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How to Meal Prep on a Budget- Save Money with ThinkFit

How to Meal Prep on a Budget- Save Money with ThinkFit

31st May 2020

We’ve all been there.

You sit down at the end of the month to take a look at all your expenses. Instantly, you notice how all the takeout meals here and there have added up. Not only is this habit unhealthy for you, but it doesn’t necessarily help your budget.

So, how do you avoid spending an exuberant amount of money, while also trying to be healthy?

By meal prepping, of course!

It is a good idea to cook individual foods before placing them together in meal prep containers.

By learning how to meal prep on a budget, you can easily cut down the costs you spend on food. For some, meal prepping on a budget is a welcome respite to all the times they overspent while eating out. For others, it’s a necessity. Either way, figuring out the art of how to budget meal prep is an important skill to have in this economy.

How can meal prep actually save me money?

Let’s break it down for you.

Based off of where you shop and where you live, grocery shopping for meal prep can cost from $60-100. If you eat three square meals a day, that’s $2.86-4.76 per meal.

You could save around $2600 a year if you meal prepped your lunches as opposed to buying a $10 lunch every day. Think about all the things you could do with an extra $2600 lying around. Go on vacation, pay off your credit card debt... the possibilities are endless.

With an impending recession looming in the background, now is the time to learn how to meal prep on a budget.

Meal prep helps you save money, as well as stay healthy.

Perhaps you’re still not convinced. You may even be wondering, “can’t I just save money through meal prep companies?”

Initially, it may seem like a good idea.

Weekly meals delivered right to your home. You don’t have to worry about the stress of grocery shopping or planning out what recipes you want to eat.

We get it. With your busy work schedule and lifestyle, going to the grocery store can be another stressful activity added to your life.

So is spending money on a meal kit delivery service worth it?

Absolutely not.

Why?

Look at Blue Apron, for example. For two recipes that have two servings, they charge $47.95 a week. That’s practically four meals a week at a price of $11.99 each. You could get takeout meals that are cheaper than that.

If it’s the convenience that attracts you to meal kit delivery services, don’t think you have to give up stress-free grocery shopping just because they’re out of your price range.

Grocery stores such as Target, Aldi, and Kroger have curbside pick up available. This allows for the convenience of online services, like meal kit delivery services, to be offered to you for the fraction of a price.

Meal prep companies and delivery services are too expensive for meal prep on a budget

Now that you know meal prepping can be easy and cheap without delivery, you probably have one question on your mind.

How do I budget meal prep for the week?

Even though it may seem daunting at first, learning how to meal prep for the week is very simple. You just need to follow a few key steps.

First, you need to set a budget and stick to it.

Seriously, stick to it.

It’s important to know how much you can afford when grocery shopping. If you don’t set a limit for yourself, you can risk overspending, which isn’t an option in this economy.

Make sure you have all the basic cooking essentials.

Now that you’ll be cooking pretty much all of your meals now, it’s important that you have all the utensils you will need. Before you make the commitment to meal prepping, ensure that you have simple items like bowls, pots, pans, skillets, etc. Otherwise, executing your meal prep ideas may come with difficulty.

Get the proper equipment.

One of the easiest ways to start saving money is to take your lunch to work, instead of buying it everyday. You may be wondering how you’ll manage to bring your lunch with you every single day. Luckily for you, ThinkFit has a great selection of meal prep bags. Each bag comes with six containers, reusable ice packs, and a shaker cup.

A one time purchase of reusable and durable meal prep containers will be beneficial to both your wallet and the environment. Rather than buying food that comes with single-use cutlery and containers, you’ll have your very own set of containers that’s meant to be used over and over again.

Next, make a grocery list.

It may sound simple, but a grocery list makes or breaks how well your meal prep goes. Walking inside a grocery store without a set list of what you want to buy is a recipe for disaster.

Even though the prices of groceries may fluctuate, you can still make an educated guess of how much various ingredients are by looking at pricing online and plan accordingly. For example, if you can only afford to spend $70 for the week, don’t buy three different types of expensive meats and always be on the lookout for sales on items you consistently like to eat.

Bringing a list into the grocery store helps to budget your money for meal prep.

Once you’ve gotten your groceries, it’s time to make a weekly calendar. After shopping, you may feel tempted to just go ahead and start prepping. However, it’s best if you ration out how you’re going to eat the food each day, especially if you’re a novice.

This method also helps you to hold on to ingredients for longer. For example, some recipes call for only a cup of rice. If you write in your calendar that you’ll only need seven cups of rice for the entire week, you can keep a single bag of rice for longer into the month.

Now that you’re armed with these tips…

It’s time to move on to the next part: grocery shopping.

Here at ThinkFit, we understand that you may be at a loss when it comes to what to buy for meal prepping. Switching up the way you eat entirely can be a daunting experience for anyone.

