Back at the end of February Shaun approached me with the idea of instead of grocery shopping and going out to eat doing a meal plan program. We both work full time and neither one of us feels like cooking by the time we’re home at 6pm and we haven’t had much success finding healthy recipes that A. don’t cost a fortune to make B. aren’t complicated and most importantly C. actually taste decent. Spaghetti squash is not “just like” real spaghetti – stop the lies people. So, the idea was certainly appealing – until I saw the price tag of $170 for 5 days for one person – that over $2,000 a month for our household and clearly was not happening. We liked the concept though and got a few meals from the company offering the plan and supplemented with snacks on our own. For me, the biggest victory of these meals is that they actually taste decent and unlike a lean cuisine they aren’t just low calorie they are protein rich, thus more filling. So after years of having friends talk about how great it is to do meal prep on Sundays I was finally sold on the idea.
Example of a $10 lunch
Look, I like to cook I do but it’s a real PITA and time suck. Luckily, The Fresh Market offers plenty of pre-prepared items at reasonable prices. We have become quite the fan of the chicken roll-ups and most are less than 400 calories and is a nice little meal in itself that just needs to be baked for 30 minutes. Our favorite is Chicken Oscar which is a chicken breast with crab stuffing and asparagus for 330 calories and $3.99, yum! We also get lots of fish, which also just needs to be baked. Another favorite is the salmon burger, which we just eat plain like a crab cake rather than with a bun. Since focusing on eating healthier we have added a lot of fish to our diet and typically only eat pork or beef if we go out. I think chicken microwaves better than fish so I tend to bake the chicken roll-ups and box them up for lunches and the bake fish fresh at night. I also pre steam vegetable and cook rice for the week and keep large containers of both in the fridge.
Our new plan involves one protein shake a day, 2 snacks and 2 meals for me and 3 for Shaun (I have my shake as my breakfast while Shaun has his in the afternoon and eats a healthy breakfast). We got a Blender Bottle set at Sam’s club for $19.99 that included 2 bottles, 2 blender balls and 6 containers one of which has a pill insert. I love this because I can pour skim milk in my bottle the night before and keep the shake mix separate in a container that snaps onto the bottle so it’s easy to grab and go in the morning and mix when I’m ready to drink it. Mine of course is pink.
The most time consuming part of the prep are our snack boxes. These are probably our favorite part of the program. I should feel a little ashamed for admitting this but I just completely copied the $5 box the local vendor offers; although it involves larger expenses the first time to buy the almonds and goji berries each box costs us a little over $2 each. Even with soaking the apples in water with citrus essential oil I don’t like to cut them up more than a few days in advance so I tend to box up snacks on Sundays and Wednesdays. The little princess containers are the perfect size to hold the items that need to stay dry and I got them from the Dollar Tree – four in a pack; Shaun has blue ones but he took the stickers off, I have no shame apparently. The color coding those does help us keep track and which containers are for each of us. With this healthy eating kick I completely reorganized our fridge – but I’ll share that in another post.
The $5 original
It didn’t take very long for Shaun and I to both notice a difference – we feel better and we eat less when we go out, at a few of our favorite spots we can now share things we used to each have our own of so it saves us money when we do go out as well. I admit, I still like going out to eat so we try to go out at least twice a week – there’s really nothing romantic about eating your pre-cooked healthy meal out of a plastic container at home. But overall the routine has been successful for us and now that we’ve established it we have the energy and time to focus on other areas of improvement.
Of course, a cute lunch bag makes it even better