Meal Prepping: A Financial & Nutritional Cheat-code to Success

Updated: Sep 13, 2021

Meal Prepping is the act of setting aside time to prepare your meals in advance. Prepping our meals can help us to optimize time & energy efficiency because we are creating time-intensive things in large batches. Meal prepping also gives us access to incredible savings, not only through bulk purchases but reducing food waste!

Simply Put: How can meal prepping benefit your lifestyle?

  • It gives you more free time to spend doing things OTHER than cooking!

  • You’ll have things already portioned out, which will waste less food.

  • Buying in bulk; avoiding impulse buying can save you money.

  • Less stressful because we already have made the choice. (Avoiding the dreaded 2 o’clock, “What am I making for dinner?” )

  • Eat healthier - we tend to make better choices when we plan in advance!

Let’s look at our cost breakdown first:

Prepping meals for one week on average costs between $60-$100. This may seem a bit pricey for one-time purchases, but we are looking at the cost-save advantage overall.

This amount may also seem overwhelming if you are used to paying for meals at a minimum of $5.00 per visit.

Doing a quick division problem:

$75 / 21 meals = $3.81 per meal.

Compared to spending $5 a visit it may seem insignificant to the majority of the population.

Let’s say that you meal prep for an entire year and spent $3,900 on food 3 times a day instead of spending $5,040 on a few meals a week, per year.

This quick math of $5,040 - $3,900 equals $1,140 saved per year on food! You could take those savings and invest in quality kitchen products that will outlast its competition.

Time to consider: “What is a Kitchen Investment Worth Making?”

To buy or not to buy? That is indeed the hundred-dollar question. It’s easy to become hypnotized by items like the “Big Boss Oil-less Air Fryer”, “Ninja OP301 Pressure Cooker” or “Go Chef 8-in-1 Cooker” as seen on tv.

Why is that?

Well... companies in the kitchen appliance industry use marketing strategies that play on the busy consumer’s emotions and personal time constraints. For example:

- Their campaigns are aimed at convincing consumers that (insert product here) will solve the problem (x.y and z)

- There is also time-sensitivity added to the commercial in order to create a sense of urgency within the buyer (sometimes even adding massive upgrades)

- Installed payments are usually offered as another tactic used to appeal to low-income individuals who would otherwise not be able to afford the product(s)

- Certain channels play these commercials because they use a tactic called over-saturation. This is meant for the buyer to become quickly familiarized with the products specifications so that they could visualize using it somehow in their life

It’s very easy to feel like you need to purchase these “time-saving” gadgets to optimize health and wellness in your life but at what cost?

So, Let’s Get Organized!

Ask any cook and they will tell you that the key to a good kitchen is organization! Check out these items that might be a good place to start for you. Keep in mind, every kitchen is different and it depends what you are cooking!

A Chef’s Knife

A basic but good quality chef knife & a knife sharpener is a perfect place to start. Remember, a dull knife is a dangerous knife!

Tee’s Tip

Look for a knife that has a longer “tang”. This is the section of steel inside the handle that may go ½ way or go all the way to the bottom of the handle. The benefit of buying this type of chef’s knife is the increased force the knife could handle when cutting harder objects. Purchase this item in the mid-mid high price range for longevity and a better-quality product.

A Cutting Board

For cutting boards, the larger the better! Some people find it beneficial to have different colored ones for meat/ vegetables to reduce the chance of germs.

Tee’s Tip:

There’s much debate about purchasing wood versus plastic versus rubber cutting board(s) due to bacterial levels left on the product after cleaning. However, science has debunked that stigma by supporting the purchase of wood, plastic and rubber cutting boards.

When purchasing wood cutting boards a solid slab is preferred over heavily glued wooden pieces. Wooden cutting boards are higher maintenance needing a mineral oil coat after each wash as well as a weekly coating.

For the best economical choice, it’s recommended that one purchase cutting board(s) with a large surface area and are easy to clean. Keep in mind that a minimum of 2 cutting boards are needed at the time of purchase for the most hygienic kitchen practices

A Good Quality Set of Pots & Pans

Sometimes the more expensive sets go on sale at Canadian Tire or people sell them so keep your eyes out! Cheaper Pots & Pans end up needing to be replaced a lot, and the coatings can flake off into your food so this is something worth spending money on!

