Evelyn Paynter is so meticulous with her meal prep that she never throws away any food — and it's saving her a whopping $4,300 a year.
The 23-year-old Queenslander has stuck to meal plans and prepared bulk freezer meals for years now, but has recently taken it a step further to ensure zero food waste — and it's changing her life.
"I spend one morning preparing all our food for the week," she told news.com.au
"Meal prepping is just as important as meal planning to save money."
That means chopping every carrot, celery stick or mushroom cup, putting them in separate containers ready to use or eat on the go. Every lunch is prepped, and dinners organised. She can see every ingredient, knows what to use and makes sure everything is eaten.
It saves her time at night, and puts more than $87 a week back in her pocket — money she was spending on lazy takeaways or food that was bought with good intention but rarely used.
"These photos are last Monday's meal prep and what my fridge looked like before grocery shopping today," she said.
"Aside from condiments, all that's left in my fridge is a quarter block of cheese and half an iceberg lettuce, which is still fine to eat for this week's lunches.
"We cook four nights a week. One of those is a big cook of at least three meals' worth to replace freezer meals we eat on the other nights.
"All snacks and lunches are also prepared — literally everything is washed cut up and ready to grab and go.
"That way I know exactly how much food is allocated to each meal — meaning we use everything we buy and it's so much easier to just throw in the pan or oven after a busy day, making takeout much less tempting."
The early childhood educator started her diligent meal prep because she has a connective tissue disorder and spinal injury — conditions that leave her in too much pain after a long day at work to cook a meal.
"My husband would often work late, so he would often just get take away on his way home," Ms Paynter said.
"Then one day I was making my salads for lunch for the week and decided to cut up the vegies for that night's dinner at the same time — when I realised how easy it was to cook dinner that evening, I was hooked.
"I would say it saves at least $43 a week just on takeaways, and another $40 for the other three night's worth of food I had bought to cook, but never did.
"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.
"It has completely changed my life because cooking dinner isn't such a daunting task anymore.
"Not only do I save on preparation time in the evening, I also save on clean-up time, meaning have more time to spend with my family."