Meal Prep Money Saving Tips

When it comes to meal prepping, there is one thing that usually holds people back:


Fear that meal prepping will cost more since it usually involves buying groceries in bulk.

Fear that perishable items like fruits and vegetables would end up going to waste due to long storage times.

I must confess, I felt the same way when I got started!

Until one day when I sat down and drew up a rough estimate of how much we spend eating out (Yes, I was that mom- when it was late, the kids were hungry and I had no idea what was in the fridge or how it was going to become dinner, I pulled into our favorite neighborhood diner more often than I care to admit!) and I was in shock at how much we spent on eating out; it was crazy! 

The bottom line is that there are easy ways to reduce your food waste but while you are at it, you want to also ensure you are not spending too much in the first place.

When we were eating out a lot, we were not always getting nutritious meals (have you looked at a kids’ menu lately?).

Not to mention, restaurants get expensive, and as a budget conscious mom who pays close attention to what we spend our money on I felt there was a better use of money for our family.

Fortunately, sometimes the changes we need to make to get back on the right track don’t have to be major changes. Something as simple as prepping healthy work lunches for the week can save us a lot of money.

In my previous post on meal prepping time-saving tips, I talked about how buying groceries in bulk can add a few free hours to your busy schedule and that it can help you save a few dollars as well.

In this post, I’m going to be sharing more tips on how you can save money while meal prepping; some of the tips shared here are simple top-of-the-hat tricks that you can always try while others are well thought out and researched – methodologies and programs that will help you spend less for more.

In my quest for ways to trim our grocery budget, I came across a lot of startups and apps that offer simple, easy and endlessly customizable solutions. 

Meal Prep – Money-Saving Tips for Grocery Shopping

My goal with this series on meal prepping is to not only help you eat healthy but to also help you save time and money while you are at it. Let’s get started! 

1. Trim down your grocery budget with Ibotta and Ebates

Sure, you could go the extreme couponing route, but unless you are seriously dedicated you’re probably not going to save a ton of money- I went the couponing route but it got old and quite inefficient pretty quick. 

There is nothing as awkward as showing up to the store with a bunch of coupons in your hand and holding up the line while you’re waiting to get sorted out. And why spend all your time searching and cutting when your smartphone can do it for you? 

Thanks to our good friend technology, there are now easier ways to get more for less.

A quick search on either the Apple store or the Google play store will reveal tons of shopping apps that promise value for your money but (again, the voice of experience here) the thing is many of these apps don’t truly capture the essence of what you really want to use them for.

For example, there are apps that offer you the freedom of scanning in your paper coupons, which doesn’t always work and when you download the app onto your phone, the app gains access to all sorts of data and information that they have no business accessing.

Some apps come with only very limited offerings while still others require connection to a printer. It gets very overwhelming, so you can imagine my joy when I found two solutions that did none of those things.


Ibotta offers cashback for purchases made at the grocery store and other participating stores. Once you download the app you can see the offers for your local grocery store. Simply take a pic of the receipt in the app and the money is deposited to your account. You can transfer your funds to a PayPal account or redeem them for gift cards.

What I find unique about this app is the “offers” section which displays products with offers and the amount of cash back you can get on the selected item as opposed to waiting for a notification. This means more freedom in your shopping experience and eliminates the irritating- and time consuming- step of adding something to your cart only to discover it was the wrong item. 

Some products even have more than one way for you to earn money; you get referral bonuses when you invite friends to join the program as well as periodical bonuses for you in-app activities.

You are also treated to a $10 signup bonus when you register on the app. 


offers cash back when you follow a link to a store and make a purchase. That means you make money when you shop and the best part of it is that they link to over 1,700 online stores; how cool is that?

It might seem too good to be true but it’s simple really – they are an affiliate company that makes money for themselves and their users whenever a purchase is made on their platform.

You can get as high as a 40% cashback on selected items and stores; there is no hidden catch and you don’t need to pay to sign up. Once you sign up on ebates, all you have to do is follow the store link to access the site, and click the “Shop Now” button to activate ebates.

First-time users on the site always get a to encourage them to shop more, so you might want to take advantage of this while it’s still on.

2.  Create a list and stick to it.

One of the quickest ways to burn through your hard earned cash is by going into the grocery store without a plan!

Giving credit where credit is due, the branding and advertising folks know just how to reel you in. I speak with plenty of experience on this one- there have been lots of times when I just wanted to pick up 2 or 3 essentials at the store and a few minutes later, I’m paying for a full shopping cart worth of groceries and wondering how they got there. 

Those marketing guys have got it down to a science, I tell you; this is why you must create a shopping list.

If you are short on time or need a little help with the list, it’s technology to the rescue. Companies like are changing the way we shop for groceries; simply pick out a few recipes from your selected meal plan and the app automatically creates a shopping list for you.

Then, all you have to do is place your order and it gets shipped right to your doorstep.

Here are two reasons I love shopping this way:

  1.  I can easily add any extras I may need. Items like kitchen essentials (paper towels or yogurt) that I have run out of. 
  2.  I am not tempted to buy what I can’t see – because I am not physically present at the store, I cannot be tempted by new packaging or the promise of better quality. It’s a great way to stop me from spending more than I originally planned to.

3.  Buy in Bulk When You Can

Businesses looking to reduce overhead costs usually make use of the bulk-buying strategy, so why can’t we bring the same principle back home? 

If you take a look at your pantry or your shopping lists, you will see a few recurring items that appear on a regular or even weekly basis. Those are the items that it makes sense to buy in bulk. Even better for you if you can hunt down a sale for those items.

Another category of items you want to look at are items that have a long shelf life – grains, legumes and nuts have more staying power than fruits, vegetables or dairy products, so it also makes sense to buy these items in bulk as well to save on time (shopping trips to the store) and money as well.

