Save 300% (or More) by Meal Prepping
My background before finance was in the health and fitness/strength and conditioning world and that has certainly helped me in many areas of life such as physical fitness and nutrition. I would say my nutrition tends to follow the 80/20 method where 80% of the time, you’re eating nutritionally dense, “good” food, and 20% of the time I splurge on the things I enjoy that maybe aren’t so healthy!
I love using fitness and nutrition analogies to connect with clients—and myself—as it pertains to personal finance. Finance and nutrition/fitness are one of the same in many respects. Both require discipline and planning as well as consistency to see true results. Over time, I’ve realized that much of the same headaches I had on fad diets and goofy workouts translate into the headaches I have in the financial world with speculative day-trading and the ever-ending glorification of the traditional 401k—the work for some, but not for all.
Fortunately for you, this article isn’t going to shine a light on anything controversial though. I do however want to shine a light on the importance of making your own meals, as opposed to eating out from a financial a health standpoint. Practical daily application of seemingly small, insignificant habits might not always visible on the scoreboard instantly, but they certainly make a difference over the course of a calendar year—either in your bank account or your waistline.
1. Eating Out is Expensive—You Already Knew That
Nothing groundbreaking here, but it’s really the main point, which is eating out regularly is incredibly expensive. You know I love stats, but even more I love business—on average, restaurants markup their items by about 300%. That’s right, 300%. For simple math, an $18 dollar meal at a restaurant could be made for $6 from home, on average.
Now, I’m all for supporting local businesses and feeding the local economy. Especially after the last year and a half this country has had, there’s a strong case to be made restaurants were hit the hardest out of all businesses. Trying new restaurants and foods is truly one of my favorite hobbies and I’ll continue to do that within the confines of my monthly budget. However, it’s said that roughly 56% of Americans eat out 2-3 times a week for lunch. That’s 104-156 times a year or roughly $1,560-$2,340 per year, assuming a $12 meal and a $3 tip—TIP YOUR SERVERS! Even the power of switching from three to two days a week is powerful when you consider the difference in cost per year.
This isn’t to say that you should never grab lunch at a cool restaurant with a co-worker or potential client. There’s an argument to be made for business owners that you can drastically reduce your tax liability at year’s end by regularly dining at a local restaurant with a client or employee. What I am saying is that you may be sabotaging your bank account if you aren’t carefully considering when and how much you dine out for lunch. Just like everything else, plan for it and you’ll have zero stress or remorse about it.
2. Eating Out Isn’t Healthy (Most of the Time)
Even more, being unhealthy can be just as, if not more expensive than eating out. After all, heart disease—mostly from poor lifestyle choices—costs the U.S. roughly $219 billion a year. One in every four deaths in America is due to heart disease, making it the leading cause of death amongst men and women in this country.
Sure, it’s become “easier” to eat healthier foods at restaurants over the past 10-15 years. But let’s not kid ourselves, buying and making your own healthy food(s) not only is better on your budget, but also on your overall well-being. Not to mention the fact that there’s a psychological aspect to making and consuming the food you prepared—maybe that’s just me?
All in all, eating healthy can be feasible at a restaurant, depending on the restaurant of course. When I was in the health and fitness field, I always gave my clients and athletes these quick tips to limit the amount of calories you’re taking in, yet still be able to enjoy your meal:
- Try not to drink all your calories—stick to water if possible
- Load up on greens—veggies, salads, broccoli, etc. order extra green if need be
- Be mindful of portion size—not only for total calories, but also budget
- Skip the fried stuff and go for the grilled stuff
- Get sauces or dressings on the side so you can add them yourself
- Limit your alcohol to “neat” or “on the rocks” and one to two drinks—sodas will naturally spike the total calorie intake
These are just a few basic ones, but you get the point! Eating out isn’t inherently bad, it just requires some small, detailed planning and your waistline and budget will thank you later.
3. Make Your Meals Desirable (and Easy!)
I, like many others, have eaten chicken, rice, and broccoli for more meals than I’d like to admit. There’s always a preconceived notion that meal prepping—specifically “healthy” meal prepping—must be boring and the same handful of meals the bodybuilders on T-Nation prepare. That couldn’t be further from the truth for a few reasons. Here’s two questions to ask yourself when you’re taking online advice from a professional bodybuilder’s meal plan:
1. Are you also training to be a bodybuilder, training for a swimsuit photoshoot, or preparing for a competition?
2. What are your actual fitness goals—weight loss, weight gain, overall health, or a mix of a few?
If you answered the first question as “yes,” then sure, you may have to sacrifice taste for calories, but you should know that signing up. Depending on your answer to the second question, now it’s about finding foods that you legitimately enjoy, a baseline of calories you need to hit, and a regular exercise program to supplement your nutritional guidelines. Don’t get caught up in this “every meal must be chicken and veggies or salmon and veggies” to consider your meals and diet plan a success. There are plenty of ways to stay within the caloric guidelines you desire to reach your goals and still eat the foods you enjoy.
There are a million different food blogs you can find that are “healthy” niche and will give you recipes that are healthy and usually inexpensive. One of my favorite things to Google as it pertains to meals is “four ingredient healthy recipes.” I do this for a few reasons: it’s usually a recipe that is super simple and can go straight into my crockpot and because it’s hardly any ingredients, it’s usually inexpensive.
Just a few quick tips, you don’t have to get crazy when it comes to prepping meals for the week or the next few days. In most cases, I’ll make meals for three days on Sunday’s and then do the same thing on Wednesday’s as to not dry out any of the meals I’ve made from Sunday if I were to make 5-6 days-worth of meals. There’s nothing worse than force feeding yourself the meals you made on Sunday on Thursday and Friday!
My favorite meal personally is oven baked salmon. I drizzle it with olive oil, salt and pepper it, throw some red pepper flakes on it with a little minced garlic, and throw it in the oven for 15 minutes at 450 degrees. I’ll generally make 3-4 of them and that’ll feed me for at least 3 meals, depending on size. From there, I’ll do some vegetables or a salad and it’s filling, healthier, and overall cheaper than a cheeseburger at your local burger joint.
All in all, keep it simple, keep it inexpensive, and you’ll love the results!
We all know that we should be making our own meals as opposed to eating out at restaurants, as it pertains to our day-to-day nutrition. Not only will you save money in your monthly and yearly budget, you save the extra pounds that you nobody wants! Meal prepping may seem daunting and intimidating and the last thing you want to do on a lazy football Sunday. However, keep your goals and health in mind and you’ll be happy you did!