Meal Prepping A Week at a Time Saves Money, Time and Calories

Photo of meals in glass containers
Planning and preparing meals ahead of time can make the work week much less hectic. These tips and suggestions from UT Extension will help put those plans into action. ​Photo courtesy of 

KNOXVILLE – Making healthy choices for meals and snacks can quickly become exhausting, especially for individuals who struggle with decision fatigue. But a handy tip from University of Tennessee Extension can make a work week healthier and easier to manage financially.

Janie Burney, UT Extension nutrition specialist, suggests devoting a couple weekend hours to meal prep for the week. “Start with a simple, healthy recipe that yields several portions. Once the meal is prepared, divide it into multiple containers for later and two plates for now. Put the containers in the fridge, and if necessary, label them for the first few days of the week. Then, sit down and enjoy dinner with a friend or loved one, knowing you’ve got easy, nourishing meals for a few days to get the week started smoothly.”

According to Burney, as you enjoy a nutritious, home prepared lunch each day rather than eating out, you can end up with significant savings over time. “It’s also a much less stressful way to live. Rather than rushing in the evenings or early mornings to figure out a plan for that day’s lunch, all you need is to open the fridge and pick up the next day’s container. If your workplace doesn’t have a refrigerator, then a cooler and ice pack are necessary, but those can be purchased at any grocery or general retail store,” continues the expert.

To choose a recipe to use, watch for those that include lots of vegetables (broccoli, cauliflower, spinach, carrots, potatoes, sweet potatoes, kale, mushrooms, onions, peppers, zucchini, summer squash, asparagus, cherry tomatoes), a lean protein (legumes, turkey, salmon, tofu, chicken) and a healthy starch (brown rice, quinoa). This formula will help keep you full, avoiding fast food snacks or drinks on the way home.

For homes with two or more adults, Burney suggests working together and preparing two large recipes, then freezing individual portions. “Two recipes to choose from will add variety to the week, and give partners more time to spend together each evening,” continues the nutrition specialist. “Just take a portion out of the freezer ahead of time to thaw in the refrigerator, and voila, the next day’s lunch is a stress-free, healthy moment of your day.”

For recipe options from UT Extension, log on to and click on the “Let’s Cook” tab.

For additional resources, contact the UT Extension family and consumer sciences agent at your local county Extension office. You can also visit the UT Extension Family and Consumer Sciences website at

Through its mission of research, teaching and extension, the University of Tennessee Institute of Agriculture touches lives and provides Real. Life. Solutions.​.



Janie Burney, UT Extension, 865-974-7402,