Down below, we’ve created a cheap meal prep grocery list for you. Under each section is a few different options for ingredients you can choose from. Since things like protein, grains, and produce are flexible with every recipe, you don’t need to buy the entire list. All you need are a few key items (of your choosing) from each category.

Protein:

-a pack/ 4 skinless chicken breasts                -2.5 lbs. of ground beef

-2.5 lbs. of ground turkey                             -one large salmon

-a 12-16oz. frozen bag of shrimp                 -6 oz. pork tenderloin

-one dozen eggs                                           -a jar of nut butter

-one package of nuts                                     -tofuProtein is an important component of a healthy meal prep diet and lifestyle.

Dairy:

-a bag of reduced-fat, shredded cheese         -one carton of milk 

-fat-free or low-fat Greek yogurt

Fruit:

-apples (4)                                                      -bananas (4)

-bag of frozen berries (2)                              -oranges (3)

-peaches (3)                                                    -avocados (2)

-tomatoes (3)                                                   -lemons (3)

Vegetables:

- head of broccoli (2)                                     -2lbs. of sweet potatoes

-bag of frozen mixed vegetables (2)   -large bag of leafy greens 

-onions (4)                                                       -bag of carrots (2)

-a frozen pack of chopped spinach            -bell peppers (5)

-clove of garlic (4)

Grains and Legumes:

-can of beans (2)                                         -can of lentils (2)

-small bag of rice or quinoa                       -box of pasta (2)

-small container of oatmealOils and spices can make a boring, cheap meal taste bold and exciting.

Condiments and Spices:

-black pepper                                             -paprika

-sea salt                                                     -cinnamon

-raw honey                                                 -olive oil

-vinegar                                                      -oregano

-thyme                                                        -basil

Now that you know what you need to buy, ThinkFit has included some of the best healthy meal prep ideas for the week. Meal prep doesn’t have to be unseasoned chicken, broccoli and brown rice. These recipes are as delicious as they come and we guarantee that you’ll love them.

Breakfast:

Yogurt Parfaits are customizable and a good meal prep breakfast.

For breakfast, these no-fuss yogurt berry parfaits are a quick, yet delicious meal that’s perfect for taking on the go. Something that can cost you upwards of $4 at a café can be made with groceries that costs only $1.23 a day.

English Muffin Breakfast Boxes are an easy breakfast with only 4 ingredients.

These English muffin breakfast boxes, composed of only four ingredients, are perfect for on the go. With an English muffin, berries, cottage cheese, and a bit of honey, you really can’t go wrong.

Lunch:

Cilantro Lime Chicken uses spices and vegetables to elevate a simple meal.

This sheet pan roasted cilantro lime chicken will show you that flavor doesn’t have to be expensive. If you really want to elevate this meal, add it to a salad or a burrito for an extra kick of flavor.

Sesame Chicken is a sweet and savory meal prep lunch.

This 20-minute sesame chicken recipe is better than any takeout you could ever order. With honey, ginger and pepper, you’ll savor every bite of this sweet and spicy lunch. Feel free to serve over rice!

Dinner:

Balsamic Chicken and Veggies can be easily cooked together on an oven sheet.

This delicious balsamic chicken and roasted veggies dish is meal prep made easy. Using only one pan, this recipe uses garlic powder, olive oil, and fresh parsley in order to add instant flavor to plain chicken and vegetables. Serve over rice or quinoa for an instant hit.

Garlic Chicken is delicious, easy and quickly eaten by meal prep enthusiasts.

If you’re looking for a fast, yet filling dinner, this garlic chicken stir fry is exactly what you’re looking for. Served with a medley of vegetables, this meal is the perfect option for food that’s healthy on a budget.

Coconut Chicken is a quick and tasty meal that’s great for meal prep

This four ingredient coconut chicken recipe proves that simple and delicious meals can coexist together. Creamy coconut and spicy red curry come together to make this decadent dish. Serve over rice, or eat it alone. It tastes great either way.

If you thought these recipes were the only treats, think again. Just to help you out a bit more, we’ve included a priced out grocery list in order for you to buy all the groceries for these recipes. Keep in mind that depending on where you shop and live, as well as the brands you buy from, will cause the prices to vary.

