Coupons are great, and I have seriously been amazed by expert couponers, but here I am going to explain to you how you can save money without couponing. The extra bonus with this method is unlike couponing, it saves you an insane amount of time each week instead of requiring more. After starting to do this myself, I couldn’t believe how much time and money I wasted by not starting sooner. Read on to see exactly how many hours you save switching to this. And then spend those hours however you want, such as starting a side hustle like I did.
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How much can you save with coupons?
To answer this, let’s consider the limitations.
- To really capitalize on big savings, you need to dedicate a lot of time to cutting, organizing and using coupons. If you are not dedicating a lot of time, you aren’t saving big.
- Couponing will never save you time and time can always be turned into money.
- You buy things you don’t need or won’t use resulting in wasting money.
- You can only save so much. The savings are limited.
It’s limited and if you sink in enough time to really cut your grocery bill, you should be calculating the savings per hour invested. I guarantee you, I can show you how to better utilize that time to make more than that. The amount of money you could be making is limitless. Now, let’s find a way to free up your time to make more money, while still saving big in both money and time on meal prep.
How much time do you spend on meal prep?
To start, we need to see how much time we spend on meal prep which includes, planning, shopping, and prepping breakfasts, lunches, snacks and dinners. In a typical week you might spend something like this:
Now, 16-22 hours a week is just an average estimate. Maybe you spend more or less time but let’s use this total for the number of hours a week you put into meal prep. If we look at this number in terms of time per month, it’s 64-90 hours a month. In a year, you are spending approximately 768-1080 hours, or the equivalent of 32-45 days meal prepping. That is a LOT of time you could be utilizing in other ways.
How can you save time making food?
Right away, we can see that in a week, the biggest time consumer is making dinners from start to finish. Other areas that we could improve to save a lot of time are having to make fewer trips to the grocery store and all of the tasks that go with planning a week of meals (budgeting, making grocery lists, finding recipes, and meal schedules).
In a week, if you didn’t have to plan dinners, prep and cook them each night along with virtually no clean-up, then that would be a dream come true. Let’s also get rid of having to find dinner recipes and making a grocery list for all of the dinners. The crazy part is that you actually can have this. It’s known as freezer meal prep. The idea behind freezer meal prep is you buy all the ingredients at once for all the dinners that week. You then pre-chop everything and place the meals into freezer bags.
Do this for a week of meals or a month of meals. The result is one mess and one clean up and all of your weekly meals are ready to go in about 2 hours. You just throw the frozen bag into the fridge the night before to thaw, and then into the crockpot in the morning or into the oven right before dinner time.
My favorite freezer meal prep cookbook
Now, you still would have to invest time into finding meals of this style and making grocery lists for the recipes. However, you don’t have to re-invent the wheel. You can get cookbooks which give you a list of meals that all have no pre-cooking required and have grocery lists already assembled.
My all-time favorite is Kelly’s Complete Freezer Cooking Bundle. She has over 100+ recipes resulting in plenty of variety with grocery lists ready to go. She organizes her grocery lists, so you can shop for 7 or 30 meals all at once. For anyone new to freezer prep, Kelly includes 20+ pages of expert advice to teach you just how to do it. It is also just a one-time purchase for her eBook, which makes it very appealing if you are on a tight budget. Worried about spending money on getting a quality resource? I promise you, you will earn that investment back before one month not only on just efficiency. You save by not buying unnecessary items or quantities at the store. Food spoilage is less likely and you are less likely on going out to each because making food at home is easy.
How much time will using freezer meal prep save you?
By adding in those two hours per week to freezer meal prep, you reduce your time spent on meal prep from 16-22 hours a week to 10-15 hours a week. That might not seem like a lot of savings, but in a year you are saving about 312 hours, or the equivalent of 13 days. That is a serious amount of time. That means each week you could be doing something else with the 6 hours you could be saving with meal prep.
Want to save even more?
