If you have just been to the movies (in a real movie theatre), you know how quick it is to blow $20. One ticket, a bottle of water, and a little bag of popcorn and lo! You end up wasting way more money than you planned before going there. In fact, most pizza joints now cost $24 for a big pie. Twenty dollars won’t get you very far these days. Would it? Meal planning is one approach to help you remain in sync with your budget and dietary plans. You will be less willing to lean towards pricey takeout or last-minute runs to the supermarket, where you will undoubtedly grab something you already have in the fridge if you plan your meals for the week.
Meal prep involves prepping meals ahead of time for the following several days or weeks. It might be difficult to know precisely what you are going to eat and at what time, which is why we have performed the legwork for you.
The average student spends £101 on groceries every month, plus an additional £41 on takeouts and dining out (for a total of £142 on food), for a total of £1,704 over the course of a year. We crunched the numbers, and following our low-cost meal prep plan could save you £100s a year, with a day’s supply of meals (breakfast, lunch, supper, and snacks) costing just £2.78!
Tips for prepping meals on a budget
1. Plan meals
Schedule your meals, then make a list and visit the local grocery store or online to obtain them. This will allow you to better anticipate the costs of the items you will require. It will give you a decent indication of whether you will be over or under budget, even if it is never accurate. You shouldn’t have to buy your groceries online (which is usually more costly); simply put your items in the cart to check how much they will cost.
2. Buy products from generic brands
When you are on a tight budget, you have to be much more flexible regarding the brands you add to your orders. Generic brands are perfectly fine. These are all the supermarket chains’ own brands, such as Whole Foods’ 365.
3. Think quickly
At the local supermarket, be prepared to think on your feet. When you arrive at the market, you may see that many things are much more costly while some are on discount. To purchase under your budget, you will need to make quick decisions, unless you want to waste hours at the grocery store. If your shop is out of anything on your list or it’s more pricey than expected, always Google replacements and substitutions.
4. Mix and match ingredients
Ingredients can be overlapping. Rice, pasta, and oats, for example, are only available in bigger containers. This is your opportunity to use the same items in many dishes! Frozen mixed vegetables, large bunches of greens, and spices are all in the same boat as the oats.
5. Reusable containers
Purchasing special containers for affordable meal prep may seem paradoxical, but it supports this routine in some ways. To begin, you can equally distribute meals cooked in bulk throughout the week. When you cook a meal that feeds seven, you may simply set away seven containers with equal amounts of food, allowing you to extend your earnings over a longer period of time.
The next benefit of reusable containers is that they make it simple to “grab-and-go” with your meals. It lowers the chances that you will forget to carry your meal prep lunch to work because you are late or too impatient to put it all together each morning. So you don’t slip off the wagon, store and portion your meals as soon as they are done cooking.
This is a somewhat difficult method of meal prep on a budget, but it works. Think about purchasing items in bulk at Costco if you don’t mind eating the same meal day after day. If you want to try this inexpensive meal prep approach, use foods that are easier to freeze or keep fresh in your pantry for the maximum shelf life.
Meal-prepping bulk components like chicken breast, frozen broccoli, and a side of brown rice are an example. You may also use the dry flavourings in your cabinet to change up the flavours of your protein and veggies.
Meal prep on a budget is doable, despite the fact that it takes time and practises to prepare your meals ahead of time. Don’t overthink your meals, and adhere to this budget-friendly routine to save money throughout the year.
7. Simple ingredients
Planning meals that don’t need unusual or difficult-to-find ingredients is another way to save money on meal prep. Although making your fresh handmade lobster rolls is a delectable concept, you can expect to pay a premium for the seafood item. Instead, go for less expensive options like tuna melts.
One basic rule of thumb is to keep your meal prep ideas to meals with five or fewer major ingredients. You will require a can of tuna, bread, mayonnaise, cheese, and seasonings for the tuna melt.
Budget-friendly meal prep ideas
One of the most efficient ways to hold your food budget under check is to plan, prepare, and portion your meals in advance. We have compiled a list of budget-friendly meal prep ideas to please your taste buds and fill your tummy without breaking the bank!
1. Easy Pesto Chicken and Vegetables
It is the ideal light, tasty, and quick meal prep dish. It is also quite simple to make. This simple sauté may be cooked with a summery medley of yellow squash, zucchini, red bell pepper, green beans, and red onion, but there are far more vegetables to choose from, including broccoli, carrots, grape tomatoes, mushrooms, fresh corn, asparagus, and spinach. You can also swap the chicken for healthier options like tofu or shrimp.
When selecting various vegetables, the most key point to remember is when to put everything to the skillet. You would not want to thoroughly roast the vegetables for this meal. They must be firm and crunchy. Bear this in view, put the tough vegetables first and the soft veggies last to avoid overcooking.
2. Autumn Kale and Sweet Potato Salad
You can assemble this salad ahead of time and store it in the refrigerator for up to five days attributable to the juiciness of the kale and the low moisture items. To tender the kale, either put the dressing away or throw the salad in the dressing in advance. If you mix the salad in the dressing before storing it, add excess dressing since part of it will be absorbed as the salad cools and dries.
