One of the most stressful things in life is planning and prepping meals; especially if you are short on funds. Trying to figure out how to stretch your dollar and get the most bang for your buck is hard. So is trying to eat healthy without overspending. Being a recent college grad up to her eyeballs in student loans and only working part-time while trying to pay bills, it’s tough. Trying to plan meals and make them last is enough to give anyone a headache. While $50 a week may not seem like a lot, it is possible to prep meals using $50.
Plan Your Meals Ahead of Time (But Be Realistic)
Easier said than done, I know. But planning your meals ahead of time can save you a lot of time. By knowing what you want to cook and making out a list in advance, that’s half the battle. Be realistic in what you want to cook, though. Don’t try to plan for a five-course meal unless you want to spend the entire day cooking.
Pick A Day That Works Best For You
With meal prepping, it’s important to decide if you want to cook all your meals for the week in one day. If so, pick a day that works best for you. Most people choose Sunday because it is a day of rest, rejuvenation, and relaxation.
Shop the Sales
This is something new I’ve started doing to try and save money while getting the best bargains. There are certain items to buy when they are on sale, especially if they don’t go on sale very often. Chicken, for example. I recently went to Marsh and got two whole chickens for $1.99/lb. I still have one sitting in my freezer. Use what meat you need or want, and freeze the rest. Not sure how long something will keep once frozen? Check out this article from Real Simple magazine. There are also items that are considered ‘seasonal’ or ‘holiday,’ meaning they only go on sale before or during a holiday, such as frozen vegetables. Frozen fruit is another great optional as well. When browsing store sale ads online, you might see a section called “SEASONAL SALES” or “SEASONAL ITEMS.” These are year round sales. Broth and cooking stock are another seasonal item. You’ll usually find these on sale around the holidays such as Easter, Thanksgiving, and Christmas. Eggs are another ‘seasonal’ item as well, and the best sales are right around Easter when everyone needs eggs.
Before Heading to the Store, Double Check Your Supplies
The worst thing you can do is get home from the store and realize that you already have half the supplies you thought you were going to need. It never hurts to have extra just in case, but it’s always a good idea to check before you leave.
Crock-Pots Are Your New BFF
I simply cannot stress this enough. Invest in a Crock-Pot (or two…or three). Crock-Pots are life savers when it comes to meal prepping. Combine all your ingredients, set the timer, and forget about it. Most Crock-Pot meals cook between 4 and 8 hours.
To give you a better idea of a meal I prepped for under $50, let me break it down for you:
Perdue 8.5lb Whole Chicken
- Marsh, $1.99/lb = $16.91
- 5lb bag from Marsh at $2.99
Noodles – Kroger, $3.99
- Flour – small bag for $2
- Broth or stock (you can buy from the store or use the broth from the cooked chicken)
- Swanson’s Unsalted Chicken Broth – Meijer, $1.99
- Salt and pepper – $2
The key to meal prepping on a budget is to be realistic. Plan your meals ahead of time and think about what it is you want to cook. Do you want to prep only breakfast meals or lunch? Are you planning on prepping all 3 in one day? Check out store sale ads and go prepared. Avoid buying unnecessary items and if need be, take snacks with you to avoid those ‘temptation’ items. This is always a good idea in general, especially if you are taking along little ones. The other important thing to remember is not to get frustrated. If it’s your first-time meal prepping and it starts to seem overwhelming, step back and take a deep breath. Not everyone is a master prepper; it takes time. Know someone who has meal prepping down to an art? Take them along for support and help! It’s also important to remember that not everyone cooks the same meals and it’s okay to be diverse and try new things!
Do you meal prep? What are your go to prep meals? How do you stay under budget?