Eat Well to Be Well: Save money and have fun with meal prepping ideas – Osage County Online | Osage County News

Eat Well to Be Well: Save money and have fun with meal prepping ideas

Freshen up meals, add nutrition, save time

Envision coming home after a long day to a meal already prepped and ready for you to enjoy. You don’t have to imagine anymore. It can be your reality when you embrace “food prepping.” Food prepping is a commonly used term to prepare foods ahead of time, making meal planning a snap. Besides saving you time, energy, and anxiety over what to have for dinner, food prep is perfect for feeding your family nutritious and delicious meals.

If you’re new to food prepping, you can master meal planning with a few simple tricks, and even better, you’ll actually enjoy doing so. Once you’re in the habit of planning ahead what you’ll eat days from now, you will appreciate that food prepping also means more money in your pocket. Why? Relying on fast food take-out or sit-down restaurants increases your food spending dollars. The latest information from the Bureau of Labor Statistics states that from 2017 to 2020, households spent an average of $2,300 to more than $3,300 a year on eating away from home. Reducing one meal a week eaten out can save you dollars annually – less money spent at restaurants means more money in your pocket.

So, if you’re ready to make food prepping a reality, here are clever ideas to get you started:

Make your grocery list automated

Remember the days of writing down a grocery list? Neither do I. Today, there’s a wide range of apps helping make “writing a grocery list” more effortless than ever. First, select recipes you plan to use throughout the week. Then, plug in your favorite recipes and let the apps do the work of generating a list of items you need to buy at the grocery store. Not sure of which apps to use?  A couple of user-friendly apps to consider are eMeals or Whisk. Both offer healthy recipes created by registered dietitians and make meal planning and buying food a breeze.

Need new recipes to freshen up meals? Check out, which offers weekly meal plans, including low-carbohydrate and vegetarian meal plans.

Consider mix-and-match foods

Have you ever felt like simply throwing your food altogether to be cooked in one big pan? If so, sheet pan dinners are your go-to. Chop up a bunch of fresh veggies such as carrots, broccoli, asparagus, or potatoes, add in a protein of chicken breasts or sliced roast beef, spread everything onto a sheet pan sprayed with vegetable or olive oil, and roast in the oven for an easy, nutritious, and versatile meal that can last for days.

Use pre-divided meal containers

If you work away from home and eating lunch is going through a fast-food drive-thru window, stop.  Instead, invest in pre-divided containers that are easy to take to work and fun to make healthy food choices for each spot. Plan on having a lean protein source such as last night’s leftover chicken breast or sliced ham in your biggest divider, add carrot sticks or cherry tomatoes, whole grain crackers, and fruit such as grapes or mandarin orange slices, for a well-balanced, filling meal.

Take advantage of cooking gadgets

Besides a good quality knife set, a quality grater, and food processor, among other kitchen tools, one of the best cooking gadgets saving you time on preparing meals include an air fryer, Instapot, or a slow cooker. There’s no need to splurge on all three, but having the ability to throw in stew ingredients in a slow cooker or to whip up a batch of rice or oatmeal in an Instapot frees up your time in the kitchen as you easily assemble prepped meals.

Finding time to plan meal prepping

Meal prepping is personal. What works for your best friend may not work for you. You decide when is the best time for you to plan meals, whether it’s on the weekend or smack dab in the middle of the week. Whenever you have adequate time to plan meals, make a food list, shop, and do make-ahead food preparations, it is your best time to be creative and have fun envisioning meals your family will love. And that’s what counts the most!

Cheryl Mussatto MS, RD, LD is a registered dietitian with a master’s degree in dietetics and nutrition from the University of Kansas, and a bachelor’s degree in dietetics and institutional management from Kansas State University. She is a clinical dietitian for local clinics, an adjunct professor at an area community college where she teaches basic nutrition, and a freelance health and nutrition writer. She is the author of The Nourished Brain: The Latest Science On Food’s Power For Protecting The Brain From Alzheimers and Dementia, The Prediabetes Action Plan and Cookbook and The Heart Disease Prevention Cookbook. Visit her website

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