You’ve probably heard the term “meal prepping” floating around on Pinterest or Instagram, maybe you even have work colleagues already doing it. But what’s behind the new trend and is it true that you can save a lot of money if you start meal prepping today? I investigated and tried it out myself – find out what I discovered:
Personally, I work in the middle of a big city so my options for getting a delicious lunch are almost limitless. But – and that’s a big but – this also has its disadvantages. After all, going out to eat five times a week can quickly become a pricey habit. Even if I’m trying to stay under a certain budget, there’s still a lot of my money flowing into my daily food intake.
So here’s where the idea of meal prepping comes into play. The name already hints at what meal prepping is all about: Instead of going out to get food spontaneously every day, you plan out your meals for the whole week and prepare them at home to take with you (or eat at home, you can also meal prep breakfasts and dinners).
Saving money with meal prepping?
It sounds like a lot of work when you think about it first. Cooking for a whole week?! But if you’re smart about it and use some of the many handy tips out there on the internet, you’ll turn into a meal prepping pro in no time.
So, after reading about it for a bit and getting acquainted with the idea of meal prepping, I decided to set up a little experiment. For one month I was going to meal prep all my lunches and see how much money I would end up saving in the end.
A budget overview
Every day, for lunch and snacks, I spend approximately CHF 17.50. So if we calculate with an average of 23 work days per month, this means I’m spending a total of CHF 402.50 a month just on food. Seeing it like that, it’s quite a big amount!
Okay, so now we know the budget I normally use for lunch. Now let’s see what I spent over these 4.5 weeks I tested meal prepping for myself.
Meal Prepping: The Experiment
Week 1: CHF 37.15 spent on broccoli, toast, bell peppers, zucchetti, potatoes & chicken
The first week I was invited out to lunch two times, so I saved double over the day. The prepared meal I enjoyed for a dinner instead. 😉
My menu was well-balanced and I didn’t get tired of it over the whole week. All in all I was very happy with my first week meal prepping!
Week 2: CHF 21.70 spent on pizza dough, creme fraiche & chicken
In week two, I spent CHF 19.- on one lunch because we went for a team lunch in a restaurant where I understandably couldn’t bring my prepared food. The next day, I was invited to eat out again, so I didn’t spend any money but also didn’t eat any prepared food!
With the ingredients mentioned above and some of the leftover bell peppers from the week before, I made some delicious “white” pizza that served me as the remaining three lunches of this week.
Week 3: CHF 31.20 spent on broccoli, beans, tomatoes, zucchetti & chicken
My third week on the meal prepping game, I created a delicious meal with the ingredients above as well as some couscous I already had at home and it was enough to last me the whole 5 days. I was happy and felt full every lunch!
Week 4: CHF 13.55 spent on sweet potatoes, zucchetti, cherry tomatoes & basmati rice
The fourth week I was only in the office for three days because on thursday it was Ascension day and I was taking friday off for a long weekend. Nevertheless I prepared five meals and simply put two of them in the freezer for the week to follow.
I was still happy with my meals and even in week four didn’t get tired of them.
Okay, so it’s time to analyze my spending the last month and see if I really managed to save money by meal prepping. For the whole month (not counting the CHF 19.- because I saved money on dinner instead) I spent a total of CHF 103.60.
That’s a whole CHF 300.- less than I usually spend! 😱
It works. It’s a change of habit for sure and you’ll probably encounter days where the temptation to skip your prepared lunch is big. Just remember: It’s not about being perfect. Sometimes life has other plans and you’ll end up going to a restaurant anyways. But that’s completely normal and – because you are saving a lot of money – you absolutely can indulge in some delish take-away every once in a while.
The amount of money you save of course also varies with your menu. If you eat a lot of meat, it’s still gonna be a bit more expensive than a fully vegetarian diet. But that’s the fun part about it: You can create your menus however you want to! Try going for a vegetarian week and see how you like it, then maybe start incorporating it more to save a little extra coin.
Have you tried meal prepping before? Tell me in the comments!
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