Today I have a guest post from my blogging friend, Chelsea. She is the creator and mastermind behind the incredible site FitNut Chelsea. Chelsea is my go-to girl for healthy recipes and kick-butt workouts. Last year when I was having so much trouble with my hip (ended up getting surgery), she even made me a personalized workout plan catered to my needs. Not to mention that Chelsea is a walking billboard for her business – the woman has a killer bod! Check out her blog for some major inspiration and ideas. I can vouch for many of her mouthwatering “healthi-fied” recipes!
It’s a common misconception that eating out is less expensive than eating in and cooking your own food. I’m here to prove that myth wrong! Not only is it cheaper to meal prep and cook for yourself and family, it’s also healthier. I will go through more of the details and facts below, but first I want to add a little disclaimer: I’m not saying that you can’t make healthy choices at restaurants, I know that the dollar menu at McDonald’s could “technically” be cheaper than a prepped meal (but it also comes with a side of health effects), and I am not telling you to never eat out again! Everyone loves a good date night, or girls night, or family night out where you don’t have to worry about cooking or clean up. But why not save loads of money by meal prepping for the week, so that you can go to a fancy restaurant and treat yourself?! Eating lunch at the office everyday vs eating lunch out just 3x/week can save you at least $126.00/month (details below)! That’s only twelve meals/month averaging $10.50…I know a lot of you spend more than that! All right, lets get down to the nitty gritty:
5 WAYS MEAL PREPPING IMPROVES YOUR LIFE
- Saves money. Although the cost of groceries has stayed (relatively) consistent over the years, the cost of eating out has been steadily increasing. With the increase in popularity of eating out, restaurants have been able to increase their cost. Americans are eating out more than ever, resulting in 41% of food expenses and 32% of total daily calories going to eating out (we’ll get to the effect of those calories soon J) (USDA, FAFH). All right, lets do a quick comparison. Below I have listed the cost as well as the macronutrient content of a typical prepped lunch vs two typical eating out lunches (one quick, one sit-down).
4 oz shredded buffalo chicken (includes cooking ingredients) ~$1.40
187 cals: 35gP/4gF/0gC
1 medium sweet potato ~$.30
112 cals: 2gP/0gF/26gC
1 cup roasted broccoli ~$.22
36 cals: 3gP/1gF/6gC
¼ avocado ~$.45
117 cals: 1.5gP/11gF/3gC
Flavored sparkling water ~$.28
0 cals: 0gP/0gF/0gC
Total cost (not including tax): $2.65
Total calories and macronutrient content:
452cals: 41.5g Protein, 16g Fat, 35g Carbohydrate
Eat-out meal #1 (fast + cheap Chick-fil-a):
1 chic-fil-a original chicken sandwich meal $5.95
1 small side salad (premium side as meal) $1.00
1 Chick-fil-a sauce
½ Avocado lime dressing packet
Medium Lemonade (included with meal)
220 cals: 0gP/0gF/58gC
Total cost (not including tax): $6.95
Total calories and macronutrient content:
965cals: 33.5g Protein, 46g Fat, 109.5g Carbohydrate
Eat-out meal #2 (sit-down restaurant Chili’s):
Margarita Grilled Chicken (from “Lighter Choices”) $11.39
Served as is with crispy tortilla strips rice and black beans
610 cals- 56gP/14gF/65gC
Medium Mango Iced Tea $2.59
80 cals- 0gP/0gF/20gC
Total cost (not including tax and tip): $13.98
Total calories and macronutrient content:
690 calories: 56g Protein, 14g Fat, 85g Carbohydrate
I already know what you’re thinking: “But you didn’t spend less than $2.00 at the store for all of the ingredients used to make your prepped meal!” So here is the grocery run broken down for you:
1.5 lbs chicken breast @ $3.20/pound = $4.80
1 bottle Franks buffalo sauce (only use ¼ bottle) = $2.68
1 packet Greek yogurt ranch powder = $1.48
5 (~1.5 lbs) medium sweet potatoes @ $1.00/pound = $1.50
2 crowns broccoli @ $1.24/pound = ~ $1.10
2 large avocados @ $1.80each (only use 1.25) = $3.60
1 case sparkling water (cans-only use 5/12) = $3.33
Total for 5 meals (not including tax): $18.46
Keep in mind: you will have leftover Buffalo sauce, avocado and sparkling water.
Still cheaper than eating out twice for all of that food!
Let’s break it down a little bit further:
Meal prepped lunch: $2.65
Chick-fil-a lunch: $6.95
Chili’s lunch: $13.98
*No tax or tip included
Let’s say you eat out (for lunch) 3x/week and spend on average $10.50. That’s $31.50/week, which equals $126.00/month! That’s only 3 (relatively cheap) meals a week. Not including stops at the gas station for snacks, visiting the vending machine, or dinners out!