Tee’s Tip:

There is a very diverse range of materials used in the making of pots and pans. From cast iron and aluminum to copper and stainless steel, the choices and styles are endless.

However, today we are investing in our health as well as making the best economic and environmentally sound choices for this part of the list.

As a heads up, the number of pots and pans will depend on how many people you are regularly cooking for. Today we will list an amount for 1-2 people.

Essentials Pots & Pans to Invest in for Starters are:

- A cast-iron skillet (medium-sized) and secondary would be a stainless-steel variety

- A small pot (2 quarts/liters) & medium pot (5 quarts/liters) sauce pot. Ensure everything including the lids are oven safe as well as induction compatible if you really want to keep your investment for years to come

- 10-inch non-stick pan with a lid. The benefit of this size is that it’s the happy medium between the 8-inch and 12-inch standard size(s). You can cook 3 eggs or 2 chicken breasts, sautéing a melody of vegetables or reheating leftovers. This is the ideal size to work with on the stovetop to maintain maximum heat retention for evenly cooked food

- Cookie Sheet. Choose one with low sides so that you are able to roast root vegetables or bake a sheet cake or evenly spread out your homemade granola mix. Choose one that is heavy gauge aluminum. Choose a lighter-coloured sheet with a dull finish for even cooking. Shiny cookie sheets are used for food that shouldn’t have browned bottoms like shortbreads.

Dry & Wet Measuring Cups & Spoons

Yes, you’ll need both a dry and wet set of measuring cups if you do a variety of cooking! The reason being is because they are designed to be used for their respective purposes.

Tee’s Tip:

Although both dry and wet measuring cups have the same volume, the cups are engineered to accurately measure their respective ingredients. The liquid is measured by volume and the dry is measured by weight.

Liquid measuring cups are usually made of plastic or glass with a vertical handle. This allows you to pour easily without spilling after you’ve used the measurement line.

Dry measuring cups are used to scoop the dry product into the cup and then level it off with a flat edge to get the exact amount of the ingredient(s).

Cooking has a tendency to be forgiving if we add a bit too much of an ingredient (except for salt). When it comes to baking though…it’s an exact science that will yield horrid results if the ingredients are measured improperly.

The bottom line for measuring cups is to just use the correct cup for the correct type of ingredient.

Mixing Bowls

Investing in a good set of mixing bowls makes a huge difference in kitchen functionality! The great thing about buying mixing bowls as a set is you can easily stack them to save cupboard space.

Tee’s Tip:

Mixing bowls come in handy from marinating protein to beating a couple of eggs, or serving a freshly chopped summer salad. For a 1–2-person household a recommended 5 mixing bowls spanning from 2 cups – 5 L incapacity should be a reasonable mixture for that sized household.

Bowls come in various materials like:

-Glass (also comes in tempered glass). Look for added bonuses like measuring markers, pour spouts or lids to maximize your purchase

-Metal (comes in steel or aluminum). These lightweight bowls are great for individuals with limited mobility. These bowls may be used as a double boiler (nested in a saucepan so as to not touch the bottom while cooking).

A drawback is how hot these bowls may get when holding very hot ingredients. When beating egg whites or whipped cream the contact of your whip and bowl may leave a metallic taste or grey your ingredients.

The best type of metal bowl to purchase is a stainless steel one, compared to aluminum (which react to acidic foods like tomatoes, lime juice)

- Ceramic … to buy or not to buy. I am only going to recommend materials that are durable, economical and environmentally friendly so as to not waste anyone’s resources.

This is just not it. Although they are beautiful and very diverse in the pattern. These bowls are prone to chipping, cracking then breaking. They are not the best option if you are looking to maximize your dollars.

- Copper mixing bowls are some of the most expensive on the market. If you’re an avid egg eater it may be a great investment to purchase a small-sized bowl to accommodate that ingredient. Other than that, I would recommend you purchase the rest of your set in a different material.

- Wooden mixing bowls (bamboo, cork, wood) have a home sweet home type of look and feel to them. The wood gets seasoned over time and adds flavor to each food made in it thereafter. The natural material that the bowls are made of creates an uneven effect making it unpleasant to mix dough or batter in.

