It's the end of the month and you get your credit card bill, eyes pop out of your head and you think, WHERE IS ALL MY MONEY GOING? You've stopped eating out, you only buy cheap coffees, and your clothing and travel budget is nonexistent. You think you have no more room to cut costs. I am here to tell you that you do! There is hope at the end of the "very broke" tunnel. I know this because despite all of my penny saving tricks, I needed to find a way to save another $100 or more a month and I found it. It's your recipes man! Yep that's right. You think you are being thrifty by cooking home-cooked meals but let me tell you where all the extra money goes…it's those darn recipes!

Recipes are a total money sucker. That's where your "stay in and cook" plan starts to get expensive. Let's play this out. You make the frugal decision to stay home and cook. What's the first thing you do? Google a recipe that has you flying to the store to pick up all the missing ingredients you need for this home cooked delight. Before you know it, you have a jar of masala seasoning (of which you only need a teaspoon), a bunch of leeks (of which you only need one), and a jar of sun-dried tomatoes (of which you only need a quarter of). You use your new ingredients one time, and are on to the next recipe, likely throwing out, or never using the other leftover un-versatile ingredients. Stop this, stop buying ingredients you only use once a year, stop googling recipes that require additional trips to the store, stop wasting money…and no, I am not saying stop eating. Well I am, I am saying stop eating food that requires you to waste money and start REVERSE MEAL PREPPING.

What the heck is reverse meal prepping (RMP)? It's cooking backwards! No, I don't mean put your back to the stove while you try to simmer your veggies. I mean make a weekly grocery list, stick to it, buy your staples, some proteins, some veggies, some fiber, complex carbs etc… When it's time to cook, type in three main ingredients you have in your house like chicken breast/broccoli/rice or salmon/pasta/green bean or potato/egg/cheese...you get the idea. NOW google. Recipe's will pop up with those ingredients. If any recipes pop up with additional ingredients you don't have you can either leave them out, or google a substitution for that ingredient.

Sounds obvious right? I have so many people ask me "what gave you the idea to make that!?" and I simply say, I just googled a couple ingredients I had on hand. I care about being healthy, but I am a very flexible cook. If a recipe calls for onions and all I have are scallions, it's fine. If a recipe calls for sweet potatoes and all I have are regular potatoes…yep you guessed it, it's fine. This way at the end of the week, or year, you wont throw out hundreds of dollars of food, and you won't head to the store to purchase hundreds of dollars of additional ingredients.

A few tips to make your Reverse Meal Prepping successful:

  • Have a well stocked spice cabinet
  • Have a variety of condiments that have a long shelf life
  • Only buy one meal's worth of meat/veggie protein at a time (unless you are prepping lunches and stuff).
  • Buy veggies that you know you love (not the I "should eat this" kind)
  • Minimize the purchase of foods that expire within 7 days, more trips to the store is better than throwing out food
  • Don't be afraid to get crazy in the kitchen and mix ingredients you never thought would go together! Breakfast Pizza and Hotdog omelets can totally be a thing!
  • Focus on healthy ingredients, not magazine worthy presentation

Let the RMP Begin!

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I thought I had a pretty good handle on my finances out of school. I worked several jobs while attending university and had little to no problem managing my income. However, once I graduated, I realized how much more complicated personal accounting could really be.

There were so many variables I needed to keep track of. Biweekly bills, monthly charges, and general necessities amounted to a heap of confusing numbers that were often impossible to decipher. The funniest part was that I was actually trying to do this by hand (I don't know what I was trying to prove to myself, either).

After messing up for the 17th time, I decided to give Microsoft Excel a shot. I used Excel a bit in school and I knew all the big-wig finance people used it, so what could I possibly have to lose? The answer is about six hours of my precious time. Excel isn't much of an improvement over handwriting and it's still dependent on the user to manually input all of the information. It's like doing everything by hand with the slightest help, meaning that it still required a tremendous amount of time and concentration. Well that was all for nothing, I guess.

It's sort of funny. I was certain that I could manage my personal finances with ease, when it's practically a full-time job. I was already stressed out enough with my first job and I knew I didn't have enough time to give my finances the attention it deserved.

That's why I decided to try out a budgeting app. My best friend told me that he uses an app called Truebill to manage his finances. "What does it even mean to manage your finances?" I asked him. He told me that Truebill was the personal financial assistant I wished I could have. It could aggregate all of my account information into one place and give me specific insights and actions.

I loved the idea of having full control over my finances, especially during a time of financial uncertainty, and I realized that Truebill would be the easiest way to accomplish this. The user interface is incredibly simple and intuitive, so it doesn't even feel like a finance app! Truebill offers a multitude of features, with their most popular being the ability to cancel subscriptions with the press of a button.

Okay, I had no idea how many subscriptions I was still subscribed to. In fact, I wasn't even using a quarter of the subscription services I was signed up for. Subscription boxes, streaming services, my old gym, and even an old subscription to my favorite magazine--it was all there and I was livid. How could I let myself waste all of this money and how did I never catch this? Thank goodness for Truebill.

Truebill also offers bill negotiations. There is a 40% fee based on how much you save and Truebill even claims that there is an 85% chance that they'll be able to lower your bill once a negotiation is requested. Why wouldn't I take them up on this? There was zero risk and I would only have to pay once my bill was lowered (which means that I would be saving money regardless).

More standard features of Truebill include the ability to generate a credit report on-demand and even request a pay advance. I only used the pay advance feature once when I wanted to buy a gift for my mom, but didn't have enough cash in hand and Truebill automatically reimbursed itself when I got my next paycheck.

The credit report is another fantastic feature and practically taught me what good credit meant. Truebill's credit report basically shows you which financial decisions have the most significant impact on your credit score and ways that you can improve your credit month-over-month. I've never had such control over my credit and it feels good.

I'll be the first to admit that I was extremely naive coming out of school. I figured that as long as I was attentive, I could manage my finances with ease. We manage money to some extent throughout our entire lives, but once you're thrown out on your own, it's a completely different story. With Truebill, I've finally been able to take control over my finances and stay on top of all of my responsibilities.

Update: Our friends at Truebill are extending a special offer to our readers! Follow this link to sign-up for Truebill.