And aside from saving money, you will also be saving calories. I chose healthier options at both restaurants, and they both racked in more calories, fat and carbohydrate, and less protein than the prepped meal! Which brings me to number 2:
- Promotes weight loss. With the rise of eating out, came the rise in average caloric intake and obesity. That is no coincidence. Restaurants use more butter, cooking oils, breading, and large portion sizes that result in weight gain. When we cook for ourselves, we can control our portions and what nutrients are being put into our body. I feel like it’s safe to say that most American’s were raised to “finish your plate before leaving the table”. And while our parents/grandparents/great-grandparents were just trying to not be wasteful, they were also teaching us to ignore our satiety (fullness) cues. Children are some of the few who actually listen to their bodies when their full! I am so guilty of eating past the point of satiety, but that’s why I love cooking for myself–I can control how much I put on my plate! Not only can you control the portions, but you can also control WHAT is put on your plate. We can avoid saturated fats, refined carbs (sugars), and extra sodium by preparing our own food. Diets that are high in saturated fats, refined grains and carbs, sugar and sodium lead to obesity, heart disease, stroke and diabetes (just to name a few). By eating out less and cooking at home more, we can reduce our risk of these preventable diseases.
Here’s a fun fact for you: in the US, over $150 billion, or 10%, of all medical costs go to preventable diseases associated with obesity. You can read more about those statistics here.
- Encourages a nutrient-dense diet. Like I said before, by meal prepping and cooking for yourself, YOU control what you’re putting into YOUR body. Just by going into the grocery store, you are way more likely to buy some fruits and vegetables. Do you let them sit and rot? I hope not! By prepping lean meats, veggies and whole grains, you are setting yourself up for a weeks worth of nutrients that are going to power you through the days. It is no secret that eating fatty foods leads to feeling lethargic and being lazy. Who else feels the need to take a nap or double up on the caffeine after a heavy meal? Filling your diet with more nutrient-dense foods (lean meats, veggies and whole grains), gives you more energy to be productive throughout your day. And the world needs more productive people, am I right??
- Saves Time. Many of us choose to eat out for the social aspect. Why not make cooking at home social? Grab your spouse, boyfriend/girlfriend, friends and/or kid(s) and bring them into the kitchen with you! Spend a couple hours every Sunday preparing foods to eat throughout the week so that you will have more time to relax with those loved ones and spend less time cooking! Prepping breakfast (baked oatmeal, egg muffins, egg bake, quiche, hard boiled eggs, just to name a few) saves time in the morning when trying to rush out the door. You can just grab your lunch out the fridge, heat up some prepped breakfast and be out the door! With your prepped lunch, you have more time to be productive at work, or take some time to go outside on your lunch break (versus, sitting at a drive thru or in a restaurant). In the evening, you can easily throw together a meal with some prepped lean meats and veggies that can take under 10 minutes for the whole family and still have time to relax and unwind.
- Convenient. An argument I hear all the time about eating out vs in is that it’s “convenient”. Okay, I can see how having someone else prepare your food and clean up after you can be convenient after a long day. But isn’t having food already prepared in your fridge just as convenient? YUP! You can come home after a long day and pop your prepped meal into the microwave and just relax. You don’t even have to think about what you want because you already made that decision when you prepped! Yes, you have to put in the work for a couple hours one day/week, but I think the above statistics are enough to convince you that a couple hours of your life is worth your money and your health!
TIPS FOR BEING SUCCESSFUL AT MEAL PREPPING
- Choose 2 meals to prep/week. It’s easy to get overwhelmed when it comes to food prepping. For me, it’s always breakfast and lunch. Just because of my schedule and preference. Do what works for YOU!
- Cook what you like. This might sound a little obvious, but I’ve seen a lot of people cook loads of food that they don’t like with the intention of eating it and end up throwing away. If you know you don’t like sweet potatoes, don’t cook them! If you love spaghetti, cook it! Find a way to healthi-fy your favorite meals and you are bound to be successful.
- Don’t skimp on the spices. The reason why so many people think eating healthy is boring and bland is because they’re not using enough SPICE! Skip the sodium-packed pre-packaged spices. You’d be so surprised to taste how much flavor cumin and chili powder can bring to your Mexican-inspired dish.
- Make a list. Don’t go to the grocery store empty-handed! Plan out what you are going to prep and what other meals you are going to cook for the week. If you go to the store without a plan, you’re most likely going to spend more than you need to! Set a weekly food budget for your self (you can align with the USDA Food Plan chart below) and stick with it! If you know you have some planned dinner outings, plan for it! Use apps like Ibotta to find the best deals around! Read Elaine’s blog post about how you can actually earn money by grocery shopping here!
- You don’t have to buy organic, non-GMO, gluten-free, etc. Organic food is great, but so is non-organic food IMO! Unless the “regular” strawberries don’t look ripe or the “regular” apples are deformed (never happened, just sayin’) I won’t spend the extra money on organic. It has the same nutrient content, so why spend more? Again, just my opinion. Eating healthy does not mean eating organic, non-GMO, gluten-free or any other diet fad, and it certainly doesn’t mean spending more money on food.
- So, what’s it gonna be? Is it worth it to spend a couple hours one day a week to prep your food to save time, money and your waistline? Or would you rather spend your time, money and waistline on eating out? You’ve got the facts, now it’s up to YOU to respond!
- With love and health,
- Fit Nut Chelsea
Check out more from Fit Nut Chelsea here!