Meal Prep: How I Save $300 & 15 Hours A Month By Eating Healthier Food at Home
Curious about meal prep? Check out this awesome guest post by Chef Ashley Shep! As a self taught culinary creator, Chef Ashley decided to take her love of food to the masses by launching her brand that focuses on ways to be "healthyish", simplifying meal time, and dispelling the rumor that delicious food has to have tons of salt and fat. She believes that meal prep isn't just for the super health conscious and that it can help us all to take back the hours stolen by our kitchens. She began her meal prep journey as a way to save time and energy, but ended up finding a calling. We are so excited to feature this smart and talented lady on Organnic Wellness!
Why You May Need A Little Meal Prep In Your Life
Tired of spending hours in the kitchen after work?
Cost of eating out adding up?
Dred cooking multiple nights a week?
That drive thru just not cuttin’ it anymore?
Then meal prep might be for you!
But hold up...
What is meal prep?
The process of creating multiple meals to eat for the week or to freeze and enjoy at a later time. This may include cooking meals or simply completing all of the food preparation ahead of time (chopping, seasoning, etc.) to make it easier to enjoy later.
Let’s Dive In Y’all
Save Time and Energy (Read: Be A Lazy Yet Efficient Cook)
Let’s be honest, cooking can be a draining chore. It’s one that we all love the outcome of, but don’t always enjoy the process. According to a 2014 USDA study, women spent an average of 51 minutes a day on meal prep (Hamrick & McClelland, 2016)*. That’s almost ten hours a week if you add grocery shopping. Add that up, and that’s 40 hours a month! Honestly, who has time for this??? Family, spouses, (or side hustles) should take up our free time, not grocery shopping and cooking. Effective meal prep can reduce your time in the kitchen by up to 50%. That’s at least 3 to 5 hours a week or 12 to 20 hours a month. That’s enough time to binge watch a few seasons of your favorite Netflix show, catch up on sleep, or spend some time with the ones you love. Take back your time folks!
Know What In The World You’re Eating
Though I love a night of fine dining, I eat knowing good and well that I am throwing caution to the wind in terms of calories and having any clue as to what food additives I’m consuming. Now I know that that sounds super dramatic, but it’s true since many restaurants don’t release their full ingredients list. Many fast food establishments, and even full service restaurants, use countless chemicals and preservatives in our food. Additionally, food allergies are a common problem for many. Alleviate the concerns of cross contamination and unknown food additives by preparing your own meals in the comfort of your home. Since eliminating all eating out isn’t an option for most (I mean, I just love waffle fries you know?) prepping a few meals helps. Meal prep can
work to eliminate the amount of preservatives and unknown chemicals that you are consuming.
Be As “Healthyish” As You Want To Be
The great thing about meal prepping is that there are no rules about what you prep! Though meal prepping is frequently used by those who count calories or macros, it also provides the freedom for those who just want to eat just a little healthier by decreasing our intake of processed and fried foods. Often meal prepping is touted for those who are only focused on achieving fitness gains or those who are following a strict diet. Meal planning works wonders for those folks, but let me inform you that meal prep is for everyone. You get the freedom to decide how much salt, added sugar, or other ingredients go into your food. You have the flexibility to choose and reach whatever dietary goals you desire.Want to go vegan? Go for it! Have food allergies? Eliminate those allergens in your food. Focusing on protein? Beef (or Plant) it Up! Whatever your preferences are, gain the control over what you are or aren’t eating. Like Captain Planet used to say, “The Power is Yours”.
Save That Moola
How much do you generally spend on a night out for dinner for a party of 2? It could be upwards of $50-$70 if you add in drinks, appetizers, and dessert. Depending upon your city and the type of restaurant, this figure could even double. Next, consider how much you spend at the grocery store for a week’s worth of groceries. Now, imagine decreasing that amount by $20, $30 or even $50 through effective use of meal prep. Remember, “you're able to substitute a far less expensive homemade meal for a much more expensive meal from a restaurant or even for a prepackaged meal you bought at the store” (Hamm, 2016).
