Resolved to save money and be healthier? Yeah, me too! I’m using these hacks to save money, time, and cut calories on my weekday lunches.
1. Store your lunch in an empty fruit cup attached to a mason jar.
Fill a jar with a main meal like tuna salad, egg salad, or deli meat then attach the lid. Before screwing on the mason jar ring, stack on the crackers with an inverted fruit cup, then screw on the ring. Take it further with a bigger jar and use two fruit cups — one inside the jar and one on top. The ring still secures the jar and allows you to pack even more food.
2. Prep vegetables, proteins, and fruit with an egg slicer.
Egg slicers start at about $5 and can be used to prep more than just eggs. Get perfectly sliced mushrooms, avocados, kiwis, beets, butter, bananas, strawberries, cheese, and more.
3. Stuff pitas with pretty much any prepped ingredients and leftovers.
Stock up on pitas so you can fill them with something different every day with food you’ve already prepped or even leftovers from the night before. Whether it’s a meat pocket, eggplant special, or a twist on PB&J, this guarantees a filling and fun lunch.
4. Make meatloaf muffins.
Have a week’s worth of hearty lunches ready in one batch. These are easy to pack and pair well with vegetables. Try this delicious recipe that’s low in saturated fat and calories.
5. Season a meat three different ways using one pan.
This method is efficient, allowing you to cook three different meats at one time — plus, it gives you variety throughout the week. Line a baking sheet with aluminum foil, then create a divider using a piece of rolled aluminum. Add seasonings, good quality oil, and cook according to the meat’s requirement.
6. Cook a bunch of eggs in the oven at once.
Here’s a way to get a lot more eggs for the week and a lot more meals — from egg-salad sandwiches to salad toppings. Place eggs directly on the rack or in a muffin tin and cook for 30 minutes at 350 degrees, then plunge the eggs into ice water for 10 minutes. Hard boiled eggs can last for a week with their shells on.
7. Create DIY instant noodle cups in mason jars.
Here’s a tasty and healthy version of cup noodles that you can make ahead for each day of the week. Pack in cooked noodles (dry vermicelli or maifun noodles work, too) and add some soup stock paste, frozen (or cooked) vegetables, and leftover meat. When you’re ready, throw in fresh herbs and fill the jar with hot water. Let it sit for a few minutes before diving in.
8. Use your slow cooker to cook enough for a week.
Cook chicken breasts on low for 8 hours in your favorite sauce, then go about your day. Come back and portion it out in bags to add it to any sandwich, salad, or hot dish during the week.
If you’re too busy or tired to cook dinner during the week, here’s a solution: The 10 Best Crock-Pot Freezer Meals on the Internet.
9. Freeze smoothies in muffin tins.
If you’re always in a rush and too busy to make a quick lunch, this solves your problem. Make smoothies ahead and freeze them in muffin tins before storing them in a zip-top bag for later. When you want, just toss a couple of the smoothie cups into a blender with some water or milk.
10. Cut up vegetables for the week ahead of time.
Try and set aside a half hour each week to chop up different vegetables. You’ll cut your meal-prep time in half.
11. Change up repetitive meals with different sauces.
Sauces can spice up boring, repetitive meals throughout the week. Make a couple batches of vinaigrettes ahead of time — they last for a couple weeks — and add them to a dish for a different flavor every day. This lemon vinaigrette recipe tastes good on everything.
12. Cook grains ahead and freeze portions in individual bags.
Pre-portioned servings of grains that have been frozen will save you so much time and can be added to salads and other prepped meals quickly. Any whole grain works. It’s as simple as pulling them out of the freezer and defrosting in a microwave or on the stovetop.
13. Store salads in jars.
Pick your favorite salad ingredients and start stacking from bottom to top beginning with dressing, sliced veggies, your protein of choice, nuts or seeds, and end with cheese and lettuce on top. Mason jars are perfect because they keep salads fresh.
TIP: For salads you planned for later in the week, leave the dressing out until you’re ready to eat.
14. Combine vegetables with the same cooking time.
Save yourself some cooking and reheating time by pairing vegetables based on their roasting time. Asparagus, broccoli, and mushrooms take 10 to 15 minutes to roast together, while artichokes, sweet peppers, and potatoes take 20 to 30 minutes.
15. Make burritos in bulk and freeze them.
Homemade burritos can store well in the refrigerator or the freezer — and it only takes about 20 minutes to pull together. Try this breakfast burrito recipe of eggs, cheese, and sausage for a satisfying meal any time of the day.
16. Double up on everything you make.
If you’re making something like chicken, make at least two servings. This guarantees you’ll have another meal later in the week for soups, sandwiches, salads, and casseroles.