Buying in bulk also ensures that you don’t run out of your go-to condiments (it is a sad day at my house when we are out of Dijon mustard or Sriracha) or items that are harder to find. 

Here are a few more items you can buy in bulk:

  • Dry beans
  • Seeds
  • Dry pasta
  • Flour 
  • Spices and herbs
  • Sugar
  • Ground and whole bean coffee
  • Powders (such as baking powder)
  • Chicken
  • Dried fruits

Keep items like flour, chicken and coffee in your freezer since they have a nice long shelf-life.

I once saw a YouTube video of a lady who had zero waste at home and I was intrigued; she had put a working system in place that ensured her total household waste produced during the week didn’t fill up a single mason jar. The whole thing was fascinating, but here’s what really got my attention: I noticed she had a lot of jars and refillable containers that she took with her when she went grocery shopping.

I thought it was a brilliant idea and most times when I go shopping, I go with my refillable containers (when I remember to take them along). That way, I’m not paying for extra packaging because I’m buying in bulk. I make sure to tare the weight of my containers so I pay for only the food itself.

You might be wondering – “I’ve got a small kitchen and my pantry is really tiny…if I make bulk purchases, how and where do I store them?” 

First off, if you haven’t read my previous post on 12 awesome hacks to keep food fresh, then you should check it out as soon as you’re done here. I highlighted some very creative and budget-friendly ways for ensuring your food items last longer.

If you have got limited space in the kitchen, then you may want to look at some genius kitchen cabinet organization ideas.

Buying in bulk may seem daunting, but take it from me, buying in bulk for items with a long shelf life that you frequently need will save you money on fuel to the grocery store and you will be saving money on the items themselves.

4.  Eat a snack before you hit the road

A great way to curb impulse purchases at the grocery store is to eat a snack before you head out on a shopping trip. Remember, your mission is to shop for your meal prep items for the week, anything outside your list is an impulse buy (remember to put a few healthy on-the-go snacks on your list too!).

We’ve all done it, gone to the store hungry and wound up munching on a Snickers bar in the check-out line. 

It’s not our fault though, it’s been scientifically proven that when shopping hungry you not only purchase higher calorie-foods but it also spurs you to spend more than you would have originally intended to spend. 

Don’t fight nature, outsmart it with a healthy snack. 

Another way to avoid impulse buying is to time your stay at the store. If you set a time limit for yourself, it will force you to stick to getting only the items on your list.

5. Eat-in

This is the one rule to stick to if you hope to cut down your food spending: eat at home instead of going out. 

Instead of going out to restaurants with family and friends, why not invite them to dinner or lunch instead? Sure, you may have to clean up a bit, but you’ve got your cozy home atmosphere, control over the nutrients in the meals and the certainty that your food was prepared under hygienic circumstances. 

All you have to do is remember to adjust your meal prepping grocery lists for the week to accommodate an extra lunch or dinner with friends. It’s really as simple as that.

When you eat out, you’re spending money on transportation, you’re paying for the meals themselves and, of course, you have to tip the server.

If you do a rough mental calculation right now of how much you spend on a night out, you will quickly realize that the difference is more than enough to prepare an extra healthy balanced meal for two and I am by no means exaggerating this point- see the post on 15 Clean Eating Recipes to Cook on a Budget for proof!

You can even prep healthy snacks and drinks for those times when you need to curb a stubborn craving and you feel tempted to go out for one.

6. Batch and Freezer Cook

In another one of my posts on time-saving hacks for meal prepping I talked about how batch and freezer cooking helps save time…what I didn’t really elaborate on in that post is how batch and freezer cooking helps keep a few dollars in your pocket as well. 

If you look back at tip #3 (buying in bulk) I just quickly want to add that another way you can prevent wastage when buying in bulk is to freezer cook.

Here is why it is so awesome: You can cook up to 20 meals in one hour and then portion them and freeze them. 

Hungry? You’ve got a freezer full of meals that you can take out and heat up whenever you want (see tip about eating before shopping).

No more hitting the drive through last minute or wondering what you’re gonna eat! With this method, you can now consider increasing the amount of animal proteins such as beef, chicken and turkey you buy, and you can now take advantage of deals on fruits and vegetables (and have summer fresh peaches and strawberries all year long. Yes, please!).

There are tons of recipes out there to help get you started. Check out MyFreezEasy for help getting started with freezer cooking.

Another Approach to Saving Money on Groceries

Grocery Budget Makeover

Want to learn more about budgeting and creative ways to spend less on your groceries? There are a variety of online courses designed to help, but my absolute favorite is the Grocery Budget Makeover program run by Erin Chase, the brain behind $5Dinners.

Topics in the curriculum include:

  • The art of creating a shopping list
  • Stretching your coupon-buck  
  • Meal planning 201
  • How to score freebies every week
  • Stockpiling for normal people

… just to name a few

If you really want to know how much more you can cut down on your expenses, the this is the program you should be looking into.

$5 Meal Plan

The $5 Meal Plan is an awesome weekly meal planning program that helps to make your weekly meal plans as cost effective as possible. For a mere $5 per month, they’ll send you some seriously drool worthy, delicious and healthy meal plans that you can do on the cheap- each meal costs no more than $5.

Another great thing about this ridiculously affordable service is that it helps you save on time as well, allowing you more time to do the things you love.

Not sure you want to take my word for it? (I won’t be offended). They also offer a free 14-day trial period so you can give it a go on your own. 

Have you got any grocery budget trimming or money saving tips you would like to share with the rest of us? We are always looking for great new ideas so please feel free to do so by leaving a comment in the section below. I look forward to hearing from you.

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