Is It Cheaper To Meal Prep? – How To Save, Cost Breakdown

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If you are trying to figure out whether it is cheaper to meal prep compared to your current food expenses, this post should help you in the right direction. I will break down for you how meal prep can help you save money. I will also share how much it costs to meal prep! This cost calculation is based on how much I personally spend to meal prep the recipes I share on this blog in Cape Town, South Africa.

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Meal prep can help you save money in different ways:

  1. Spend less money on eating out
  2. Buy only what you need
  3. Waste less
  4. Save on utility bills
  5. Save money on healthcare

Meal prep costs about ZAR 25 (USD 1,59) for breakfast, ZAR 15 (USD 0,96) for snacks, ZAR 30 (USD 1,91) for lunch, and ZAR 30 (USD 1,91) for dinner. Compare these costs to how much you spend on each meal, to determine whether it is cheaper to meal prep for you. Per month, you can save about ZAR 1100 ($ 70,14) by simply making your lunch and bringing it to work instead of buying it!

To give you another perspective on the cost of meal prep, I will calculate how much money you can save by making and bringing your own lunch to work versus buying lunch.

This post is all about Is It Cheaper To Meal Prep?

How Meal Prep Can Help You Save Money

Spend Less Money On Eating Out

First and most obviously, meal prep can help you eat out less! How often have you not felt like cooking and decided last minute to grab a quick meal or order takeout instead?

When meal prep is part of your weekly routine, you will be prepared for times you don’t feel like cooking and no more money will be spent impulsively during moments of hungriness!

Buy Only What You Need

Meal prep will require you to do some meal planning (these two habits go hand-in-hand)! By having a plan in place for which meals you will be prepping for the week ahead, you will only buy what you need!

This means you will spend less money on things you don’t need.

Waste Less

Meal prep makes it easier to finish up ingredients! Think about how often you only used half a can of coconut milk or half a head of broccoli. Since meal prep is essentially bulk cooking, it is much easier to finish up ingredients and waste less food.

Not only does this create less food waste, but it also helps you save money!

Save On Your Utility Bills

This may seem like a negligible saving, but it does add up! Meal prepping can help you save money on your utility bills, such as gas, electricity, and water! Think about it, by not switching on your stove or oven to cook up each individual meal, you will use less energy/gas. You will also save water, by running your dishwasher less often!

Meal prep has a positive impact on your utility bills, but it also has a positive impact on the environment.

Save Money On Healthcare

Yes, meal prep can even help you save money on healthcare!

I personally started meal prepping because I considered it the only way to consistently eat nutritious meals as a busy person, without spending a fortune. The focus is on “nutritious” here! My health is important to me.

Eating nutritiously is essential to avoid developing conditions associated with having a poor diet. Conditions related to poor nutrition include obesity, heart disease, stroke, type 2 diabetes, and cancer.

Avoiding developing conditions associated with poor nutrition can help you save money on healthcare in the long term!

How Much Does It Cost To Meal Prep?

Okay, so you get that meal prep can help you save money in different ways! But, how much does it cost to meal prep?

I’m going to start by sharing my personal experience. I currently live in Cape Town, South Africa and I spend ZAR 3000 (USD 191,29) on groceries for my meals per month. This includes occasional luxuries such as vegan cheese, vegan yogurt, nut butter, meat replacement products, etc. This is not an estimation. I track my food expenses diligently using the 22seven App.

If I were to cut out the occasional luxuries from my weekly meal preps, and solely focus on whole foods, I would easily be able to reduce my meal prep expenses to ZAR 2000 (USD 126,93) per month. However, I’ve found that they make my meals significantly more exciting and in turn meal prep more sustainable. I’m thus happy to spend the extra money.

Let’s assume there are 30 days in one month. Then, my food budget works out to about ZAR 100 (USD 6,38) per day. After some calculations, I’ve determined that meal prep costs about ZAR 25 (USD 1,59) for breakfast, ZAR 15 (USD 0,96) for snacks, ZAR 30 (USD 1,91) for lunch, and ZAR 30 (USD 1,91) for dinner.

How Much Does It Cost To Meal Prep

If you are from the US and these numbers seem low to you, keep in mind that the cost of living in South Africa is much (more than 40%) cheaper compared to the US. At the time I’m calculating these numbers, the value of 1 United States Dollar equals 16 South African Rand.

Is It Really Cheaper To Meal Prep?

Now, to determine if meal prep is “cheaper” for you, you will need to compare the cost of meal prep with your current food expenses. Track how much you spend on groceries and on eating out and compare it with the cost of meal prep! Also, think about the nutritious value of your current diet compared to how it could potentially improve with meal prep. Let me know your thoughts in the comment section below this post!

I did do a bit more research into the cost of food in my area, to be able to reference the cost of meal prep.

Via Numbeo I found that the Recommended Minimum Amount of Money for food (2400 calories, Western food types) is ZAR 2,801.82 (USD 178,66) in Cape Town per month per person. However, Numbeo is a crowd-sourced site, which offers information about the cost of living in different countries. It is not peer-reviewed and therefore often considered inaccurate.

Compared to the Numbeo Recommended Minimum Amount of Money for food (2400 calories, Western food types), which is ZAR 2,801.82 (USD 178,66) in Cape Town per month per person, spending ZAR 3000 (USD 191,29) for a month of nourishing meals is cheap!

To have another reference, via a poll on my Instagram, I asked what is people’s budget for groceries per month per person. Twelve people responded and on average they have a budget of ZAR 2108 (USD 133,81). Keep in mind that this is how much they budget and not how much they actually spent. Also, keep in mind that this doesn’t reveal any information about the nutritional quality of their diets. Lastly, it doesn’t reveal how much money is spent on eating out.

Is It Cheaper To Make Or Buy Lunch?

Another way to look at whether it is cheaper to meal prep is to compare the cost of making your own lunch meal prep with buying lunch.

Guess what? It is cheaper to make your own lunch! You probably guessed that right, but have you ever done the mathematics? If not, I did it for you…

When I buy a nutritious meal for lunch at a takeaway spot close to my office, I pay an average of ZAR 85 (USD 5,42). However, when I make my own nutritious lunch, it costs ZAR 30 (USD 1,91). That is a saving of ZAR 55 (USD 3,51) per meal. Per week, this adds up to ZAR 275 (USD 17,54).

Per month, you can save about ZAR 1100 ($ 70,14) by simply making your lunch and bringing it to work instead of buying it!

A saving idea: I have personally committed to making my own lunch and bringing it to the office (almost) every workday and investing the ZAR 1100 ($ 70,14) I save into ETFs instead. It’s been so satisfying to see my investment portfolio grow slowly, as opposed to my monthly food expenses.

Did you find this post helpful? Don’t forget to let me know, by leaving a comment below.

This post was all about Is It Cheaper To Meal Prep?

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