How to Meal Prep on a Budget

How to Meal Prep on a Budget

May 06, 2023

As adults, we’re expected to prepare meals, keep a clean home, nurture friendships, and possibly even take care of other humans, all while working a full-time job. It’s a lot! Meal prepping is one helpful hack that can make your week easier in many ways: it frees up valuable time, as you don’t have to scramble to cook dinner each night; it helps you stay on track if you’re trying to eat certain food groups or nutrient-dense meals; and it can be a great way to save some money if finances are stretched thin. Here are some tips to get you started.

Decide on a budget

The first step in budget meal prep is just what the name suggests: figuring out your budget. According to the US Department of Agriculture, the average weekly spending for a low-cost food plan is $68.70 for men aged 19 to 50 and $59.60 for women in the same age range. Of course, this number may vary depending on your means, so before you shop, decide what budget you’re able to work within. This will help you decide what types of meals you can cook and therefore what groceries you’ll need.

Consider you nutritional needs

Everyone’s dietary needs are different, but in general the guidelines recommend adults eat 1½ to 2 cups of fruit and 2 to 3 cups of vegetables daily and suggest diets should contain all three essential macronutrients: protein, carbohydrates, and fats. Use these parameters as a baseline, then tailor your meal prep to suit your individual (or family’s) nutrition needs, activity level, and any necessary food restrictions.

Create a menu

A good rule of thumb is to keep your recipe ideas simple or create a menu with a common theme so you aren’t trying to cook multiple different cuisines in a week. The less stressful the meal prep, the more frequently you will feel encouraged to do it. To be kind to your budget, choose recipes that include foods that are currently on sale; there are free apps like Flipp that will show you the food deals in your zip code. Another way to keep your costs down is to incorporate plant-based meals each week.

Make a grocery list according to your menu

There are two major no-nos when it comes to grocery shopping: shopping without a list, and shopping while hungry. So before you hit the food aisles, create a plan and eat a snack, if not a meal. Grouping your shopping list by aisle or section will make your life much easier and save you from having to crisscross the store an infinite number of times.

List ideas

If you’re new to budget meal prep, or if you’re simply looking for ideas, use this example list to help you get started.

Protein (meat)

  • Ground turkey
  • Chicken breasts

Protein (nonmeat)

  • Tofu
  • Beans


  • Quinoa
  • Rice
  • Pasta


  • Berries
  • Grapes
  • Apples
  • Bananas


  • Broccoli
  • Zucchini
  • Green beans

Fat sources

  • Olive oil
  • Peanut butter

Go shopping

Aside from shopping the sales, you can pinch those pennies by shopping store brands, which are typically cheaper than name brands. Another option is to check out budget grocery stores. They often scale back on amenities such as free shopping carts and cashier baggers in order to pass on cheaper prices to their consumers. 

Recipe ideas


  • Vegetable and egg frittata (mushrooms, spinach, broccoli, eggs)
  • Shakshuka (tomatoes, cannellini beans, eggs, spices, yellow onion, garlic)


  • White bean chicken chili (chicken, cannellini beans, chicken broth, cream cheese, corn)
  • Vegan burrito bowl (roasted vegetables, brown rice, black beans, southwest seasoning)


  • Turkey sweet potato skillet (ground turkey, bell pepper, broccoli, sweet potato, mozzarella, Greek yogurt)
  • Tofu stir fry (vegetables, rice, soy sauce, spinach, sesame oil)

Portion into reusable containers

Containers aren’t absolutely essential, but it’s much easier to guarantee you’ll have meals through the week if you portion out your meal prep into servings ahead of time. And good quality containers will keep your food fresh for longer, ensuring they’ll last you the entire week.

Meal prepping isn’t just a great way to save money—it also frees up your time and mental energy throughout the week so you can focus on other aspects of life. And you’ll always have something nutritious and delicious you can count on.




This article was prepared by ReminderMedia.

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