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How To Meal Prep On A Budget

March 9, 2021

How To Meal Prep On A Budget


How To Make Eating Healthy Easy

If you’re looking to save time and money when it comes to what you’re spending on food, then you need to look at healthy meal prep. Meal prepping can help you save money by having food prepared to avoid time-crunch takeaway orders. It also means that by spending one session meal prepping things like your veggies for the week or portioning out snacks, you are more efficient with your time during the week.

It can also help you by saving money on food each week. Cutting out the takeaways helps, but so does cutting down on food wastage. If you’re constantly buying items from the grocery store, using a small amount for a recipe, and then throwing the rest away, you’re wasting money. 

I also love taking the stress out of my week. No more thinking about what to cook each night, wondering if I’ve got the right ingredients or last-minute trips to the supermarket. Healthy meal prep can help make my meal times quick and easy. So important when I have a lot on my plate. Making meals ahead of time can also help reduce food waste because you’ll know what ingredients you’ll definitely use, and then you’ll only buy those things.

How To Meal Prep On A Budget

Check your pantry before you shop

I know that this sounds like a given, but I’ve gone grocery shopping so many times with my shopping list from the meal plans but can’t remember how much of an ingredient I have at home. Or if I have any at all. So I buy a big bag of flour, or whatever it is, only to find flour at home. What a waste! Meal prepping requires spending a little more time upfront so that you can be prepared for the week. So take the time to plan out your shopping trip to be as efficient and effective as possible. This will also help you stick to your food budget since you won’t be spending money on things you actually need.

Create a grocery list

The biggest lesson I learned when beginning to focus on budget-friendly meal prep was to write grocery lists and stick to them. Whatever you plan on making or whatever lunch idea you get (taco bowls, burgers, stews, etc.), write exactly what ingredients you need for it. If you’re heading to the store with just a vague idea of what you’re going to cook, you’re likely to both overbuy fresh foods that you won’t get through and miss buying some necessary ingredients. This leads to both food waste and more trips to the grocery store. I find that as soon as I’ve picked up one thing that isn’t on the list I’m likely to pick up more, so I know to add things like any snacks or treats to the list before I go to keep myself on track. 

Look for the best value items

It can be hard to compare some grocery items with others, especially if they’re all different sizes. Is the pound of onions cheaper than the smaller bags? You need to compare on an ounce by ounce basis to truly see which is offering the best value. If you want cheap meal prep, you need to set a food budget and figure out which items make the most sense for it.

Purchase in small quantities

But then again, there’s no point in buying a giant bag of onions if you know you’re not going to use them. That’s a false economy. You’re saving money per pound, but it’s going to cost you more when you throw them out. Buy only what you’ll use. This is where meal planning can come in handy as you can to use the ingredients in various recipes across the week to make sure you’re not letting anything go to waste. That’s why making meals ahead of time helps reduce food waste – you’re only getting the food you’ll use up.

Plan ahead

This tip is mostly for saving time. When you plan ahead, you can do more things upfront. For example, if you know you’ll need a boiled egg every day for the next 3 days, boiled eggs can be batch cooked and kept in the fridge for a few days, so you can boil them upfront. So, even parts of meals can be meal prepped and batch cooked, not just whole meals.

Healthy Meal Prep Recipes On A Budget

Chickpea Sheet Pan with Bacon

Eat healthy but with some of your favorites with this easy-to-make bacon dish.

565 calories


  • 2 cups Brussels sprouts – 112 calories

  • 1 Sweet Potato, medium, 5 inches – 112 calories

  • ½ cup Beans & legumes, garbanzo beans (chickpeas), cooked – 134 calories

  • 1 Tbsp Olive oil (Tbsp) – 119 calories

  • 2 Uncured bacon, slice – 88 calories

  • 1 Salt, dash – 0 calories

  • 1 Pepper, dash – 0 calories


  1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

  2. Cut off Brussels’ hard ends & halve each one, or buy pre-shaved or cut Brussels.

  3. Cut bacon into small pieces with kitchen shears.

  4. Chop raw sweet potato into small chunks.

  5. Line a baking sheet with tin foil or parchment paper & add oil.

  6. Line veggies and chickpeas in a single layer on the baking sheet. Mix around so all contents are covered with oil.

  7. Bake for 45 minutes.

  8. Top with seasonings.

  9. No bacon? Use turkey or soy bacon.

Basic B Chili with Spicy Cauli Rice

Yes, you can change eating habits that involve comfort food into healthy food. This would be a great lunch idea. 