Grocery List:

  • Minced Garlic (7 oz.) from Aldi- $1.99
  • 4 Cans of Mushrooms (4 oz.) from Aldi- $2.20
  • 2 Large Bell Peppers from Aldi- $3.19
  • 2 Bags of Frozen Broccoli (12 oz.) from Aldi- $1.98
  • Soy Sauce from Aldi- $1.45
  • Green Onions (5.5 oz.) from Aldi- $0.79
  • Bag of White Rice (3 lbs.) from Aldi- $2.19
  • Honey from Aldi- $3.19
  • Organic Ginger Paste from Aldi- $3.09
  • 2 Packs of Chicken Breast (3.76 lbs.) from Aldi- $9.36
  • Olive Oil from Aldi- $2.75
  • Low Sodium Chicken Broth (32 fl. oz.) from Aldi- $1.65
  • Greek Yogurt (32 oz.) from Aldi- $3.29
  • Bag of Granola (16 oz.) from Aldi- $3.29
  • Frozen Mixed Berries (16 oz.) from Aldi- $2.05
  • Corn Starch from Walmart- $2.40
  • Sesame Seeds from Walmart- $3.00
  • Pack of English Muffins from Aldi- $1.29
  • Container of Low Fat Cottage Cheese (24 oz.) from Aldi- $1.75
  • Container of Grape Tomatoes from Aldi- $1.65
  • Italian Dressing from Aldi- $0.99
  • Package of Baby Carrots from Aldi- $0.99
  • Can of Coconut Milk from Aldi- $1.45
  • Red Curry Paste from Walmart- $2.56
  • One Lime from Walmart- $0.44


Total:$58.98 + tax

With 21 meals at about $2.81 each, you really can’t go wrong. We know you’re probably really excited to get to cooking, but you have to plan out when you’re going to eat each meal, first!

Sounds daunting? Don’t worry, we did that for you, too.

With our meal prep list, you can leave the store with only a few items

Monday:

English Muffin Breakfast Box

Cilantro Lime Chicken

Balsamic Chicken and Roasted Veggies

Tuesday:

Yogurt Parfaits

Sesame Chicken

Garlic Chicken Stir Fry

Wednesday:

English Muffin Breakfast Box

Cilantro Lime Chicken

Coconut Chicken

Thursday:

Yogurt Parfait

Sesame Chicken

Garlic Chicken Stir Fry

Friday:

English Muffin Breakfast Box

Cilantro Lime Chicken

Balsamic Chicken and Roasted Veggies

Saturday:

Yogurt Parfait

Sesame Chicken

Coconut Chicken

Sunday:

English Muffin Breakfast Box

Cilantro Lime Chicken

Coconut Chicken

Before you start, we have a few more tips to help you meal prep on a budget.

  1. Learn how to price match.

Imagine you’re at the grocery store and you come across a certain type of produce. You know that the grocery store on the other side of town sells it for cheaper, but you don’t want to make the drive over there.

Luckily for you, the Aldi, Walmart, or Target that you’re at will lower the cost of the product to the price of their competitors if you can show that it’s cheaper. Doing this will help you save money, without having to shop all over town.

  2. Consider eating a plant-based diet.

When meal prepping on a budget, the most expensive items in your shopping cart is often meat or seafood. If you’ve ever thought about cutting meat out of your diet, now is the time. Buying less meat will put more money in your pocket, allowing you to spend on other things outside of your groceries.

Frozen berries are typically much cheaper than those bought fresh, and even last longer

  3. Don’t be afraid to buy frozen.

There’s a myth that frozen fruits or vegetables aren’t as healthy as fresh produce. However, this isn’t true. Frozen produce is actually picked at the height of freshness, meaning that they taste just as good as the ingredients you can get from the produce aisle.

  4. Don’t experiment too much.

Obviously you shouldn’t be afraid of trying new things when it comes to recipes; that’s what keeps it fun and fresh. But make sure not to do the most. If you add in new ingredients that you’re not too sure about, you don’t want to run the risk of laboring over something that you won’t enjoy. If you don’t want to eat the food you made at the end of it, you would have wasted your hard earned money on food you don’t like.

  5. Eat before you go grocery shopping.

This may sound a bit strange, until you remember that some people have tendencies to overshop on an empty stomach. If you don’t want your hunger to take over your shopping trip, make sure to have a snack before you go. This will also ensure that you don’t cook all your food and eat it as soon as you get home.

But I still need more help!

If you’re still looking for some more recipes to try so you can master how to budget meal prep, look no further than The Tight Budget Cookbook. This cookbook offers hundreds of recipes with ingredients that are most likely already in your pantry. On top of that, you won’t need to buy any fancy appliances to use it. We love to see it.

Budget Bytes is another amazing resource dedicated to eating on a budget. Not only do they have great meal prep ideas, but they also have how-tos that allow you to make the most out of your food. From a tutorial on how to make taco seasoning to instructions on how to upgrade your ramen, Budget Bytes will have you eating well, no matter the size of your wallet.

Instagram is a fun way to document your new meal prep on a budget.

Lastly, you can always follow the #budgetmeals tag on Instagram. Don’t forget to tag us if you happen to cook an amazing budget meal prep recipe. We want to see what you come up with.

Happy meal prepping!