We’ve all heard of meal prepping (a great way to save both time and money), but what’s it really about? Simply put, meal prep is the act of planning and preparing your meals ahead of time so that they are ready to eat when you need them.
Prepping your meals is one of the most effective ways to reduce your spending at the supermarket and keep your food budget on track. Meal prep eliminates the need for expensive takeaway (or fast food), and it helps reduce food waste. By planning, buying and preparing only the food that you need, you’re not left with a kitchen full of food that’s gone bad by the end of the week. You also don’t have to worry about cooking too much, since that could have the unfortunate consequence of having to throw food out.
Whether you’re currently eating on a budget or simply want to save some money on your food bill, there are plenty of good reasons to meal prep! Start with our simple guide below to help you get started.
How To Meal Prep On A Budget
1. Plan Your Meals
The first step to successful meal prep on a budget is to plan your meals out for the week. I’d suggest writing all the days of the week out and then writing the meals you plan to have each day for breakfast, lunch, dinner and snacks. For meal prepping, I like to use this meal prep formula to help plan my meals: Protein + Grain + Vegetable. For starters, try using this Sample Day of Healthy Vegetarian Eating as a guide.
In your meal plan, aim to include healthy budget-friendly foods that work well for meal prepping. These could include:
- Tinned, canned or dried beans and lentils – use in place of meat. Add into salads, soups, casserole, spaghetti bolognese and curries.
- Plain rolled oats – great for making into oatmeal/porridge or adding into homemade cakes, muffins and slices
- Rice and pasta
- Potato, sweet potato and pumpkin – bake, steam, stir-fry or make into soups
- Seasonal fruit
- Seasonal vegetables
- Canned vegetables, e.g. tomatoes
I’ve also included some delicious, healthy budget-friendly meal prep recipes at the end of this article for you to use. To help save you money, avoid including expensive foods in your meal prep like high-priced cuts of red meat and fancy cheeses. If there are any of these foods on your meal plan, swap them out for cheaper options listed above to save you money.
2. Choose Your Meal Prep Day
Next, you want to choose your meal prep day. Often, setting a Saturday or Sunday to prep for the week ahead is perfect. Alternatively, a midweek day can be great too. Then you need to do your food shopping. Write a budget-friendly food shopping list based on your meal plan and buy only what you write down. Your food shopping will work best if you do it the day before or on your meal prep day. When you shop, remember to look for specials at the supermarket to help save you even more money.
3. Organize Your Containers
Next, you need to organise/organize your containers. To meal prep successfully, you’ll need some good quality, airtight containers with lids. I prefer ones that are BPA-free and can be placed in the fridge, freezer and microwave for easy defrosting and reheating. And THEN comes the fun part – actually doing your budget-friendly meal prep! Set one to two hours aside to prep your meals.
Healthy Budget Meal Prep Recipes
Here are some healthy budget meal prep recipes for you to try:
1. Cheap Chickpea Noodle Salad
Makes 4 meals
- 2 cups whole grain spaghetti, uncooked
- 2 carrots, spiralized
- 1 small onion
- 2 cups chickpeas
- 1 tbsp olive oil
- 4 tbsp almond butter
- Cook pasta according to package directions.
- Cook onion on a frying pan in olive oil. Add zucchini and cook.
- Portion out pasta, zoodles, carrot, onion and chickpeas between containers.
- Add 1 tbsp of almond butter on the size.
- Keep in the fridge for up to four days or until ready to eat.
2. Budget-Friendly Sweet Potato and Pumpkin Bean Bowls
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Makes 4 meals
- 1 large sweet potato, chopped into small cubes
- 2 cups pumpkin, chopped into small cubes
- 4 tbsp olive oil
- 1/2 tsp ground cumin
- 2 cloves garlic, finely diced
- 1 tin/can black beans, drained
- 1 tin/can sweet corn, drained
- 1/2 lime, juiced
- Pepper to season
- Preheat the oven to 200° C or 400° F.
- Place sweet potato and pumpkin in a baking tray. Drizzle with olive oil, sprinkle with garlic, cumin and pepper. Mix around so that each piece of sweet potato and pumpkin is evenly coated. Bake for 30 minutes or until golden brown.
- While vegetables are cooking, place beans, corn, lime juice in a small bowl and combine.
- Once sweet potato and pumpkin are cooked, divide evenly between four containers. Then evenly divide bean mixture between the containers and store in the fridge for four days or until ready to eat.
3. Cheap Creamy Coconut Chickpea Curry
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Makes 4 meals
- 2 tbsp olive oil
- 4 garlic cloves, crushed
- 1 large onion, thinly sliced
- 2 cups chopped cauliflower
- 1 tin/can tomatoes
- 1 tin/can chickpeas, drained
- ¼ tsp black pepper
- 1-inch fresh ginger peeled and finely chopped
- 1/4 tsp ground turmeric
- 1 tin/can coconut milk
- In a large pan, heat olive oil. Add onion and cook until softened. Add the garlic and ginger and cook until fragrant. Then add cauliflower.
- Stir in spices and cook for one minute. Add tomatoes and simmer for two minutes. Add coconut milk and chickpeas and simmer for 10 minutes. Then stir in lime juice.
- Divide evenly between four containers. Can be kept for up to five days in the fridge.
4. Pumpkin and Potato Omelette/Omelet
Makes 4 servings
- 2 large potatoes, peeled
- 1 small wedge of pumpkin
- 3 tbsp olive oil
- 1 small zucchini, sliced
- 5 eggs
- 50 ml (approx. 1/4 cup) plant milk of choice
- 1 medium brown onion, finely diced
- 2 tsp curry powder
- Slice potato and pumpkin into ½ cm thin slices.
- Coat potato and pumpkin in two tbsp olive oil and place onto a 24 cm diameter fry pan, evenly covering the base of the pan.
- Turn stove on medium heat and place lid on fry pan. Cook until potato and pumpkin are cooked through.
- In a large bowl, place five eggs (whites and yolk) and whisk. Add milk, onion, carrot, garlic chives and one tsp curry. Mix. Then add one tbsp olive oil and mix again.
- Pour over cooked sweet potato in the pan. Reduce heat to low and cover with lid to cook evenly for approx. 10 min. Then take off the lid and top with sliced zucchini and remaining curry.
- Place under a heated grill without lid until the top is crispy and golden brown.
- Slice into quarters and place into containers.
For even more budget-friendly meal prep recipes that are both healthy and delicious, you can try my recipes below:
In conclusion, prepping your meals is an excellent way to save you money. Planning your meals and using budget-friendly ingredients like beans, chickpeas, rice, pasta and in-season vegetables will help save you money, unwanted food waste and the need for takeout. I would love to hear if you meal prep AND (if so) what meals you make! Of course, if you try any of my budget meal prep recipes above, I would definitely love your feedback.