We tend to think about personal finance as an exercise in discipline when it comes to reining in your spending. But often personal finance is just a matter of how much boredom you’re willing to endure.
Case in point: If you really want to save money with the stingiest of them, you have to be comfortable eating the same, homemade meal for lunch, every day of the week, every week of your godforsaken life.
If you’re the kind of weak-minded sucker who values things like “variety” and “taste” and “social interaction with other sentient human beings,” then the above scenario probably sounds like something akin to Dante’s Ninth Circle. But for those strong enough to stomach a life without flavor, it’s a surefire course to saving substantial amounts of cash.
As we’ve covered before, dining out is just about the worst thing you can do, personal finance-wise. Not only is eating out several magnitudes more expensive than making your own meals, it puts people in a consumption mindset, making them more susceptible to making other frivolous purchases.
Yet there’s a group of dedicated thrifters who take the whole dining-in thing to the nth degree in a process they call weekly meal prep. Rather than prepare themselves a discrete meal two or three times a day, they prepare a week’s worth of food at the beginning of each week, and apportion it out as the week goes on. They spread their gospel on r/personalfinance, a Reddit forum for sharing saving tips. It’s filled with posts from people looking to systematize their food preparation and consumption in a similar fashion, and people who say meal prep was integral in paying off more than $40,000 in debt.
Take, for instance, this man’s insane meal prep regimen, which involves making a burrito bowl large enough to kill three grown cheetahs, and then divvying it up into six Tupperware containers, which he and his fiancée eat from as the week progresses.
He claims preparing these six meals costs him just $40 in groceries, and saves him upwards of $75 a week versus eating out. That’s $3,750 in savings over the course of 50 work weeks per year.
Some meal prep devotees are so intense that they’ve created their own subreddit, r/MealPrepSunday. There, they share photos of their Tupperware collections and brag about making 1,000-calorie meals at scale, for just $2 per meal.
But as the reaction of Nicole Cliffe—beloved editor of the now-defunct website The Toast—shows, the very thought of eating the same reheated meal every day evokes a strange amount of guilt and visceral anger in those of us who just want to eat something different each day.
Everyone would like to save more money, but saving money is often a battle between your pocketbook and your sanity, and the key is to identify which financial sacrifices you can make without burning yourself out.
For meal preppers, variety is that price.
For the rest of us, however, it sounds like a nightmare.