After a month tracking expenses I was horrified to find that lunch and coffee was costing me a year of freedom!
Let me explain. I’m lazy at the best of times, so food prep was never top of my list of stuff to do. It wasn’t anywhere near my list of stuff to do truth be told, until I saw what it was costing me.
I ate out at lunch and had a mid-afternoon coffee every single day bar none. Burrito with chips Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Jerk Chicken from the food market near the office on Thursday and Friday. When you add in the coffee, I was nudging £10 on a daily basis.
Given a 253 day working year (as 2016 is in the UK), and subtract the 25 days holidays, and that’s £2280 a year. Fuck. Maybe I’ll knock the coffee on the head and give this meal prep malarky a go…
Meal Prep, a Necessary Evil
So I did. Since we’ve started paying more attention to unnecessary expenses, we’ve begun grocery shopping at Lidl. Their products are just as good, if not better, than their competitors. Biggest difference is the lower price, no complaints about that.
So we shop on a Saturday, and meal prep on a Sunday afternoon. At this point, other of the more positive bloggers in this space would talk about how wonderful it is to learn new recipes, cook their own food, spend quality time with our partner in the kitchen, etc… Maybe that’s true for them. Not for me though, if I’m honest, it’s a bit of a ballache. To my detriment, I’m more of a Karl Pilkington than a Mr Money Moustache in that sense. But keep reading and I’ll explain why I think it’s worth it.
And if you fancy giving this a try, I’ve two tips for you:
- Get loads of Tupperware
- Make some space in the freezer
When it comes to food, I’m not fussy about variety and am more than happy to eat the same meal for lunch every day, so I often do. My go to meal is lasagne. Followed by a curry. If you’re fussy, best you spend some extra time making two or three meals in one go, box and freezer them, and use for lunch and dinner during the week. You’ll find what’s best for you. Anyway, I digress. Let’s break down the numbers for lasagne.
To make a 6 portion dish I use:
- 750g Mince @ £3.73
- 3 Peppers @ 75p
- 1 Onion @ 5p
- 1/2 Garlic @15p
- 1 Chile Pepper @ 13p
- 1 Passata @35p
- 1 White Sauce @ 75p
- 1/2 Pack Lasagne Sheets @30p
- Grated Cheese @80p
- A sprinkle of Paprika @ 5p
Which totals to £7.06. Now let’s round up to £7.50 to account for the fact we’ve used the oven and washed the dishes. That’s a grand total of £1.25 per meal, or £316 per year. Now because I’m an inherently lazy human being I won’t cod you all by pretending that I’ll make a packed lunch every day. For arguments sake, let’s say I’ll fall off the wagon once a week. That’s still £760 per year, which saves me a grand total of £1520 every year I keep this up.
Right, two things.
Number one, I need £1520 less every year to live off in retirement if I can make this a habit. Applying a 4% withdrawal rate that means my FU stash can be £38,000 lighter. To net this amount on my current salary, I’d be chained to the desk for almost another year.
Number two, if I invest the £1520 instead of spending it, and assuming a conservative rate of return of 5%, I would retire even earlier as I’ll be adding this to my FU stash rather than taking it away. Here’s what it’ll bulk up the stash by around my target retirement window:
|Year 10||£ 20,074.32|
|Year 11||£ 22,674.03|
|Year 12||£ 25,403.73|
|Year 13||£ 28,269.92|
|Year 14||£ 31,279.42|
|Year 15||£ 34,439.39|
Now I fully acknowledge that spending Sunday afternoon preparing food isn’t for everyone. So what were my alternatives?
Pros: Cheap hot meals
Cons: Tastes like cardboard.
Verdict: Maybe the canteen in your office is better than mine. Even still, it will likely cost less than a tenner, but more than £3. So let’s guestimate that it’ll cost me 6 more months in work.
Meal deal from local shop
Pros: Cheap and cheerful
Cons: Usually includes fizzy drink/crisps/bar and questionable looking sandwich.
Verdict: I’ll save a year of my life, but will slowly poison my body! This wouldn’t tie in with treating my body like my most valuable asset, as laid out in my Personal Mission Statement.
Prepare something less time consuming (eg: sandwich)
Pros: Made fresh, by me, to my liking. Quick.
Cons: Probably not as satisfying as a hot meal.
Verdict: Will be just as cheap as preparing a hot meal, and will save me a year of my life. This one gets the silver medal.
Is meal prepping worth it? For me, absolutely, I get a year of my life back 🙂