One of the major benefits of meal prepping is that it can help save you—and your wallet—from choosing fast-casual lunch spots and takeout over a home-cooked meal. But it’s no secret that a weekly trip to the grocery store can get pretty pricey—especially if you’re walking the aisles with an empty stomach. So how do you cook at home in a way that actually saves money?
Here, six meal-prep pros share their favorite ways to make shopping more affordable. Incorporate your favorite—or all of them!—into your own meal-prepping routine so you can keep both your fridge and bank account full.
Scroll down for 6 ways to save money while meal prepping.
Photo: Pexels/Mark Dalton
1. Search for produce that’s in season
Simple Healthy Delish blogger Leanne Miyasaki uses two penny-pinching tips when prepping meals for her fam for the week. First: Buy produce that’s in season. “Seasonal fruits and vegetables are cheaper and tastier,” she says.
Her second tip is to “stretch a buck when it comes to proteins by adding chopped veggies or beans to chilis, stews, or soups.” You’ll get an extra serving of fiber that way, too.
Photo: Pexels/Foodie Factor
2. Plan egg-centric meals
Devotees of Whole30 and the ketogenic diet are going to love Clean Food Dirty City blogger and Well+Good Council member Lily Kunin‘s go-to tip: Eat eggs! “Pasture-raised eggs are my go-to for easy, inexpensive, satisfying meals,” she says.
“The options are essentially endless: avocado toast with a soft boiled egg, breakfast tacos with slow scrambled eggs, a grain bowl topped with a fried egg, or a simple green salad with a poached egg. It’s an easy way to add protein and pull together an ‘everything but the kitchen sink’ kind of dinner!”
Photo: Stocksy/Nadine Greeff
3. Turn your leftover smoothies into yummy frozen desserts
Smoothies are an a.m. or post-workout staple for a lot of people, but making them on the reg can get a bit pricey—especially if you mix in collagen, adaptogens, spirulina, and other add-ins for an extra boost. This is why pediatric nutritionist and Wholesome Child author Mandy Sacher makes sure not a single nutritious drop goes to waste. “Instead of throwing away any leftover smoothie, freeze it into empty ice-cream molds,” she says. “They’re a perfect after-school snack and healthy replacement for ice-cream. Kids love them!” It’s pretty safe to say adults will, too.
Photo: Stocksy/Jill Chen
4. Buy staple pantry items in bulk
There are some go-tos you know are going to make an appearance in almost all your meals: salt, pepper, turmeric, oats olive oil, legumes, brown rice…Whatever your meal-prepping staples are, Fit Foodie Finds blogger Lee Hersh recommends buying what you can in bulk because it saves money in the long run—one Costco-sized container is going to cost you a lot less than 12 of those little glass bottles.
“Our pantry is always stocked with staple ingredients that we use multiple times a week,” she says. “It’s always nice to have pantry items on hand if we want to make chili, casseroles, and everything in between. If your travel schedule is anything like mine, then you know how important pantry essentials can be.” Fewer trips to the grocery store is definitely a major bonus.
Photo: Stocksy/Per Swantensson
5. Go to the farmers’ market in the evening
Fearless Fig blogger Sarah Greenfield has a smart tip for getting a major discount on fresh produce: “I go to the farmers’ market when the vendors are getting ready to leave,” she says. “They want to get rid of their produce and will usually have pretty good deals on food.” The prettiest tomatoes may be long gone, but ugly produce is just as nutritious and delicious.
To save time when she’s meal prepping later in the week, Greenfield prepares her produce right when she gets home, roasting, steaming, and freezing various fruits and veggies so she has them on-hand to use in different ways. “This helps ensure that my produce doesn’t go bad. The easier it is to eat, the less food waste I have,” she says. “There is nothing worse than throwing away beautiful, organic produce!”
6. Compare prices so you know where to get the best deals
It can be easy to fall into the habit of going to the same store and filling your cart with the same staples. But Well+Good’s recipe developer, Tatiana Boncompagni, likes to shop around to see which stores offer the best prices on different ingredients. And even then she’s not done comparing prices. “I look at the grocery stores in my neighborhood and then look online to see if something is cheaper through Amazon or Fresh Direct, which not only saves time, but money, too,” she says. Another site to bookmark: Brandless, where everything is $3 or less. You don’t have to let any one store dictate the price for you. As the shopper, you’re in charge.
Read more: wellandgood.com