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How to Meal Prep on a Really Tight Budget

If you think that meal prepping is only for fancy, clean eating, fitness junkies, I'm here to change your mind! Here is how I meal prep on a really tight budget - complete with a price breakdown for each meal! It was actually a lot easier than I thought it would be and it felt SO good to have all those meals ready to go for the week!

How to Meal Prep on a Really Tight Budget

I've been dreaming of doing a meal prep week for a while now. Something about those tiny black boxes with pre-portioned food and having to do no cooking throughout the week just really made me get all giddy inside. My problem is I felt like I couldn't do it within our regular grocery budget. It seemed like it would be too expensive and time consuming, so I just kept on with our regular meal planning every week.

Then Hurricane Harvey hit.

We were lucky to have no damage to our home. We barely even lost electricity throughout the whole storm. I'm not sure why we were spared, but we felt so lucky that we wanted to do everything we could to help others. One (very small) way I thought I could contribute would be to not go to the grocery store, since there were other people out there who had nothing and we had plenty to cook from our freezer and pantry. I know you're wondering what Hurricane Harvey has to do with meal prepping. Well - once we ate our way through almost all of our food, and had close to nothing left, I finally felt I was in a place where I could really challenge myself to buy (almost) everything I needed to meal prep and get a real sense for how much it would cost for us to do it each week.

The huge surprise to me was that it was actually pretty cheap and even though it is a lot of work on the front end, it was totally worth it to have it all done for the week!

Each of the following meals is made with mostly whole ingredients (I do cut corners here and there to save time and maybe a dollar or two) and I made five servings of each meal. So there is a total price for the meal as a whole, and then a price per serving. There is also a recipe listed or linked below it as well as a price breakdown of every ingredient.

A couple of quick details before we get started

For the most part I purchased all of the main ingredients and just had spices and herbs on hand to complete everything! Here is a list of what I had.

1. Garlic Powder
2. Ground Ginger
3. Honey
4. Cornstarch
5. Water
6. Salt & Pepper
7. Italian Seasoning
8. Salsa
9. Greek Yogurt

I also had to purchase a few things that we normally keep stocked that I used up the last of to make these. These prices are not counted in the price of the meals below because I used such a minuscule amount that it would have amounted to less than a penny per serving. These things where:

1. Kikkoman Soy Sauce (H-E-B) ($3.98)
2. Organic Ground Cumin (Aldi) ($1.99)

Where I Shop

I do a majority of my shopping at Aldi to take advantage of their amazing prices on produce and snacks. Anything I need that I can't find at Aldi, I get at H-E-B, which is a regional Texas grocery store, and I swear it is sent from Heaven. They have a huge selection and really great prices on staple items! I have a love affair with Aldi + H-E-B and they have both contributed significantly to my reduction in grocery costs! I've listed where each product came from below.

Let's get the breakdown started, shall we?

taco salad bowls with spanish rice and black beans

Taco Salad Bowls with Spanish Rice & Black Beans

1 LB 85/15 Ground Beef (Aldi) - $3.19
Low Sodium Taco Seasoning (Aldi) - $.22
1 Can Black Beans (Aldi) - $.59
Mahatma Spanish Rice Mix (H-E-B) - $.64
Cilantro* (H-E-B) - $.12
1 Bag of Shredded Lettuce (H-E-B) - $1.74
1 Bag of Seasoned Tortilla Strips - $1.89
5 Roma Tomatoes (Aldi) - $.79
1/4 of a 4 Cup Bag of Shredded Mexican Style Cheese (Aldi) - $.47

Cost: $9.65 for the entire meal / $1.93 per serving

{Notes: This one seems to be the most filling of everything I've made (all those beans & rice!) and I love Mexican food. Can't wait to make this one again! I just cooked the meat and rice separately. Then I drained and rinsed the black beans and added those to the rice with a handful of chopped cilantro. I layered the beef and then bean/rice mixture in the large side and added salsa, cheese, and greek yogurt. I portioned out the shredded lettuce and tortilla strips in zipper baggies and that was it!}

teriyaki shrimp with brown rice and veggies

Teriyaki Shrimp with Brown Rice & Veggies

1 LB 50/70 Peeled/Deveined Frozen Shrimp (H-E-B) - $6.98
Broccoli* (Aldi) - $.49
1 Bag Sugar Snap Peas (H-E-B) - $2.97
White Button Mushrooms* (Aldi) - $.69
Zucchini* (Aldi) - $.46
Brown Rice* (H-E-B) - $.73
Cilantro* (H-E-B) - $.12
Sweet Mini Bell Peppers* (Aldi) - $1.44
Diced Pineapple* (Aldi) - $.25
Baby Carrots* (Aldi) - $.44

