Budget-Friendly Meal Prep (Baking Day)
Need some budget-friendly meal prep ideas? Enter Baking Day. We try to save money and eat healthy by baking a lot of our own treats and breakfast staples. Here is what we made.
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Meal prep can be as complicated or as simple as you make it. In our family, we don’t really do those trendy glass containers full of roasted veggies and meat. That is not practical for our growing family. Instead, our meal prep looks like big batches of kid-friendly baked goods or pots of soup for simple dinners. Sometimes it looks more like a Baking Day.
There is only one rule for meal prepping: do what works for you, where you are right now.
Years ago, I used to meet up with a friend every month, and while our toddlers played (or fought, let’s be honest) and the babies napped, we baked enough Egg & Cheese Muffins and Freezer-to-Crockpot meals to last all month.
A few years after that, I didn’t need a bunch of slow cooker meals in the freezer. Instead, I took one hour every week to chop vegetables, bake The Only Chicken You Need to Make, brown The Only Beef You Need to Make, and stir up a batch of Allergy-free Baked Oatmeal.
Now, our meal prep looks different month-to-month. Sometimes we focus on dinners, sometimes on big pots of soup. This week, we took a day and baked everything I possibly could while still living the rest of our lives – chores, errands, work, etc.
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Tips for Meal Prep Baking Day
1. Don’t Try a Bunch of New Recipes
Instead, use a list of classic go-to’s you make all the time and that do not take a lot of brain space to prepare. Pick one or two recipes that are new or extra special, then stick to the basics for baking day.
2. Remember You are Not in a Cooking Show
It’s okay if your bread over proofs or the muffins get a little too done. Gordon Ramsey isn’t going to call you names. Your kids will just be glad you made cinnamon rolls. Relax. It doesn’t have to be perfect to be delicious.
3. Make Your List, Then Cut it in Half
In the morning, life is fresh and young and oozing potential. But when 4 pm rolls around and you’re half done with 8 different baking projects, you’ll wish you had stuck to the basics.
Make a list of food you MUST get prepped. Then make a list of what you might get done if you’re still into it after breaking up kid fights, cleaning up spilled flour, and everyone is begging for lunch.
Full disclosure, I got this idea from Jon Acuff’s book, Finish, which teaches you proven ways to actually reach your goals. Turns out, most of us trying to accomplish something are overachievers. Cut your list in half.
Baking Day Meal Prep List:
This is what we made this week for baking day. Read below for details on how I actually made each one.
- Easiest Bread Ever
- Whole Grain Cinnamon Rolls
- Whole Grain Honey-Sweetened Blueberry Muffins
- Cooked & Peeled Butternut Squash
- Sausage, Beans & Greens
- Boiled Oatmeal Cookies
- Allergy-Free Baked Oatmeal
We made the whole wheat version of the Easiest Bread Ever, which meant kneading it (you don’t have to knead it if you use white flour), and we made one sandwich loaf and one braided loaf.
I shared a bunch of baking tips on video while I mixed and kneaded the dough on Instagram Stories. You can watch them here.
These were a variation of Easiest Bread Ever. I made the whole grain version (with a little more white flour and little less whole grain. They are cinnamon rolls, after all), and I used milk (dairy-free) instead of water and sugar instead of molasses.
Instead of forming it into loaves after the second rise, I rolled it out, slathered it in butter, sprinkled it with cinnamon sugar (1 teaspoon cinnamon for every tablespoon sugar), rolled it up, and cut it into 2-inch slices. Then I let it rise and bake for the same amount of time the recipe calls for.
For a real food glaze, we like the maple-syrup sweetened cream cheese glaze from Cinnamon Roll French Toast.
That bread recipe is amazing, and with a few tweaks, you can make it into almost any bread-based recipe – pizza dough, sandwich loaf, cinnamon rolls, dinner rolls, calzones. I’ll have to write a post about that.
Whole Grain Honey-Sweetened Blueberry Muffins
This recipe is from Bread Beckers (I think it’s in this book), and it is the best whole-grain muffin recipe I have ever tried. They shared a chocolate chip version of their recipe here (I just use 1/2 cup honey). It’s a little more expensive, with 1/2 cup of honey and 1/2 cup of oil. But still very delicious. You can substitute half of the oil for applesauce or pumpkin puree if you like (more budget-friendly baking substitutes here).
It’s the best because it is DELICIOUS, but it is also very flexible. Substitute the blueberries for chocolate chips, leave them out entirely and make plain muffins. Play around with it!
Butternut Squash in the Instant Pot
The simplest way to cook winter squash without heating up the whole house. Cut it in half, unpeeled, and cook on manual for 7 minutes. Let the pressure release naturally, then peel it, remove the seeds, and use it instead of pumpkin puree in any recipe. We use it in Lentil Shepherd’s Pie, One-Bowl Pumpkin Bread, and more.
Sausage, Beans & Greens
It was not my favorite. Turns out Beans & Greens is about as delicious as it sounds. I added some sausage to it and that helped a lot. My kids didn’t love it, but they ate it. Sausage makes everything better.
Usually, I make sausage with this simple 5-ingredient recipe. However, this sausage was from a local farm. We bought one of their bulk packages, and here is how we try to afford high-quality, sustainable meat on a budget.
Boiled Oatmeal Cookies
Epic fail. I forgot to even take a picture. This was my grandma’s recipe, and I used to be pretty good at it. This time, I didn’t let it boil long enough, so the cookies turned into chocolate oatmeal mush.
Still delicious! I refrigerated it in a square pan lined with parchment paper. We’ll cut it into squares and eat it cold from the fridge. No waste.
The only baked oatmeal we make (except for the sneaky veggie variation!). It’s awesome. Gluten-free, dairy-free, egg-free, and somehow still delicious. I like it warm with butter, or baked over chopped fruit. My kids prefer it plain with maple syrup.
More Baking Day Meal Prep Ideas
That is what we made this time, but keep in mind, the list changes week to week. Here are more great recipes for meal prep baking day:
- Healthier Banana Bread
- One-Bowl Pumpkin Bread
- Non-Crumbly Whole Wheat Sandwich Bread
- The Only Chicken You Need to Make
- Easy Frittata (or Clean-Out-The-Veggie-Drawer)
- Real Food Breakfast Apple Crisp
- Spatchcock Chicken (How to Cook a Whole Chicken in Under an Hour)
- Simple One-Bowl Granola
What You Can Do Now:
What do you make for your meal prep?
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