Last year I went on a 28 day meal plan that has since changed the way I look at food. It was an awesome experience because it taught me a foundation of how to better handle eating. Ever since that time I have focused regularly on how to manage my weekly food consumption.
I do not stick to that same plan, but what it has done is given me the fundamentals of what it takes to prepare my meals ahead of time. Up until that point eating for me was done at random. I would go to the grocery store and buy some basics, but eating throughout the week consisted of whatever I had available at the time. And if I was home or at work with no food accessible, it meant going out and buying lunch or dinner.
However ever since that 28 day meal plan I now plan all my meals during the week ahead of time. And a big part of what motivates this activity is to see how low I can get the price per meal down to. I have found that on average I usually get it to $4 per meal for a total of 14 meals per week. (3 meals per day for 5 days, except for dinner on Friday night where I will usually go out with friends or my girlfriend).
To show how this works I will look at my most recent shopping trip. My receipt from this past trip was $55.62. Divide that by 14 meals and you are left with $3.97 per meal.
The $55.62 haul looked something like this:
Every Sunday this is what my kitchen counter tops look like. I will prepare 5 days worth of meals; breakfast, lunch and dinner. Usually it consists of fish, chicken, steak, vegetables and eggs. Not only does this help me maintain my weight when I am training for different kind of runs, it also is a great money saver. As you can see above I spent $55 for a week of meals. If I were to buy individual meals per week, assuming each meal costs an average of $10 per meal, I would be spending $140 on those 14 meals per week. I’m saving myself $85 a week by prepping my meals ahead of time!
I’ll break down this picture for what my weekly meals for the week look like.
Breakfast: An apple or banana per day
Lunch: Salad with grilled chicken, one and a half boiled egg, mixed vegetables and Italian dressing. An orange for a snack.
Dinner: Steak or Salmon with a side of potatoes
So there you have it, it’s really that simple. Honestly the meals do not vary each day for dinner. All breakfast’s are one piece of fruit and all lunches are same salad with an orange on the side for a snack. However this is because I’m currently training for a full marathon and trying to lose weight. If I wasn’t in a weight loss mode I would do a lot more variations. Probably more meats and vegetables for lunch and these muffin tin omelets for breakfast. And even if I did that change, I have found my costs do not vary much.
Of course it helps making sure you are getting the best deals when you are food shopping. For example I have a store card that saved me $13 on my last shopping trip. That is because I made sure the food I bought was advertised with store card savings. I haven’t even looked at coupons yet, so I am sure those could help in bringing my cost down. As with everything, you need to be smart when you are shopping.
Once I have this food I spend every Sunday for an hour or 2 cooking and this is what I am left with for the week:
Not only have I found a financial benefit from doing this every week, but there is a time convenience as well. It is easy to just grab from the fridge and have a meal ready within minutes. I do not have to spend much time cooking each meal ahead of time. My schedule throughout the week opens up a lot more because I am not spending a lot of time in front of the oven.
A plan like this does not take rocket science to complete. It just takes a little consistency to get a routine down. And once you do you will see benefits not only regarding your health but in your wallet too.