Cost: $14.57 for the entire meal / $2.91 per serving

{Notes: Here is the recipe I used for the teriyaki sauce: Teriyaki Shrimp Zoodles from Life Made Sweeter. I pre-roasted all the veggies the day before and then just warmed them up again in the sauce once the shrimp was cooked. I already had everything I needed to make the sauce!}

white sweet potato noodles with meatballs and zucchini

White Sweet Potato Noodles with Meatballs & Zucchini

Spiralized White Sweet Potato Noodles (H-E-B) - $4.98
1/2 Bag Frozen, Precooked Homestyle Meatballs (Aldi) - $2.20
White Button Mushrooms* (Aldi) - $.70
Zucchini* (Aldi) - $.46
Jarred Four Cheese Spaghetti Sauce (H-E-B) - $1.89

Cost: $10.23 for the entire meal / $2.05 per serving

{Notes: I had some leftover garlic bread from dinner on Saturday that I stuck in a couple of these. I also had all the seasonings on hand for this one. I'm excited to try the "noodles"! I just browned the meatballs in a skillet, added the precooked veggies, and then put the sauce and sweet potato noodles in. I cooked until the noodles were soft - it took less than ten minutes to finish cooking!}

honey lime chicken with brown rice and veggies

Honey Lime Chicken with Brown Rice

1 LB Chicken Tenders (H-E-B) - $5.04
Cilantro* (H-E-B) - $.14
1 Lime (Aldi) - $.19
Asparagus (Aldi) - $2.39
Sweet Mini Bell Peppers* (Aldi) - $1.45
Broccoli* (Aldi) - $.50
Baby Carrots* (Aldi) - $.45
Zucchini* - (Aldi) - $.47
Brown Rice* - (H-E-B) - $.74

Cost: $11.37 for the entire meal / $2.27 per serving

{Notes: Full disclosure - I already had the chicken in the freezer and did not purchase it for this meal plan but added the price in anyways just to see! Here is the recipe I used for this meal: Honey Lime Chicken Sheet Pan from Life Made Sweeter. This is absolutely DELICIOUS. We will be eating this more often and it is honestly pretty easy to make! I added in the rice to give it a little more oomph and fiber. Again - I pre-roasted all of my veggies the day before I did all of my big cooking and then just added it to the recipes as needed. It make it so much faster to have it all precooked and chopped!}

Additional Info to Note

Anything with a star beside it was something that I purchased and split between the recipes, so the price you see is what it cost for just that recipe. If you add them up, it would total what I paid for the entire product. Or, if you're lazy, I listed them out below:

Broccoli (Aldi) - $.99 for two crowns of broccoli
White Button Mushrooms (Aldi) - $1.39 for 1 LB of mushrooms
Zucchini (Aldi) - $1.29 for three large zucchini
Brown Rice (H-E-B) - $1.47 for a small box of generic instant brown rice, of which I used half to make all the rice for these meals (about 8 cups cooked)
Cilantro (H-E-B) - $.38 for a bunch, which I split three ways
Pineapple (Aldi) - $.99 for an entire pineapple, 1/4 of which I used for a meal, the rest for snacking this week.
Baby Carrots (Aldi) - $.89 for 1 LB of baby carrots

This made 20 meals - 10 each for my husband and myself. That means that all of our lunches and dinners for the week are ready to go! These containers are dishwasher, freezer, and microwave safe and the lids lock tightly on there for leak-proof transportation. I feel like a dang meal prep unicorn over here. I know people do it all the time, but for it to be my first time, I have to admit that I'm pretty darn proud of myself!

Ready for the grand total??

I still can't quite believe how little this cost. For all of the ingredients, the total for all 20 servings (four meals, five servings each) was..... drumroll please....


Even if you add in the things I did buy and only used a tiny amount of, it is still only $53.26! Insane.

WHAT?? This is well within our weekly grocery budget (which is $90). Even with the price of the containers I purchased (these from Amazon, they're awesome!! *affiliate link), it is less than $72.

So, tell me all about how you're going to be meal prepping soon! If you have any question, please feel free to leave them in the comments below or shoot me an email - skye(at)skyemclain(dot)com!

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