Life during the pandemic has been turned upside down for all of us. What used to be easy chores are now challenging to get through. The restrictions, lockdowns, fear of infections, struggling finances are all wearing on us.
Some days, putting food on the table is in itself a major challenge. Yes, you can order take-out or prepared meals from the supermarket. Even grocery bills are piling on high – whoever said we have low inflation?
The costs are quickly adding up, and families across the world are feeling the pinch. With personal finances strained, could there be an alternative to expensive dining habits that won’t break the bank?
Well, the good news is, we are all literally in this struggle together. The struggle is real. Luckily, there are options for budget-friendly meals out there. Check out some of these budget meal prep ideas for some inspiration. We have also put together some tips on preparing a budget-friendly meal for your family every day!
Necessary Steps you Need to Follow for a Budget-Friendly Meal
There are a few critical (but easy) steps you need to follow to avoid spending too much on food.
1. Tackle your Pantry and Freezer
When stocking up your pantry, go for canned goods because they stay longer and are very easy to organize, leaving a lot of room for other goodies!
Make sure to note down the ingredients you have on an inventory list to keep track of what’s being used and what needs to be restocked soon. Be sure to note down the expiry dates in the list to avoid food waste.
Clean up your freezer, throw out anything that is too old. Start using frozen vegetables; they are as good as fresh vegetables. They have the same nutrient contents for a fraction of the price. Moreover, frozen and canned vegetables would leave out a lot of space after stocking, so more room to stock other products.
2. Have a Specific Meal Schedule
The unexpected pandemic byproduct has been our expanding waistlines. With gyms and aerobic classes closed for a long time and physical activities down during the dreadful winter months, we have collectively put on weight from all the take-out lounging sessions.
Pandemic stress is a big contributing factor as our bodies are naturally storing much of the calories we consume.
To avoid gaining unnecessary weight, you need to have a specific schedule for having your meal, eat mindfully, and avoid grazing on food all day.
Try having your breakfast, lunch, and dinner at a specific time to avoid munching on food and snacks all day. This will help you spend less on food and also help you to keep your weight in check.
3. Family-time During Meal Prep
While preparing meals, try to involve your kids in the task. Give them a job or two, like dishwashing or setting up the table, or clean up. Aside from the amazing bonding experiences, this joint effort will create, getting the family to help out cuts down your workload and time spent in the kitchen prepping meals. Most importantly, it’s a great way to spend time with your family.
While you are at it, you can discuss meals and what they want to eat for the rest of the week. This way, you can keep track of the ingredients you would need for at least a week.
4. Tidy up As Soon As you are Done with your Meal
One of the main reasons to clean up right away after a meal is to avoid eating in between meals, as it’ll keep you busy, and you wouldn’t want to eat again and clean all over again.
This will also ensure your kitchen remains clean and decluttered. Moreover, cleaning relieves stress. Repetitive, methodical activities like cleaning can soothe the nerves and lets you not think about the world outside for a while. So, channel that energy and keep your kitchen tidy and clean at all times.
5. Try to Limit Ordering Food
It’s quite normal to have the urge to order take-out food when you are tired or simply not in the mood to prepare a meal. It is the easy way out; however, avoid ordering food too often.
It will definitely lighten your wallet while it packs on the pounds for you.
That doesn’t mean you should eliminate the joy of restaurant meals altogether. Instead of ordering due to convenience or feeling lazy, make take-outs a special weekend treat. We all deserve a little treat after the hell we have been put through by the virus.
Plan your take-out nights and make it an event. Don’t just order because you feel too tired to cook.
6. Keep Spending on Meal Under Budget
The key is to plan in advance if you want to save money while shopping for a meal. If in one week you spend more than expected, try to spend less in the coming week. That way, you will stay within the usual budget that you have planned.
Make sure to have a variety of foods even when you are opting for bulk-purchases because the same meal can get boring quickly.
This is where shopping for discounts and deals comes in handy. If you find a particular fruit or vegetable on sale, make a meal around that one week. Switch up the menu next week with the deal of the week for that week!
However, be sure to keep your pantry essentials stocked so you can let your creativity run with the meal ideas.
7. Fewer Reasons to Visit Shops
The perks of planning ahead are that it prevents you from going out to shop for food too often, and that is exactly what you want to happen.
Aside from the pandemic precautions, shopping too often at grocery stores leaves you vulnerable to several opportunities of impulse buying and hungry-shopping!
Preparing meals for you and your family is definitely vital, and it might require you to go out to source the ingredients, but if you plan ahead, you can buy ingredients for an entire week beforehand.
That way you can avoid going out too often. The time and money you save will quickly add up, and you will notice you have a lot more time and energy to whip up a fantastic meal for the family.
8. Avoid Buying In Excess
People were seen “panic buying” at the beginning of the pandemic (remember the TP panic?). Unfortunately, some are still doing it. It is quite common to fall for that flight or fight response to food sourcing and hoarding foods. However, panic buying is horrible for the wallet and for your fellow citizens who are in this lockdown with us. As food hoarding leaves few to no products left for others, shoppers are forced to make even more trips to stores. This increases the chance of infection – and we all know what rising infection numbers mean for our daily lives in lockdowns.
Besides, buying in excess also increases the chance of food waste – as inevitably you could end up buying more than you can consume by the best before date. A bag of apples will still expire at the same time as two bags of apples bought at the same time!
So, fight back this tendency to buy in excess. Your wallet will thank you for it!
Panic buying is causing you to spend more than usual, and sometimes you don’t even need that many products to begin with, and it’ll all go to waste.
9. Don’t leave out Other Necessary Items
Don’t forget that spending on food isn’t your only shopping that needs to be done. You need to save up for other items you need on a daily basis. Like- medicines and toiletries. Budgeting and planning for essentials have become more important now with the pandemic and the economic downturn. So, be mindful when spending on food.
Know What’s Really Important
Nothing is more important than you and your family’s well-being. Keep that in focus when making any decisions about going out, shopping for food, or ordering take-out. Ask yourself if the choice you are about to make is the healthiest choice for your health and finances. With that mindset and the tips we mentioned, you can avoid going out too often, spending too much, and definitely prepare meals on a budget.