Cheap Meal Prep 101: How to Make Weekly Meals on a Budget

Posted by Patrick Domkowski on Fri, May 29, 2020

Cheap meal prepping is a familiar tactic used to portion out and cook your meals in advance. Also, it can help with the “We have food at home,” speech to yourself as you look through lists of restaurants in your area. Meal prepping helps you lose weight, makes your grocery shopping easier, and also helps with your portion control. Meal prepping doesn't have to break the bank either. Here are our best tips to saving money and making weekly meals on a budget.

Skip the Expensive Cut

For all the meat lovers out there who want to save a few dollars- try buying a different cut for your meat. Try reaching for the chicken with skin on or bone in and take the extra few minutes of work to remove what you don't want, instead of spending the few extra dollars on the pre-trimmed cuts. Buying whole chickens is also a great way to save some extra cash plus it allows you to have more meat to distribute during the week.

Eat In-Season Foods

Most produce have a season where they are most popular and the easiest to grow/cultivate. Try to base your meal preps around the foods that are currently in season to save money and save yourself from the headache of finding foods that are not in season. You also gain more nutrients from your foods if they are in season because most fruits and vegetables begin to lose nutrients as soon as they are picked.

Buy Frozen Fruits and Vegetables

Buying fresh fruit and berries every week can get expensive. Instead try buying frozen fruits, they last longer and still have the same great taste. Studies even show that frozen fruits and veggies contain more nutrients than fresh ones. They’re picked at peak ripeness and frozen immediately which keeps those nutrients locked in. Where fresh fruits and veggies are picked and continue to breathe, losing nutrients as they are transported to grocery stores and markets. Work frozen berries into your oats or parfaits for breakfast and add frozen veggies to your meals for an extra nutritional boost.

Keep it Simple

Let’s not forget what meal prepping is all about: saving time and money. To assure that you stick to a cheap meal prep, don’t over-complicate your meals! Steer clear of recipes with a laundry list of ingredients and a complicated step-by-step process. Focus on making a balanced meal and hitting all your food groups, and making simple variations of dishes you enjoy. You can never go wrong with roasted veggies and a protein of your choice over a bed of white or brown rice. Switch it up with whatever spices you’re feeling that week, or a healthy and simple sauce or glaze.

It may also be helpful to know what ingredients can go a long way in terms of flavor and price! Here’s a list of some ingredients we love that add a ton of flavor:

  • Sesame oil
  • Soy sauce
  • Sriracha
  • Balsamic vinegar (make a delicious glaze by bringing it to a boil, then reducing to low heat and simmering until it’s reduced by half!)
  • Citrus
  • Salsa
  • Breadcrumbs
  • Grated ginger
  • Garlic powder
  • Cumin
  • Herbs

Use Vegetarian Proteins

Buying meat can get expensive, so try incorporating vegetarian proteins into your meals every once in a while. Beans, lentils, tofu, and other variations of legumes make great tasty substitutions for meats in your meal preps. They can also help to improve digestion and heart health, and boost metabolism. If you’re not already vegetarian, try including a vegetarian meal or two into your diet each week!

Sale or Coupon? Stock Up on Pricey Items!

Never let an opportunity to save fly past you! If you already have chicken breast but it just so happens to go on sale; grab a few and freeze it. You never know when you may need these ingredients and an extra dollar spent today is an extra dollar you’ll save down the road. Utilizing coupons, “BOGO’s” and sales will help you get what you need without breaking the bank. Other things you can freeze and stock up on:

  • Herbs
  • Cooked meat
  • Nuts and seeds
  • Bread
  • Milk
  • Cheese
  • Hummus
  • Butter
  • Stock
  • Muffins

Buy in Bulk

Buying in bulk is the easiest way to save money. Buy all the essentials in bulk to save some cents and headaches later. Grains like rice and quinoa and pasta are perfect for buying in bulk. Another benefit is that you can bring your own containers to refill at the bulk stores. Grocery shopping this way also saves money and plastic. Other staple items to buy in bulk include:

  • Nuts
  • Cereal
  • Frozen Fruit
  • Chia Seeds
  • Oatmeal

Beans and Rice

Instead of spending time and money on expensive ingredients, get back to the basics. Rice and beans as sides or supporters of your meal prep entree save money and are also very filling. Finding ways to incorporate beans and rice into more meals is easy because they are delicious and diverse! Save even more money by purchasing dry beans and cooking them instead of beans in a can, the extra step helps improve the taste and lets you customize the flavor.

Saving money is easy when meal prepping, all it takes is a few extra steps. Try these helpful tips next time you meal prep to see how far your dollar can really go. Meal prepping can also help you lose weight and stay healthy! Need more information on losing weight? Our doctors at Steward Bariatric and General Surgery can help you through every step of your weight loss journey. Contact us today!

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