For the first time last spring, Americans spent more money eating out than we did buying groceries. With the average meal costing $12.50 per person, that can ruin a budget pretty quickly. Make ahead meals can be just as convenient and that same $12.50 often feeds the entire family. This can free up a surprising amount of money in your budget, even if you eat just a few more meals at home.
How make ahead meals help you save
Not only are make ahead meals cheaper, but you can make food the way your family likes it. No spending money on extra cheese for a frozen pizza or wasting money throwing out food because no one likes it. Taking advantage of sales and bulk pricing can save more money and you won’t be tempted to make impulse purchases during those extra trips to the store.
With a make ahead meal, you’re shifting the time you spend on meal prep to fit your schedule. You might not have time to make dinner every night, but you may have time on the weekend to make one or two meals ahead of time. If your meal is ready to go, you won’t need to hit the drive thru.
Some people do a huge grocery shopping trip and cook all the next day. But that’s not practical for everyone, so you might want to try one of these methods to start small.
Double a recipe – Make an extra one and put it in the freezer. It may take a little longer, but it won’t take twice as long or require twice as much money.
Planned leftovers – Prepare a recipe that makes leftovers and take them for lunch. You could also cook a whole chicken or large roast, serve some for dinner and use the rest for a different recipe.
Use a crockpot – Put it on before you leave for work and come home to a cooked meal.
Make homemade versions of your favorite convenience foods – For example, freeze extra waffles and reheat them in the toaster.
Remember make ahead meals don’t have to be casseroles, main dishes or frozen. Meat in marinade or sauce, soups and chili are great from the freezer. Making a side dish, appetizer or dessert ahead saves time too. Freeze smoothies for breakfast. Cut veggies and fruit or pop popcorn ahead of time for snacks.