This article will provide you with useful tips and information on How to Meal Prep On A Budget. This guide for beginners covers the ultimate savings tips for meal prepping without compromising on healthy and nutritious meals. This is our “How to Meal Prep On A Budget: Guide for beginners” article, enjoy!
There is a misconception that eating healthy and buying organic will burst your wallet. I am here to tell you that is not true with this guide on How to Meal Prep on a Budget.
I used to struggle with budgeting and I was spending enormous amounts of money on food.
In 2018, I was spending about $500 a month on food…just for one person.
It wasn’t until I started keeping careful watch over my expenses where I realized that there were so many ways to decrease my food expenditures. That is when I turned to meal prep.
Like the majority of you reading this, nobody wants to live like a student in college. Some of you may have families to feed, nobody wants to have boxed macaroni and cheese every night of the week!
What if I told you that meal prepping will reduce your food shopping expenses by 25%+?
That’s right! That is how much of a decrease I saw in my grocery bill once I started to learn how to meal prep on a budget.
If you want to enjoy healthy, nutritious food, packed with protein and vitamins, look no further – start meal planning. If you want to read our step-by-step guide and access our most comprehensive resource on meal prepping, keep reading our article below.
What is Meal Prep?
Obviously the terms speaks for itself but if you are new to meal prep, this is a quick breakdown:
Meal prep is when you prepare a dish and double or triple the recipe to produce enough food to eat several days of the week. It is essentially batch cooking. For those watching their diets, people will measure out the servings for each meal and separate the dishes into containers for each day of the week.
Wouldn’t it be nice to come home from work each day and not have to prepare your dinner? That is what meal prep will do for you. With batch cooking, you will have ample food for ‘on-the-go’ breakfast, lunch during the work day, dinner for weeknights, and yes, even dessert if you are inclined.
Meal prep can be as easy or intense as you want. It really is up to you. Unfortunately, a lot of fitness experts are flooding the internet with meal prep concepts that are way too extensive.
With that said, let’s get started and and learn how to meal prep on a budget!
Who can meal prep?
Everyone! I think the majority of people tend to meal prep nowadays. With your busy schedule, meal prepping saves so much time and hassle during the week. The last thing you want to do when you come home is cook an entire meal. So, why not meal prep? Unless you have all the money and time in the world to meal prep, you should try it out!
Meal prep is great for those who are:
- Working professionals
- Parents raising children
- People who are constantly on-the-go
- Students needing meals in a hurry
- Health conscience people
- People looking to reduce monthly expenses
Benefits of Meal Prepping On A Budget
Meal prep lowers stress, saves time and saves money. It helps a lot of people stay on track with their health and nutrition goals. When you prepare your meals in advance, it helps you maximize your time during the week. Wouldn’t you rather spend 2-3 hours making your meals ahead of time so that way you don’t have cook and clean each day of the week? How about reducing the amount of money you would spend on buying ingredients to prepare different meals each day?
If you want to save time, money and stick to your healthy lifestyle, give meal prep a go.
1. Meal Prep Saves You Time
If you don’t have to cook every night, you are saving time. The biggest advantage to meal prepping is the time savings. Think about it…how long would it take you every night to cook a meal and then clean up? If it takes you 1 hour each night to do that, then you are saving 5 hours a week by meal prepping.
You also save time with the amount you would normally grocery shop. When you meal prep, you no longer need to make several trips to the market. Shopping once for the entire week saves you time running errands.
2. Meal Prep Saves Money
Stop eating out every day of the week! Most restaurants charge $10-$17 per meal. That adds up to hundreds of dollars per month and thousands of dollars per year. Did you know that if you meal prep on a budget, you can save an average of $200 per month?
Think about that. If you are saving an average of $200 a month, over 1 year that is a savings of $2,400, and over 10 years that is a savings of $24,000. Plus, there are wholesaler food markets that sell bulk items that have a long shelf life and have a lower cost per unit. That means more savings for you. More on that below.
If you are finding that your grocery bill is too high, meal prep can help bring those costs down to a reasonable number. You will reduce the amount of trips you make to the market each week and you will decrease the amount of extra food you get at the store since you will have a pre-planned ingredient list.
When you go to the store with a few recipes in mind that you will meal prep for the week, you will know exactly what you are buying and how much you’ll need. Say goodbye to impulse purchases!
3. Meal Prep Helps You Eat Healthy
My mother used to say if you don’t buy junk food when you grocery shop, then there is none for you to eat when you are at home. The same principle applies here as well. If you meal prep healthy meals for the entire week, you’re going to stay on track with your diet.
You won’t be tempted to eat an on-the-go, high caloric, fatty meal because you ‘don’t feel like cooking.’
When you cook your own meals, you are in control of what you decide to put into the dish. No more hidden calories that even healthier restaurant food is full with. Stay in control of your lifestyle, plan your meals ahead, and decrease your chances of getting derailed from your nutrition goals.
How to Meal Prep On A Budget: Step-By-Step Guide
Step 1: Choose Your Meals For Prep
First, decide on which course you will meal prep for. If you are new to meal prep, start out with preparing your dinners in advance or your lunches. The more courses you prepare, the longer the meal prep time you will need to dedicate to cooking.
How do you decide which meal to prepare in advance? Ask yourself these questions:
- Is there a meal I tend to skip because I don’t have time to cook?
- Which meals do I tend to eat-out / order-out most?
- Which meals do I spend the most money on?
- Do I enjoy cooking more in the morning or at the end of my work day?
- Are there meals I eat where I know I can make a large quantity in advance?
I prepare my breakfast and dinners in advance because I don’t like to cook in the morning or after a long day of work. This is what works for me, so what works for you?
