Value of Pre-Made Meals
Saving money while feeding yourself can be challenging. You don't have much choice in spending money on food as you need it to survive. But there are ways you can save money and not feel deprived. One way is pre-made meals.
What Are Pre-Made Meals?
When I say pre-made meals, I am not referring to the ones you buy in the store. I'm talking about the ones you put together at home.
Meals you make at home have such a number of benefits for those who are wanting to save money and even eat healthier. This also is a time saver in the long run though you'll have to put some time in during the preparation.
Eating pre-paid meals is a good cost saving method to try. The ones you buy in the store have the cost of the preparation included in the price. These can be as little as five times the cost it would be for you to do the task.
Think of the pre-made sandwich you purchase at the store. It costs you $4.99. If you made it yourself, it would cost around $1.25. That's a big difference. Making your own saves you a ton of money just in one meal. Think of how much that adds up over a week or over a month.
Preparation and Storage
If making your own pre-made meals, you will need to be ready for a focused preparation and the right storage. Doing it on the fly can lead to failure in successfully saving money and eating better.
This will include cutting, cooking, and storing. Buy cauliflower still wrapped as though picked from the garden. Cut it up yourself. You can get 2-3 times the amount of cauliflower for the price of pre-cut packages. This can be done with all vegetables
How about meat? Don't buy the chicken strips in the freezer section of your store. Buy a large package of boneless chicken breasts when they are on sale. Slice them up. You can freeze them in small packages for future recipes, or you can cook them up for easy access to meat for fajitas or other such meals.
Cook the meatloaf, the chicken thighs, the meatballs, the pork chop or whatever main dish you want to have as your meals. This can be lasagna or a soup. Pick things that are easy to freeze or will be eaten in a few days. Cook it all up. Cut it up. Prepare it to be eaten right then and there.
Once you have your food prepared, you want to store it. That could mean freezing it for use in a week or more. Will you eat what you have made in the next few days? If so, then you don't have to worry about putting the food in freezer safe containers. Anything that will not be eaten for more than three days should be put in containers that will protect the food in the freezer.
Use plastic bags, tight lid containers that can be plastic or glass, and even aluminum foil is great. Put a meal in a container. A slice of meatloaf with some broccoli in one container for lunch tomorrow. Snacks placed in the right containers with the right portions for you. Freeze what you have to and put the rest in the fridge for your next meals.
Think beyond lunches and snacks. You can make your breakfasts and your dinners ahead of time and save time and money.
Many of us eat breakfast on the go. That will mean running through a drive thru and getting something expensive and unhealthy. Prepare it ahead of time so you don't have to buy anything. A muffin made at home costs only a few cents compared to a few dollars at the store. I even make quiches to eat at work when I get in. Cheap and better for me.
Dinners can be easily made ahead of time as well. Put food in a crock pot so you have a hot meal when you get home. Freeze full meals and stick them in the oven when you need them. I have done that with meatloaves, soups, and chicken. Then you only have to add a few sides that are quick and easy if you didn't already make them ahead of time.
Following are some ideas of meals you can make ahead of time.
Here are a few ideas I've come up with over the years. These are easy to make and easy to freeze.
This is one of the easiest foods to prepare ahead of time. It is easily frozen and can be paired with any vegetable or starch. And there are many recipes out there for a variety of meatloaves.
My main recipe is ground beef, oats, ketchup, and Worcestershire sauce. I've been doing it for so long that I don't measure anything. I just go by sight and feel. Check out the various recipes online and in cookbooks to find the recipe you really like.
Freeze it alone or with the side.
Soups are easy to freeze. It all depends on what ingredients are in the soup. I have easily frozen vegetable soup. Make it and put it in individual serving containers so you can pull it out of the freezer in the morning and have it thawed for lunch. Put it in larger containers if you will have it for a family dinner.
You can also make it and just eat it over the course of a week. I will have it made for dinner on Monday night and have it for lunches throughout the week.
Cook up some chicken. I had roasted a full chicken or baked chicken pieces. I have barbecued chicken and frozen it. I have baked chicken and then used it in my soup.
You can have baked chicken on Monday and use it in sandwiches the rest of the week or in a soup. Chicken is very versatile and can be used in homemade chicken salad or just sliced chicken in your pita or on your bread.
This is handled much the same as the chicken. Make a roast on Sunday and use it throughout the week. I have used roast as lunches, turned it into sandwiches, used it in tacos, created a new casserole.
I have mentioned above a number of leftovers you can use to make salads. I have boiled eggs on Sunday and made egg salad to eat during the week. You can even make chef salads or Cobb salads days ahead and have them ready to grab for work or school.
These are great make ahead meals. Cook two casseroles on Sunday. Freeze parts of them if you won't eat them all during the week. I have eaten them with a salad for lunch or turned some into sandwich fillings. These are great to make ahead of time and still have a filling meal.