chips per 150g = 70c
- Potato chips per 150g = $3.75
You may be surprised to see how much you’re paying for processed foods like chips, cookies, and crackers. By skipping processed foods, you can spend more of your budget on higher-quality, nutrient-rich foods.
- Create your Go-To Things
Preparing meals can be hugely helpful, but it requires a lot of effort and doesn’t always leave you with much wiggle room if you change your mind. I prefer to partially prepare meals rather than creating full-blown meals at the beginning of the week.
So, I’ll create elements that make weeknight cooking more manageable and delicious, like a tray of roasted vegetables, a dressing (hello, tahini dressing) and some beans. If your fridge and pantry are stocked with a mix of versatile staples, you can easily craft nourishing meals.
- Replace Meat with Other Proteins
Now, no need to panic; I’m not saying to cut meat out altogether, but eating less meat is an easy way to save money, so why not have a few meatless meals throughout the week? Pick two days a week where you use other protein sources, such as boiled eggs, legumes, or fish. These are all relatively inexpensive, nutritious, and easy to prepare.
- Don’t Shop When You’re Hungry
Raise your hand if you’ve ever gone to the supermarket while hungry and left with the whole of aisle ten. Same. If you go to the grocery store while hungry, you’re far more likely to stray from your grocery list and buy something on impulse (I’m looking at you, chocolate aisle). So, be sure to eat before your trip, and you’ll save yourself some cash. Future you will thank you.
- Buy Frozen Fruits and Vegetables
While I’m all about buying fresh food in season, fresh fruit, berries, and some vegetables can be expensive. Quick-frozen produce is usually just as nutritious as fresh food but cheaper, available all year and sold in large bags. Frozen fruit is great for making smoothies or for topping your oats or yoghurt.
- Grow Your Produce
A few years ago, I decided to swap out my big grocery shops for homegrown produce. While this can sound intimidating to some (heck, maybe even crazy), gardening is a fun and valuable skill to learn and can save you money in the long run. Gardening is hard work, but it’s therapeutic and can give you a greater appreciation for your food. Having a continuous supply of veggies and herbs at home can save you money at the store. Check out my beginner’s guide to growing your veggies here.
- Buy in Bulk
Buying staple foods in bulk can be relatively inexpensive and add some variety to your meals. I buy all grains and pseudo-grains, including oats, rice, and quinoa, in bulk. I also purchase most of my nuts, lentils, beans, and seeds in bulk.
Hi, I’m Lee, and I’m a leftovers-aholic.
But seriously, never underestimate the power of leftovers. I mean never.
I utilise leftovers for lunches or in other recipes the next day. If I bake roasted vegetables for dinner, you can be sure they’ll feature in my curry the following day.
Having leftovers can stop you from eating out on days when you don’t have time to cook a meal from scratch too. You can even freeze leftovers in single portions to enjoy later.
Five Meals the Whole Family Will Love:
So, we have all the tricks and tools, now what?
It’s time for the recipes. Below are five different recipes for your week that the whole family will enjoy.
Monday: Burger Night
These Black Bean Burgers are deliciously nutritious and excellent for a meatless Monday. Even the biggest carnivores won’t know what’s missing.
Tuesday: Zoodle Time
Enter my Chocolate Chilli Beef Zoodle – it’s a great communal dish that you can place in the centre of the table for everyone to enjoy. It’s incredible for dinner, but it’s even better for lunch the next day.
Wednesday: Air Fried Chicken + Sweet Potato Salad
If you’re in the mood for something that tastes a little bit naughty, I know you’ll love my crispy Air Fried Chicken. It’s a must-try air-fryer recipe that brings all the crispiness, flavour, and juicy goodness you love about fried chicken. I like to pair the chicken with my favourite Sweet Potato Salad too.
Thursday: Try to Resist This Risotto
My Pumpkin, Mushroom and Sage Brown Rice Risotto ticks all the boxes: it’s high in fibre, deliciousness and antioxidants.
Friday: Low FODMAP Meatball Stew
Don’t have a beef with me, as this Hearty Meatball Stew is a FODMAP-friendly bowl of goodness that’s waiting to be eaten. It’s the perfect dish for a cosy night in.
I’d love to know, what one thing are you going to do to be a bit savvier? Let me know in the comments below.