366 calories


  • 4 oz Ground beef, 90% lean, raw – 185 calories

  • 1 cup Canned, diced tomatoes – 50 calories

  • 1 Carrots, whole, medium – 25 calories

  • ¼ cup Celery stalks, chopped in half – 4 calories

  • ¼ Onion, yellow – 13.75 calories

  • 2 Tbsp Cheese, Parmesan, grated (Tbsp) – 50 calories

  • 1 cup Veggie noodles/rice, cauliflower “rice”, raw – 38 calories

  • 1 Cumin, dash – 0 calories

  • 1 Chili seasoning, dash – 0 calori

  • 1 Garlic salt, dash – 0 calories

  • 1 tsp Red pepper flakes, dash – 0 calories


  1. This recipe works best when making 2-3 servings at once.

  2. Dice carrot, onion, and celery.

  3. Spray a pan with an oil spray. Stir fry beef on medium heat 7-8 minutes, stirring occasionally, until no longer pink.

  4. While beef is cooking, spray a pot with an oil spray. Cook carrots, onion, and celery for ~6-7 minutes on low heat, stirring occasionally.

  5. Add in tomatoes and beef to the pot with the veggies. Add in cumin, chili powder, garlic salt, red pepper flakes.

  6. Cook pot’s contents on low heat for at least 10 minutes, stirring occasionally.

  7. While chili is cooking, clean the ground beef pan and spray it again with an oil spray. Stir-fry cauliflower rice for 7-8 minutes on medium heat, or until you see some browning.

  8. Add in Parmesan cheese, cumin, and chili powder.

  9. Top cauli rice with chili and serve.

  10. If you want to add a little cilantro and/or sliced jalapeno please do!

  11. No beef? Use ground turkey, tofu, or beans instead. No cheese? Use a dairy-free cheese, top chili with a little avocado, or use oil instead of an oil spray.

BBQ Chicken Bowl with Broccoli

One of my favorite meal prep ideas is to make a big batch of this on the weekend then divide into mason jars in my fridge for the week ahead.

423 calories


  • 5 oz Chicken thigh or breast, boneless, skinless, raw – 190 calories

  • 2 cups Broccoli – 62 calories

  • ¼ Onion, red – 13.75 calories

  • 1 Potato, sweet, medium, 5 inches – 112 calories

  • 3 Tbsp Barbeque sauce – 45 calories

  • 1 Cumin, dash – 0 calories

  • 1 Pepper, dash – 0 calories

  • 1 tsp Paprika, dash – 0 calories

  • 1 Garlic powder, dash – 0 calories


  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

  2. Cut sweet potato, chicken, onion into small pieces.

  3. Mix potato, chicken, onion, and broccoli with seasonings and BBQ sauce.

  4. Line baking sheet with parchment paper or tin foil and spray it with an oil spray.

  5. Bake sweet potato pieces for 45 minutes; add in chicken, broccoli & onion for the last 30 minutes. Mix food around at least once.

  6. Make sure chicken gets to 165 degrees F internally (use an instant-read thermometer).

  7. No chicken? Use tofu or fish.

Veggie Burrito Bowls

330 calories

You can meal prep the burrito bowl by cooking up the chickpeas and veggies in one big batch and making the seasoning/dressing. Then layer up in a mason jar the dressing, the cooked portion, then the salad leaves. Take a single-serve of guacamole with you to top off your high protein vegetarian bowl.


  • ½ cup Beans & legumes, garbanzo beans (chickpeas), cooked – 134 calories

  • ¼ cup Guacamole – 105 calories

  • ½ Bell pepper, red – 18.5 calories

  • ½ Bell pepper, yellow – 25 calories

  • 2 cups Leafy greens, raw – 30 calories

  • 1 Tbsp Vinaigrette, light (less than 50 calories per 2 Tbsp) – 17.5 calories

  • 1 Cumin, dash – 0 calories

  • 1 Salt, dash – 0 calories

  • 1 tsp Red pepper flakes, dash – 0 calories


  1. Drain and rinse chickpeas.

  2. Slice veggies.

  3. Spray pan with an oil spray. Cook veggies and chickpeas ~10 minutes, stirring frequently, on medium-low heat.

  4. Combine all ingredients.

  5. Top with seasoning and dressing.

  6. Note: I like Trader Joe’s fat free vinaigrette – but Paul Newman, Whole Foods, etc. all have good light dressings

Overnight Oats with Berries and PB

If I know I have an early start or a big morning planning, getting a little organized for my eating habits makes a big difference in how my day plays out.

519 calories


  • 6 oz Greek Yogurt, plain, 2%, from tub – 127.5 calories

  • ¾ cup Milk, skim, non-fat – 67.5 calories

  • 1 cup Raspberries, frozen, not sweetened – 80 calories

  • ½ cup Oatmeal, dry oats (uncooked) – 150 calories

  • 1 Tbsp Peanut butter – 94 calories


  1. Combine oats, milk, yogurt, berries, PB in a bowl.

  2. Add to a mason jar & cover with lid.

  3. Refrigerate overnight.

  4. No nuts? Use a seed butter e.g. sunflower seed butter. No dairy? Use a dairy free yogurt and milk.

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How To Meal Prep On A Budget

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