If you don’t like the taste of kale, you can switch to spinach. You could also test lacinato kale, which is a milder kind of kale. This salad may also be made with finely grated cabbage and carrots.
3. Pumpkin pie overnight oats
You may add a bit to your morning oatmeal rather than looking for a dish that asks for the precise quantity of pumpkin purée you have remaining from the last meal you made. You can either swirl in a teaspoon or two into a pot of hot oats (with cinnamon and brown sugar) or create some Pumpkin Pie Overnight Oats. If you are in a place where it is still relatively warm this season of the year, these overnight oats are also a fantastic way to derive that fall flavour and aroma.
4. Greek Chickpea Salad
Are you missing the aromas of Greece? This Greek Chickpea Salad is a must-try. It is bursting at the seams with beautiful Greek tastes. Fluffy couscous, juicy cherry tomatoes, chickpeas, crunchy cucumbers, salty olives, and creamy feta cheese are among the ingredients.
This salad is not only tasty, but it is also healthy. It provides about half of your daily fibre requirements. As a result, it is beneficial to your digestion. It is also high in monounsaturated fats, which are good for heart health. This Greek Chickpea Salad is exploding with Greek flavours right now. However, red onions can be added for an enhanced Greek taste. Yum!
5. Meal Prep Shrimp Taco Bowls
Let’s face it, seafood is usually rather pricey. So, what are your options? Combine seafood with a less expensive protein, such as beans!
And that’s exactly what these Meal Prep Shrimp Taco Bowls do. You have got black beans with Mexican-seasoned shrimp. So you have got just about enough shrimp to feed yourself — without going broke. Not only that, but there’s more. Corn, tomatoes, brown rice, and cheddar cheese are among the ingredients. Thus, after having this meal, you will undoubtedly be content.
Shrimp is not only delicious, but it is also healthy. It is high in omega-3 fatty acids, which are good for your heart. It also includes antioxidants called astaxanthin, which may help to decrease inflammation. So go ahead and chomp on some shrimp!
6. Crock Pot Teriyaki Chicken
Hmmm we are craving some Japanese in this house, aren’t we? Shredded chicken prepared in a Japanese way is what we have in mind! It should be simmered for a couple of hours in a slow cooker.
That should make it juicy and soft. It is a supper you will want to enjoy again and over again. It comes with roasted red bell peppers, snow peas, broccoli, and onions, as well as rice. This would make sure that you are consuming a decent serving of vegetables.
The Teriyaki Chicken is easy to prepare. Simply place the chicken breasts in a slow cooker with some homemade Teriyaki sauce on top. Then stew for 4-6 hours on low. When done, shred the meat with two forks or a meat shredder.
It is preferable to cook the chicken in a timed slow cooker to avoid it drying out. The slow cooker will switch off on its own in this manner, and the chicken will not dry out.
7. Spicy Pineapple Chicken Meal Prep
From the fiery chicken to the tropical pineapple, this dish is bursting with island tastes. It is also quite pocket-friendly. This cost-effectiveness is because you are utilising chicken thighs instead of chicken breasts. Chicken thighs are not only less expensive, but they are also more flavorful. This is due to the fact that they have more fat. It’s a win-win, we’d say!
This meal prep does, however, have a high salt content. You may lower the sodium levels by using a low-sodium soy sauce. Compared to ordinary soy sauce, this one has about 40% less salt. You may also add coconut aminos to reduce sodium even further. They contain about 70% less salt than ordinary soy sauce. They would also infuse this meal with extra island tastes.
8. Honey Garlic Chicken Meal Prep
If you train at the gym on a daily basis, you will crave a protein-rich dinner when you get home, and this Honey Garlic Chicken Meal Prep has enough of it. It really has a staggering 65 grammes of protein in it.
From the outside, the chicken thighs are well roasted. They are also luscious on the inside, which is just as they must be. Honey gives sweetness, while soy sauce adds umami flavours. Furthermore, the garlic lends a savoury tone, while the black pepper brings a touch of fire.
So take a seat, relax and dig in!
9. Meal Prep Cottage Cheese Tuna Salad
A rather unconventional addition to this list is the Tuna Salad with Cottage Cheese. You are eating cottage cheese instead of mayonnaise, which means you enjoy the creamy texture of tuna salad while consuming fewer calories. Cottage cheese also supplies a considerable amount of protein to the recipe.
You have also included celery and radishes to provide some crunch. To add some zesty freshness, you can squeeze a lemon. Your tuna salad is going to be served with carrot noodles. Imagine carrot noodles to be the sweeter cousin of zucchini noodles. Wash and peel some carrots and snip off the ends to prepare them. The carrot noodles may then be fashioned with a peeler or spiralizer.
10. Instant Pot Chicken Fried Rice Meal Prep Bowls
It’s time for another out-of-the-box recipe. This idea is for Instant Pot Chicken Fried Rice, and it is delicious.
Even without stir-fry, you have all of the delicious flavours of conventional Chicken Fried Rice. It is quite simple to make. In your Instant Pot, mix the butter, garlic cloves, chicken, chicken broth, soy sauce, and rice. Sauté for 3 minutes on high pressure. After that, quickly relieve the pressure.
