Finances

Meal Prep for Return to Work & School

We’ve only got a couple weeks left of blissful summer before routines roll out again. I’m personally one that works better on routine. Though I love to have free time to do the things I enjoy, I feel I’m more productive when I have a schedule in play. 

Going back to work and school routine can be an adjustment. You’ve got to juggle getting everyone ready and out the door in the morning. You come home after a busy day at work. Some of you now have groups opening up again in the evening as well. Welcome to the busy life again. 

One area I find that takes a back seat in all this is your meals. Breakfast is limited to a piece of toast or bowl of cereal. Lunch may be a quick sandwich slapped together, and dinner – well, that ends up being your closest fast food place on the way home from work. Some of you may enjoy this, but eventually your body and budget won’t. 

Michael and I have tweaked this over the years, last year being the best yet. For those who thrive on organization out there, you’ll love this. For the procrastinators, hear me out. 

Meal prepping has become key in our house. Most nights I feel too tired to make anything, so I either manage to do it, or we live on chicken and rice. We didn’t want that to be the plan last year, and knowing that we were going into a busy season, we planned ahead. 

We made a menu for the month of September. Then, during the last few weeks of August, we implemented that plan. Meaning that we made the dinners we planned for September ahead of time. The difference is that we made double and triple portions. We already had the ingredients out to make one meal, so we decided to add more to the same process. Then we took the extra meals, labelled them, and froze them. 

If you do that for three weeks, you’ve got three-six extra weeks of frozen dinners prepped and ready to go. 

If you have some time in the next little bit before heading back to work, this would be a great time to do a bit more than mentioned above. You can still make double or triple on your dinners, but what about breakfasts, lunches, snacks, or after that? 

Look up some breakfast ideas.  Have you tried overnight oats? What about smoothies? Things like frittatas and quiche will last for a week in the freezer. Or precook some sausages or something that you can defrost and microwave. That way you’ll have a good dose of protein in the morning to get you going.  Spend part of your Sunday afternoon chopping up fruits and veggies. Store them in well sealed containers in your fridge for the week so it’s less prep during the week nights to get it ready.

By planning ahead and prepping your meals, you can save a lot of money. There’s an upfront cost that may throw off this month’s budget a bit, but you’ll save a fair amount next month. On top of eating healthier, you won’t find yourself going to the fast-food joints or restaurants as much. You can take the frozen dinner out of the freezer, put it in the fridge the night before or that morning and have a ready-made dinner that night. 

If you prefer to have things fresher, another option would be to prep the meat in marinade before freezing. We did this on Monday with five meals. I made up the sauces, marinades, and mixed spices ahead of time. I put the uncooked meat in with the sauce and popped them in the freezer. That way, when we need that dinner, all we have to do is defrost it and put it in the oven. Then I just need to prep the sides to go with it. But having the veggies already chopped up, it’ll only take me about ten-twenty minutes to make some rice, pasta, or potatoes. I’ll set the timer and only have to check on them every now and again rather than having to stand in the kitchen for thirty minutes or more making everything else. 

Keep your restaurant and fast food treats for a night on the weekend. Your body will thank you for making healthier choices and your wallet will thank you for not spending as much on pre-packaged dinners and take out. 

If you make your own meals based on healthy ingredients, it’ll average $2-$6 per person per meal. If you get take out, that could add up to $10-$20 per person. There’s a significant difference in price point if you actually flush out the cost of everything. 

Try it out and let us know if you have any success. Remember, a couple hours of prepping will save you hours of making meals down the road. Planning ahead for our time is as important as planning ahead for our money. They all go hand-in-hand. 

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