Cheap Real Food Meal Prep for a Family of 5
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
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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:
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
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.
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.
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.
I first started meal prepping 7 years ago, after my second child was born and I needed to get more organized in the kitchen.
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.
Sample Meal Prep List:
- Veggies for salads and soups (lettuce, carrots, peppers, etc.)
- The Only Beef You Need to Make
- The Only Chicken You Need to Make
- Bone Broth
- Breakfast saute (I’m trying to eat more veggies for breakfast, so I cook a big batch of veggies from the freezer every week.)
- Cumin Beans (or other dry beans)
- Quick Sweet
Breads(like banana or sweet potato/pumpkin)
- Non-Crumbly Whole Wheat Sandwich Bread
- Easiest Bread You Will Ever Bake
- Deeply Flavorful Baked Sweet Potatoes
- Simple Baked Oatmeal
- Overnight Oatmeal for a Crowd
- 5-Ingredient Sausage
- 5-Minute Egg & Cheese Muffins
- Frugal Filling for Burritos, Tacos, Etc.
And as I’ve been learning to work with my sourdough starter, I slowly started adding these recipes:
What We Made in Real Life:
- 1 8×8-inch pan Healthier Banana Bread
- 1 pan of sauteed breakfast veggies made from Kroger markdowns (onion, peppers, mushrooms, and 1 lb of greens) (like this)
- 1 box of browned mushrooms (for the freezer)
- 4 Flax Eggs for Simple Baked Oatmeal
- 2 batches of oats and milk make-ahead mixture for Simple Baked Oatmeal (finished later that week)
- 1 batch of Cumin Beans
- 12 burritos made with Cumin Beans (we ate some for lunch that day, so only 8 are pictured)
- 1 batch of Step 1 of Non-Crumbly Whole Grain Bread (finished later that week)
- 3 loaves of Step 2 of Pretty Simple Sourdough Bread (finished later that week)
- Use leftovers to make soup or something
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: