Cheap Real Food Meal Prep for a Family of 5

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Every week, we take one day to prepare some food ahead of time. This helps us save money and eat healthy by giving us simple food that is ready to eat anytime of the week. Here is what we made recently.

healthy meal prep on a budget pin graphic

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It’s okay if you don’t love cooking. So often, when we talk about saving money and eating healthy, everything revolves around you cooking more. Which is really frustrating if you don’t love cooking.

Instead of becoming a slave to the meal times, I want to show you how we make a plan that keeps me out of the kitchen as much as possible throughout the week. This process also helps us eat healthy, real food on a budget.

It looks different in different seasons, but right now this process looks like this:

greens and mushrooms

Kitchen Day

Or you can call it meal prep day. Sometimes it involves a lot of baking, and sometimes it looks like chopping a lot of veggies for salads and soups. The point is this: every week, I set aside a few hours to prep a couple of meal components ahead of time. This varies widely week to week, but it’s usually some combination of baked goods, chopped vegetables, soup or bone broth, chicken or beef, and dry beans.

I try to prepare a small combination of things for breakfasts, lunches, and dinners. Then throughout the week, I supplement what I prepared ahead of time with a few quick fixes. See how this works in the example below.

Example 1:

If I make a big pot of Cumin Beans on Kitchen Day, for lunch the next day we will reheat some beans while I shred cheese, slice avocado, and pull out the salsa and the shredded lettuce or the carrots we prepared on Kitchen Day. This makes Burrito bowls with carrots stick for lunch.

The next evening, we cook some rice and use some of the beans with the burrito instructions from this recipe. Serve it with a side salad for dinner.

For lunch over the weekend, we use the rest of the beans and shredded lettuce in Mostly Meatless Nacho Dip.

burritos

Example 2:

When we get home late and want dinner NOW, I can pull out some make-ahead chicken, the salad veggies we chopped on Kitchen Day, and reheat the deeply flavorful baked sweet potatoes. This way, dinner is ready in about 10 minutes.

The following evening, I make our favorite Yellow Mediterranean Rice in the Instant Pot, top it with more shredded chicken and a drizzle of Greek Dressing. We eat steamed or roasted veggies on the side.

For lunch the next day, I slice the sweet potatoes in half lengthwise, stuff them with a little bit of shredded chicken, and reheat them topped with barbecue sauce. Serve with leftover veggies or salad.

well-fed cookbook photo
The book that first taught me healthy, savvy, meal prep

The Genius

I first started meal prepping 7 years ago, after my second child was born and I needed to get more organized in the kitchen.

This book inspired me first.

However, when most people read the term “meal prep,” they imagine cute rectangle containers that fitness nerds use to make their meals ahead of time. This is a brilliant idea! But it doesn’t work for us in this season – plus it gets expensive.

When I took Stacy Myers’ Home Management How-To Course, she reframed my mentality around meal prepping. Kitchen Day should simply be a day where YOU do what YOU need to do in the kitchen. It doesn’t need to look a certain way. This freed me to find ways to make Kitchen Day work for us.

Her course also helped me stop drowning in the ceaseless avalanche of laundry and floor-mopping and other adulting nonsense that cramps my style but must get done.

My house runs smoother, I’m less stressed, and most importantly, I have a formula for what to do when my home starts spiraling out of control.

Read more about Home Management How-To here.

home management photo

Sample Meal Prep List:

I share our real-life meal prep lists every week on Instagram and Facebook, but they generally include these:

And as I’ve been learning to work with my sourdough starter, I slowly started adding these recipes:

meal prep - everything we made

What We Made in Real Life:

Like I said, what we make on Kitchen Day varies widely week to week, but here is what we made on a recent Meal Prep day:

I usually have an enthusiastic list and only get to most of it. But that’s okay. The point is to make a few things today so that we can save money and eat healthy tomorrow when we don’t feel like cooking or have other commitments.

What You Can Do Now:

I try to share every week’s meal prep on Instagram and Facebook Stories, and in the Cheapskate Cooks Facebook Group. Follow us by joining here!

And if you would like to see more Kitchen Days featured here on the blog, let us know! Email us here or comment below.



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