Microwave some frozen vegetables while the chicken is cooking. Then, toss in the frozen veggies and green onions with a good stirring.
11. Taco Lettuce Wraps Meal Prep
These Taco Lettuce Wraps are a fantastic substitute for tacos if you are seeking for a healthy substitute. They are delicious and filling. They are also lower in calories because you are putting in lettuce as your tortilla. They also have fewer carbohydrates. As a result, a handful won’t put you into a carb coma.
In addition, rather than ground beef, you add ground turkey. Therefore, the lettuce wraps are lower in fat and calories. (Wow!) Ground turkey might be a bit tasteless at times. To enhance flavour, you will need a variety of spices — eight to be exact. So, pull out your measuring spoons!
12. Mexican Red Bean Quinoa Casserole Meal Prep
Casseroles are an excellent method to streamline meal preparation. Put all of the ingredients in a casserole dish and bake it. Then you leave the job to your oven. This meal has a lot of Mexican tastes in it, which isn’t what you would expect from a casserole.
You are also adding quinoa rather than pasta or rice, which isn’t something you would see in a classic casserole. Quinoa is an excellent organic protein source. It is a full protein, unlike several plant-based proteins.
This indicates it includes all of your necessary amino acids. It is also beneficial to your bones. Manganese, magnesium, and phosphorus are all found in it. Furthermore, it is gluten-free!
13. Ground Beef Zucchini Sweet Potato Skillet Meal Prep
Meal prepping offers several advantages. However, cleaning all of those pots and pans may be a chore. This is when the Skillet Meal Prep comes to the rescue. It makes cleaning up a breeze.
Most importantly, it is quite tasty. The smoothness of the sweet potatoes and red bell peppers counteracts the ground beef’s savoury flavour. In addition, the zucchini provides additional nourishment. It is a dinner you will want to serve over and over to your family. Chop your sweet potatoes into small chunks to ensure they cook thoroughly.
If at all possible, choose a cast-iron skillet for cooking. Cast iron skillets are excellent at evenly spreading heat. As a result, your food will cook properly.
14. Meal Prep Cranberry-Walnut Chicken Salad
It is not a chicken salad, it is THE chicken salad!
It is full of surprising flavours and textures. The walnuts provide crunch, while the dried cranberries provide flavour and tartness. Greek yoghurt adds smoothness and protein to the dish. Tarragon, on the other hand, provides minty and peppery aromas. You may never want conventional Chicken Salad again after eating this salad…just saying.
15. Low-Carb Sheet Pan Sausage & Veggies
Do you desire to eat a healthy low-carb diet on a tight budget? The route through this Sheet Pan dish.
A variety of low-carb vegetables is prepared with juicy seasoned sausages. Yellow bell peppers, zucchini, and butternut squash are among them. So you have got a good savoury-sweet balance. Who thought healthy food could be so tasty? This meal is delicious on its own. You may, however, combine it with mashed cauliflower if desired.
16. Baked Herb Chicken Breasts with Couscous Meal Prep
Are you seeking to shed pounds? Your new greatest buddy is going to be chicken breasts.
That is because they are high in protein, which keeps you satiated. It also helps to speed up your metabolism. However, since they are low in fat, they might have an unappealing flavour. And no one likes eating food that has no flavour. The Mediterranean seasonings give these herb chicken breasts a lot of flavours. The couscous infusion with red onions, zucchini, and vegetable broth adds further Mediterranean tastes.
It is hard to believe this is diet food.
17. Korean Beef Bowl
Do you have a strong craving for Korean cuisine? This Korean Beef Bowl will quench your appetite.
It is chock-full of deliciousness. Korean-seasoned beef, crunchy carrot salad, cool cucumbers sliced, brown rice, and a medium-boiled egg are all on the menu. As a result, you’re receiving a lot of value for your money. The best part is that one batch serves 6 servings. As a result, you may have it almost every day of the week.
18. Vegetable soup
This heart-warming soup will feel like a hug on those bitterly cold working days. Fill this simple, cheap soup with earthy deliciousness by using any of your favourite holiday root vegetables.
If you are constantly on the move at work and sometimes don’t have accessibility to a microwave, soup is a great choice. Your soup may be reheated in the morning, poured into a flask, and kept warm until lunchtime. Simply prepare your soup as per the instructions and part it into single-serving containers, or decant into one vessel and divide out amounts as needed throughout the week. Store in the refrigerator for up to four days or freeze until required.
The article attempted to suggest to its readers some ideas who want to try out meal prepping on a budget. These meal prep ideas are ideal for busy individuals since they can be prepared on Sunday and provide nutritious, fully prepared meals for the whole business week! Weight reduction will be encouraged by these nutritious meal prep recipes. There are chicken, beef, vegetarian, low carb, and other nutritious lunch and supper options to select from.
These meals will save you money as well. Scheduling your meals ahead of time can help you save money at the grocery store and avoid impulsive buying. Furthermore, knowing that you have great and wholesome meals prepared for you during the week will make you less inclined to dine out during the week!