Prep a month work of meals one Saturday afternoon. Increasing the number of meals you prep at once doesn’t actually add on as much time as you would imagine. You might need to spend 4 hours prepping instead of 2 hours to make 4 times as many meals. I also try to prep lunches all at once or at least two sets every other day to free up more time in the morning. I revamped my morning and evening routines and found that these really improved my productivity throughout the day.
Also, never forget all of the intangibles you gain by meal prepping:
- Less stress when making dinner
- Less time spent planning meals
- Less work making dinner each night
- Less clean up every day with so many less dishes
Why this strategy will not only save you time, but save money without couponing
Most people coupon to save money which can eat up a lot of time if you want to really save big. With freezer meal prep, you are spending even less time than couponing, but you will still be saving money. Freezer meal prep is extremely budget friendly because you won’t buy unnecessary foods, you are less likely to have food spoil, and you won’t eat out as much because you don’t want to cook dinner. Dinner is now easy, every day.
Outside of direct savings each month from doing freezer meal prep, you are gaining back the equivalent of 13 days per year in free time. You can increase this amount of time by doing even more meal prepping or even just from not eating out as much, which usually takes more time than eating dinner at home. What can you do with this time to increase the money in your bank account even further? Well, instead of just focusing on saving, you now have time to focus on earning more. You can finally turn that hobby into a business, or you can spend it being able to actively budget better, or you can manage your time even further. All of which will continue to help you have more money.
Meal Prep for Special Diets
If you are following a specific diet, the other freezer meal prep product I love is Once a Month Meals. You get over 6,000 recipes and they have filters that you can apply to get recipes that fit your diet. They seriously have everything. Here, you join as a member and are able to make a customized menu each week. With that customized menu, you get recipes and instructions along with a customized grocery list to make those meals. Again, you will easily make back the money you spend each month on membership by the savings that freezer meals provides. Start using that extra time wisely and you can be saving even more.
It Doesn’t Have to Stop with Dinner
While dinner is where most of your weekly time goes in terms of preparing food, you can cut time on breakfasts, lunches and snacks too.
For breakfasts, on weekend mornings when you have more time make a double or triple batch. Pancakes, muffins and waffles freeze really well and can get popped into the microwave. This saves money on your morning stop for a bagel and coffee at the local drive through.
Invest in a programmable coffee maker and quality coffee thermos. This will save you money on your daily coffee run too. Other ideas include making a quiche or egg frittata, or another breakfast casserole that can be reheated through the week.
Lunch prep money savings starts with dinner. Make your dinner meal prep include extra savings and you will have an easy lunch of leftovers to bring every day. This saves money on buying lunch and time because you aren’t packing something special just for lunches.
Not into eating the same thing for dinner and lunch the next day? Consider roasting or grilling meats on the weekend intended for lunch or making a big batch of delicious beans or chickpeas to throw on salads for your week’s lunches.
Snacks and Desserts Hacks
Spend some time on the weekend baking a delicious and healthier dessert option to enjoy throughout the week. Take some bulk time upfront to prep and chop veggies and portion out things like hummus, cheese, nuts and other snack options. This will make it so you can easily throw those into your bag before you leave the house. You’ll be less tempted to buy a snack while out and about which saves money.
Save Money by Meal Prepping
While it might not be the first thought, saving time and money go hand in hand when it comes to meals.
When you meals are prepped, you shop with a grocery list, you eat out less, and you buy smarter options.
Save the biggest by buying and prepping in bulk. Use freezer meal prepping to bulk prep with no pre-cooking. Simply buy, chop, combine and store in the freezer. Ready to go!
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Dr. Trina Fitzpatrick is a wife, mom, blogger, and a breastfeeding advocate. She is the co-author of the Week-by-Week Bump Smart Course, the Nesting Planner and the Breastfeeding Handbook. She attributes her success at breastfeeding her own children into toddlerhood with working with lactation consultants in the hospital in the early stages and on a weekly basis afterwards. By writing at MomSmartNotHard, she educates mamas-to-be on all things pregnancy, birth and breastfeeding. Read more about Trina.