Cut Your Budget with Plan Ahead Weekday Dinner Prep

Cut your Budget with Plan Ahead Weekly Meal PrepWe all know how easy it is to get sucked into the drive-through or to pick up that takeout menu and order dinner, but it’s hard on our wallets. With a little planning, we can avoid those traps.

1) Make a Plan

I like to cook on Sundays, and have meals ready to go for Monday through Wednesday. Thursday then becomes “leftover day.” You choose what works best for you and your schedule.

2) Get the Ingredients

When your area’s grocery ads come out, sit down and plan your menus based on what’s on sale. I like to choose entrees that are easy to make ahead, such as casseroles, soups and crock pot meals. I also try to choose to make dinners that have a few similar ingredients to cut down on prep time. If ground beef is on sale, for example, I might choose to make a couple of meals with ground beef for the following week. It’s just as easy to brown a few pounds as it is to brown one. The same goes for chopping veggies—I’d just as soon chop two bell peppers as one. Also, check your refrigerator, freezer and pantry for additional items you will need.

3) Buy What You Need (and Nothing That You Don’t)

Go armed with your list, any coupons you may have that correspond to your list and go shopping!

4) Set Aside a Time to Do the Meal Prep

For me, Sunday mornings are a good time for this chore. It may take a couple of hours, but when I’m done, I have enough meals ready to go to get me through the bulk of the work for the week. If you can enlist the help of family members, that’s even better. One person can chop veggies, another can prepare meat, and another can assemble casseroles or crock pot meals.

5) Label Everything

This is especially important if you are not the one who will actually be starting the meal. I label each item with the name of the dish (lasagna, for example) and cooking instructions (such as bake covered at 350 for 45 minutes).

For those who need a little inspiration, following is a list of meals that tend to work very well for this sort of plan-ahead cooking. The possibilities are endless, but hopefully this gets the ball rolling for you:

  • Meatloaf
  • Soups
  • Chili
  • Casseroles
  • Tacos (prepare the meat and chop the veggies)
  • Enchiladas
  • Lasagna
  • Baked Spaghetti
  • Beef Stew
  • Crock Pot Roast
  • Beef Stroganoff (I prepare everything but the noodles ahead of time)
  • Manicotti
  • Shepherd’s Pie
  • Burritos

Photo Credit: iClipart

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