Food Prep Guide: Cut Time, Save Dollars & Waste Less

My biggest failure as an environmentally conscious human is planning. I hate to say it because it's a real cliché, but if you fail to plan you really do plan to fail.

As a 20-something-year-old who juggles work, social life, various interests and hobbies I seem to be always moving around, and my number one failure is take away food.

It starts off innocently enough, catching up with a friend for dinner on a work night means I didn't cook. Not cooking means I have no leftovers. No leftovers lead to my buying lunch the next day.

It's an awful cycle, full of wasted food, an empty wallet and slowly wilting vegetables at the bottom of the crisper.

After three weeks of composting around $30 a week in food I finally decided enough is enough, I drew up a meal prep plan and have since been eating home cooked meals every day. Producing little waste while saving loads of dollars.

So here is my simple guide to food prepping, I recommend doing it on a Sunday, but any day you've got free time will do.

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Step 1: Plan

For me, variety is key. I can make a massive soup and attempt to eat it every day, but food fatigue will kick in and by day three I've spent $15 on a burrito.

When it comes to planning I try and decide on three meals to rotate, the trick here is to choose different types of meals with similar ingredients.

So here is one of my regular food plans that can quickly adapt to your local, seasonal and personal tastes:

Pumpkin, broccoli, cauliflower and chickpea curry

Broccoli, pesto and white bean pasta

Pumpkin, cauliflower white bean soup

Now you've got three dishes, with three very different flavours but virtually the same ingredients, keep it simple.

Master Tip: Things like black bean chilli work well too, one day you can make chilli on rice with guacamole, the next nachos and then a burrito. All the same ingredients: 3 different meals

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Look at what flavours you like and you'll find you've got the spices, sauces and herbs to be able to chuck them together quickly.

For example, I've got loads of dry spices; which will go in the curry, I've always got pesto on hand, and my cupboard is full of cans upon cans of beans.

Step 2: Prepare

This step is where time is drastically cut down. Rather than cooking the curry, then cooking the pasta and then making a soup- hit three birds with one stone.

Get some large bowls out, and start chopping. Once all your produce is cut up, clean up any mess you've made and pop it all to one side.

Step 3: Cook

Cooking is my favourite part, the figuring out how I can save time cooking three dishes as once.

There are so many ways to save space, time and energy. An example is having my pot of water boiling, which I'll pop my pumpkin in, instead of a lid I'll have a colander on top of the pumpkin: which is where I steam the broccoli.

Once the pumpkin is cooked, I'll put it into a bowl, or the next pot it needs to be cooked in and use that water to cook my pasta.

Tip: cook pasta for 3 minutes less than normal, it'll freeze better and heat up in the microwave without turning into sludge.

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The trick is choosing ingredients that either use the same method of cooking; e.g. roasting a whole bunch of veggies at once, or produce that can be cooked around each other such as steaming on top of boiling.

The navigation of saving time and space is something that will differ depending on what you cook, but the more you do it, the more you'll find little tricks.


This part seems simple but possibly the most important. I didn't want to invest a whole bunch of money in Tupperware, so instead I use jars. The great thing about jars is they stack, and you can use them in the freezer just follow this guide.

This step will depend on your space; I like to portion everything into single serves, for this prep, I'd typically end up with 6x Pasta Jars, 6x Curry with Rice jars & 7x soup jars.

Then I sit down and write out a plan, which looks a little something like this

Then jars I'm not planning on using that week I chuck in the freezer (either for the next week or if I can't be bothered cooking one night) and the rest will be stored in the fridge.

This way, I can still change what I feel like on the day, but I've made sure I'm not letting a whole batch go bad due to my indecisive nature.

The more you prep, the better you get. You'll notice how much easier it is to make zero-waste meals when suddenly you are making celery leaf pesto for your pasta from the off cuts of the celery you threw into your spring minestrone.

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Paloma Brierley Newton Former Content Creator Suggest an article Send us an email

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