‘It’s completely changed my life’: How teacher, 23, saved $4k in just one year by ditching her takeaway habit and meal prepping her lunches, dinners and snacks at home
We all know that eating in saves you valuable money. But would you change your eating habits if you knew it could save you as much as $4,000 in a year?
Evelyn Paynter has. The 23-year-old teacher from Queensland started meal prepping all of her meals at home one night a week to save money and stop her and her husband buying takeaways after a long day.
Since she started a year ago, Evelyn has also quit wasting any food and now estimates she has saved around $4,000 in the past 12 months – or $80 a week – on food.
Here, Evelyn shares how she got into meal prepping, and her tips and tricks for budget eating with FEMAIL.
Teacher, Evelyn Paynter from Queensland, started meal prepping her meals (pictured) one night a week to save money and stop her and her husband buying takeaways after a long day
According to Evelyn – who works as an early childhood educator – her reasoning for getting into meal prep was simple. She needed to stop buying dinner.
‘I have a connective tissue disorder, Ehlers Danlos Syndrome, and a spinal injury, which often left me in too much pain to cook dinner after work,’ she told Daily Mail Australia.
‘With my husband working late, this often meant that he would pick up takeaway on the way home from work.
‘I estimate we were spending around $50 a week on takeaways and then $30 a week on wasted food I had bought thinking I would cook it.’
The 23-year-old (pictured) said she got into it to quit buying takeaways as she has a connective tissue disorder which means she is often in a lot of pain when she gets home from work
One day, while she was making her lunch for work, the 23-year-old decided to cut up some vegetables for that evening’s dinner too.
‘By the time I got home from work, getting a healthy dinner for the night was so easy that I vowed to start doing it all the time.
‘Now, I spend one morning prepping all of our dinners for the week. One of these is a bulk cook of at least three meals to freeze, we eat two of the frozen meals two night a week, and my nan cooks a family dinner once a week.’
What this means is that Evelyn will spend one morning chopping and cutting every celery stick, mushroom, carrot and capsicum stalk, before carefully putting them in separate containers ready to eat at lunches and dinners.
Nothing will go to waste, and she knows exactly what she will be eating for any given midday meal or evening.
‘Because the frozen meals are normally comfort meals like pasta bake and lasagne, I try to steer clear of pasta on my cook nights – instead opting for stirfry, roasts and salads,’ she said.
‘I also prepare all of my snacks and lunches in advance, and it’s put at least $80 a week in my back pocket.’
These days, Evelyn prepares everything one night a week, and wastes nothing – before she goes grocery shopping, her fridge is empty save condiments (pictured)
Sharing with FEMAIL an example of her meal prep from last week, Evelyn explained that her fridge was totally empty – save for some condiments, a quarter of a block of cheese and some iceberg lettuce – before she went grocery shopping.
By the time she had finished her prep, however, it was a different story altogether – with all of her meals and snacks neatly boxed up.
‘This system has made everything so much easier,’ Evelyn said. ‘With everything there ready to go, it’s much less tempting to buy takeaway.’
By the time she had finished her prep, however, it was a different story altogether – with all of her meals and snacks neatly boxed up (pictured)
Lastly, the 23-year-old shared her tips for would-be meal preppers, and how you can save money on food in general:
‘Make sure everything is washed before you start as a rule of thumb,’ she said.
‘I wash all of the fruit and veg in a bit of vinegar and cold water bath for 15 minutes and then lay them out on a tea towel to dry.
‘I find it helps to remove any pesticides that have been sprayed on to the foods and keeps them looking fresh.’
She also recommends setting aside the time – whether it’s a morning or an evening – entirely dedicated to prep.
‘We barely throw any food out now compared to when I would have to spend half an hour before grocery shopping to clean out the fridge,’ Evelyn added.
‘It’s completely changed my life. Dinner is so much less daunting now, I actually quite enjoy cooking now and find myself with so much more time to spend with my family.’