A recommended 4-5 L shallow bowl will be ideal for serving food or tossing your salad in your favorite vinaigrette. To maintain the quality and integrity of the bowl it is important to invest in mineral oil to rub it after wash and/or when the bowl(s) shows signs of dryness.

- Silicone is temperature proof, easy to clean, collapsible and nearly indestructible. With all these pros listed, it’s no wonder this affordable material is the new trend in modern kitchens.

Some people's sensory profile doesn’t take well to the texture of silicone. In that case, I would opt for a bowl of a different material. Lastly, this material has a tendency to retain odors of pungent foods.

Good Pair of Kitchen Scissors

Can (a) reduce the possibility of cutting yourself opening packages with a knife and (b) stop you from wearing down your knife quickly on the packaging!

Tee’s Tip:

When purchasing kitchen shears or scissors you should ensure that they provide you with excellent grip on both handles as well as the blades. The best option is to search for ones that have padded or non-slip handles that fit comfortably in your hands as you hold it. When it comes to the blades, be on the lookout for stainless steel micro-serrated blades that are rust-resistant making it easy to clean.

Parchment Paper

Is a great addition to stop food from sticking but also has the added benefit of reducing the amount of oil used in foods.

Tee’s Tip:

Parchment paper comes in a variety of shapes and sizes. If you’re using it for your air fryer, you’ll need the round ones. If you’re baking cookies, you’ll need to select a square and if you are a heavy baker or for large events a larger roll may be needed at the time of purchase.

Keep in mind that parchment paper is not the same as waxed paper. Many people get confused between the two. Parchment paper is coated in silicone while the wax paper is coated in wax. This product can help with clean up and eliminating food from sticking to the bottom of the pan

Last, but NOT LEAST, let’s address the wide variety of food containers that are out there!

Storage containers are the #1 fighter of food waste; which is a really huge problem in North America.

As we discuss food storage you may even have thoughts of spaghetti-stained plastic containers that cannot go into the dishwasher coming into your mind filling you with dread!

Not all food storage is created equal!

Always opt for glass or metal, oven or microwave safe. Avoiding plastic can reduce your exposure to BPA’s and other chemicals that may leech into your food.

Glass & metal also last longer, resist staining & bacteria growth and do not leave a gross aftertaste!

What about Insta-pots, Air-fryers, Rice Cookers & the Rest?

Well, really that depends on you! Most things you can do in these devices can be achieved through using an oven but there a few things to consider:

  • Safety - Are you going to be gone all day with a pet at home? Slow-cooker may not be the greatest option!

  • How does it fit with your schedule? If you only have 30 minutes to make lunch, an air-fryer may help speed things up while a slow-cooker may be out of the question.

  • Cost - How much does this appliance cost to purchase & cost to run VS how much does the oven or stove cost to do the same thing?

  • Consider your eating habits - Do you eat rice every single day or once a year? Do you make your own sauces?

  • Enzyme Health - Our pancreas prefers that we eat 60-75% of our daily food intake raw as higher temperatures (like that in an air-fryer on high) can kill off digestive enzymes. Everything in moderation!

  • Counter Space - If you don’t have enough space, all this is a moot point! Clutter in kitchens can lead to cuts, bumps, & burns so it is important to stay safe.

*Some Notes on Safety!*

Make sure to always pay attention to when to refrigerate and when to freeze. You will be more willing to put more time into a recipe if it's going to feed you more than once. After putting in all this time and effort planning and cooking it, the last thing you want to do is let it spoil!

Remember to always use a clean workstation to prevent cross-contamination & bacterial growth! Being sick sucks, but it also costs you time, money & resources.

Lastly, Our Closing Statements:

We don’t want you to walk away overwhelmed with purchasing the above-mentioned products at one time!

Investing in mid to mid-high priced products ensures you have lasting products to function in a basic kitchen. Remember the $1,140 saved per year on food.

It took a year to save up this amount so it’ll take you about the same amount of time to watch out for deals and purchase higher-end products for less money!

Minimize what you need to purchase until you absolutely cannot function without that specific kitchen item.

Meal prepping can become a fun part of your weekly or monthly routine! Consider starting one meal at a time or simply making a double-batch next time you cook dinner to start the habit!

Have a Happy, Healthy day!

Co-written by Articulate Tee & Coach Danielle