If you’re like most people, getting takeout or opting for the fast-food drive thru after a long day at work serves as an easy alternative to trying to figure out what to cook each week for your family or for yourself. Even brown-bagging your lunch can sometimes be challenging. But when you plan your meals in advance with meal-prepping ideas, you accumulate extra funds in your bank for those unexpected events in life. So what’s the best way to meal plan and stay on a budget? These tips will help you get started.

Get with the plan

The first step is to plan out what you would like to cook for the week. Recipes are ubiquitous online, and you can easily Google quick and simple recipes. One of my favorite sites along with an accompanying app is www.epicurious.com. It provides more than 330,000 recipes from quick and easy, healthy to gluten-free to vegetarian to what’s new. You can filter your search by utilizing features such as meal and course, dish type, dietary concerns, technique, etc. You can also search for a recipe, save it, and print it. But if you have the app, you can just access the recipe from your phone, and it will provide a shopping list that you can refer to indefinitely. So plan out what you would like to cook for the day, gather a list of ingredients that you need to buy, and prep in advance.

Imitate the pros and freeze your meals

You may not realize it, but you waste a lot of time standing in front of your fridge deciding what to make for dinner after a full day’s work. And you also waste money running to the store four or five times a week to pick up last-minute ingredients for an evening’s meal. One solution is to freeze your meals. Freezer-friendly meals allow families who do not have time for the kitchen to pop something in the microwave. So choose a day and set aside a couple of hours over the weekend to cook all your meals for the week. It can save you a lot of time and energy if done correctly.

Consider using a meal kit delivery service

Not everyone has the option to use a meal kit delivery service. There are so many companies out there sourcing out local ingredients and using chef-inspired recipes like Plated (my personal favorite), Blue Apron and Home Chef. Meal kit deliveries take all the thinking out of grocery shopping and meal planning, but also provide you with step-by-step instructions for how best to prepare a delicious lunch or dinner. If grocery shopping is hard and cooking is not a fun task that you enjoy, or if you like to cook but don’t have time to look up unique recipes, the problem has now been solved with the emergence of the meal kits.

Saving and eating well

To recap, planning out your meals for the week ahead of time provides several advantages. For one thing, you’ll waste less food and less money. You’ll also save time by having some meals prepped, and you’ll avoid being stressed out by wondering what you’ll cook for dinner each day. So grab a pen and paper and plan out your week’s meals and see your bank account grow. Bon appetit!

Ebony Hazeleger is the owner and creator of Home Plan Advisors, which specializes in helping families become debt-free, maximize savings for college expenses and retirement, and establish emergency funds while minimizing risk and income taxes based on her smart money management system. For more information, call (866) 248-1871 or visit www.homeplanadvisors.com.

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