Step 2: Find Recipes That Work For You
Next, look for recipes that cater to your preferences. The Vegan Link offers many healthy food options that suit well for meal planning. When planning out your meals, take into account how long a recipe will last in the fridge, the time it will take you to prepare the dish and any specific dietary restrictions you may have (eg Whole 30.)
I use a meal planner and write down the recipes I am going to make for the week. You can also bulk prepare the same meal for 5 days in a row if you don’t mind. For example, you can have a Chickpea Tuna Sandwich for lunch Monday-Friday, making meal prep a breeze.
Get creative and make a dish that can be transformed into other dishes. For instance, turn the Chickpea Tuna into a Dijon Chickpea Salad Wrap.
Another trick to meal prep is making foods that can be frozen. Double or triple the recipe you are making and freeze the leftovers to use for another time, like our Vegan Lentil Meatloaf.
Step 3: Put Together Your Meal Prep Grocery List
Meal prep becomes a lot easier when you keep the essential basics in your pantry. If you haven’t checked out our Vegan Grocery Shopping List, we provide a free list of vegan groceries that you should always have on hand.
Keep food items stocked in the pantry that are non-perishable like canned beans, rice and oats. Also, don’t forget the freezer!
Here are some essential foods that are good for meal prep:
|Sweet Potatoes||Black Beans||Cauliflower|
|Whole Wheat Pasta||Kidney Beans||Bell Peppers|
Step 4: Set Aside Time To Meal Prep
It all culminates with cooking! Depending on how many meals you prep, plan on putting aside at least 1-2 hours to devote to cooking. I usually start my meal prep Sunday morning around 9a and finish by 11a. Though it seems like a lot of work, it will definitely be worth it.
If you are a busy person, make sure to schedule some time in to cook. The more you meal prep, the more likely you are to fall into a weekly rhythm of planning out your meals in advance.
10 Tips To Meal Prep On A Budget
1. Test The Recipe First
Before you double or triple a recipe and spend money on all the ingredients, try making the dish first following the regular serving amount to ensure you like it. I have made dishes in the past that I regretted making and wasted a lot of time and money on meal prepping a recipe I didn’t like.
2. Buy In Bulk At Wholesalers
If you are so lucky to live near a BJ’s, Sams Club or Costco, buy your non-perishable groceries in bulk there. You can buy rice, quinoa, potatoes, canned beans, etc in bulk and save a lot of money.
3. Look for Quick Sales
If you don’t have access to grocery wholesalers, try to find last minute quick sale deals at your store. A lot of markets will cut the prices of vegetables and protein as they near expiration. Don’t be afraid of quick sales! I take advantage of these because it is a great way to save money. Sometimes stores will reduce the price of the item by 50-70%.
I know some people may be hesitant of a quick sale, especially if the fruit or vegetables are beginning to look a little sad. All you have to do is cook it immediately and this will slow down the expiration process.
4. Take Advantage of BOGO Sales
While this may seem obvious, take advantage of money saving Buy One Get One sales. A lot of stores offer BOGO sales on a variety of items each week. They will rotate BOGO sales weekly, giving you the opportunity to make new dishes each week.
Ask you local store which day of the week a new BOGO sale comes out so you can plan in advance which dishes you can meal prep with ingredients on sale.
5. Compare Unit Price
I can’t tell you how many people don’t do this enough. Look at the unit price of each item that you purchase on the shelf price tag. It it usually located in a little orange or yellow box on the price sticker and it will tell you how much you are paying per ounce, per pound, per gram, etc.
Do the math – the lower the unit price, the more money you will save.
6. Eat Vegan or Vegetarian
Following a Vegan lifestyle is not just for the wealthy. You can buy vegan friendly food products and organic ingredients for dirt cheap. Eating less meat will make your grocery bill less expensive, I guarantee it.
Think about it, how much does a steak cost? Or a pound of chicken? What about fish? You end up spending a lot of money on meat or fish protein.
Try substituting meat and fish for protein rich beans like black beans or lentils. Did you know oats are high in protein? Swap out eggs for oats and save a lot of money! Speaking of oats, have you tried this amazing Meal Prep recipe for Overnight Oats?
7. Meal Prep Reduces Waste
Think about how many times you have let food sit in the fridge and then it expired. With meal prep, you will reduce the amount of food that goes rancid and wasted. Because you strategically plan out your meals, you won’t be throwing away your money.
8. Eat Food In Season
Fruits and vegetables tend to be cheaper when they are in season. Plan your meals around ingredients that are in season to save money. For example, cherries are more widely available during the summer months and are relatively inexpensive versus the winter months where the price can be 3-4 times more expensive.
9. Use Your Freezer
This article mentions freezing your foods a lot but trust me, it saves both money and time. Whenever I make my Easy Vegan Chili, I double the recipe and freeze half for the next time I need to meal prep or if I want a delicious hearty meal in a pinch. A lot of people will resort to ordering out food and paying a premium + delivery + tip when they don’t feel like cooking or have the time. Having already-prepared meals in the freezer mitigates the urge to order unhealthy food and saves you a lot of money.
10. Check The Pantry
Seriously, when is the last time you cleaned out your pantry? Chances are you have opened bags of pasta or rice, hidden cans of beans and vegetables…go look! Try to use everything up and make a few meals out of it to help reduce food waste and save some money.
For more money saving recipes and meal prep, check out some of my favorites below!
- Sandwich with Hummus (Grilled + Veggies)
- Sheet Pan Cauliflower Fajitas (Vegan)
- Red Curry Lentils Recipe (Vegan)
- Potato Tacos Recipe (Easy + Vegan)
- Recipe for Greek Pasta Salad (Vegan)