“In the United States, an estimated 31 percent of the food available for consumption at the retail and consumer levels went uneaten” according to the USDA Economic Research Service (Buzby & Aulakh, 2014). We have all been guilty of throwing away expired or unwanted food at some point in our lives. Effective meal prep can decrease food waste tremendously. Since you are planning your meals around your schedule, you’ll be better able to determine how much food is needed for you and your family. As well, you’ll be able to use common ingredients for recipes which helps to ensure that less ingredients are lost in the back of your fridge or pantry. However, one thing to remember is: you have to actually eat the prepared meals in order for this to hold true. When time is invested in creating and cooking meals, you’re more likely to want to enjoy them later on. Stop throwing away money and start meal prepping today!
See my Breakfast Egg Muffin recipe below to get you started!
Breakfast Egg Muffins
By Chef Ashley Shep
These egg muffins are a great way to eat on the go (in the car as I often find myself doing). The combinations of ingredient are virtually endless as you can use just about any meat or vegetable that you like. They’re also super easy to customize to your tastes. For example, Mr. Chef Shep isn’t too fond of veggies like bell peppers or onions, so I reserve those for my side of the pan, and then I add sausage and cheese to his 6. This is an excellent way to keep all of the eaters in your house happy without a ton of extra prep work.
Generally, ten eggs are enough to create 12 muffins, but your results will vary depending on the size of your ingredients. When you’re ready to enjoy, pop a few in the microwave for 1-2 minutes for a quick and filling low carb protein filled breakfast. And for those of you who don’t care about counting your food’s nutrients, just know they’re quick, easy, and delicious. Enjoy within 4-5 days and store in the refrigerator. I doubt they’ll last that long though! Below I’ve included some ingredient combinations that are sure to please.
10 eggs or egg substitute equivalent
½ TB onion powder
½ TB garlic powder
½ TB smoked paprika (if you’re feeling fancy)
½ cup of your favorite omelet ingredients diced (Ex. cheese, spinach, tomatoes, bell peppers, onions, bacon, sausage, etc.)
Heat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.
Combine eggs and all seasonings in a bowl. Whisk well until you see tiny bubbles forming. Set aside.
In a nonstick muffin pan (these are my favorite), add your omelet ingredients picking your favorite combinations.
Add ⅓ cup of eggs into each muffin compartment. Make sure the ingredients are submerged within the egg mixture.
Bake at 350 degrees for 18-20 minutes or until centers are fully cooked and no longer runny. Cooking times will vary with elevation and pan material. Silicone pans are pictured and take a little longer to cook than metal pans.
See more combinations below!
½ of a sauteed onion
½ of a sauteed bell pepper
½ TB fajita seasoning
½ TB cajun seasoning
½ TB minced garlic
1 Andouille Sausage link (cooked)
½ of a sauteed onion
½ cup each of the following: tomatoes, onions, bell peppers, spinach,
and whatever other veggies you can find in your fridge
Simple Pleasures (Mr. Chef Shep’s Favorite)
½ cup mild Cheddar Cheese
1 pack turkey sausage crumbles
Make sure to follow Chef Ashley Shep on Social Media for more meal prep greatness:
*For this particular study, meal prep was considered “preparing food and beverages, serving the food, and cleaning up afterwards”.
Buzby, J.& Aulakh, J. (2014). Food Loss—Questions About the Amount and Causes Still Remain. U.S. Department of Agriculture, Economic Research Services. Retrieved from https://www.ers.usda.gov/amber-waves/2014/june/food-loss-questions-about-the-amount-and-causes-still-remain/
Hamm, T. (2016, March 8). How 'Meal Prep Sunday' Can Drastically Reduce Your Food Costs. US News. Retrived from http://money.usnews.com/money/blogs/my-money/articles/2016-03-08/how-meal-prep-sunday-can-drastically-reduce-your-food-costs
Hamrick S., Karen and McClelland, Ket. Americans’ Eating Patterns and Time Spent on Food: The 2014 Eating & Health Module Data, EIB-158, U.S. Department of Agriculture, Economic Research Service, July 2016.