Healthy meal prepping on a budget

Healthy meal prepping on a budget

Happy New Year! Meal prepping is one of those things that was thrust upon me as I cut costs to afford my apartment with a view of Lake Michigan, but I will carry with me forever. There is nothing better that the fruits of your own labor, especially when you know your way decently around a spice cabinet.
In general, I try to follow a few basic principles around food:

  • All meals are one protein (~25+g), one carb, and one veggie
  • Snacks: fruits/yogurts/seeds/nuts/string cheese
  • Drink water before and during meal
  • Season liberally and be satisfied

Even though I have the outline, the method of execution is wildly varied. Soups, salads, chilis, and straight baked, air fried, or sautéed. The best part is that many of these combine one or more of my basic principles of meals. And while stir-fries don’t keep well for meal prep, they do make for an excellent quick dinner. I’ve also been meaning to try more wraps, especially since I love making my own hummus.
As far as meals I like to meal prep:

  • Curries: sautéed chicken thighs with a jar of curry and some frozen veggies, with a side of basmati & cauliflower rice
  • Chili: cubed steak or ground beef, beans, corn, fire-roasted tomatoes, sauteed onion and spices
    Generally, I Iike to use this recipe and just add a couple of cans of beans, corn, and frozen veggies
  • Soup: a nice chicken minestrone with shredded chicken thighs
  • Quinoa stuffed bell peppers [with shredded chicken for more protein, usually atop a bed of greens]

Especially during busy weeks, I don’t really have the time or foresight to “cook” per se. I can prepare a few things, toss them in the oven, and hope for the best during the week. These are those things, by category:

PROTEIN: usually baked chicken thighs or air fried steak cubes, seasoned with one of the following

  • Jerk seasoning (sometimes with lime juice, YUM)
  • Cajun seasoning
  • Lemon pepper and garlic
  • Pesto on top

VEGGIES: usually all are mixed with salt, pepper, and EV olive oil before baking

  • This roasted root veggies recipe (can double potatoes for carbs)
  • Green beans seasoned like the protein or a complimenting blend
  • Broccoli, red peppers, and onion
  • Spaghetti squash with cheese and cayenne (no oil)

CARBS: I usually go quite light on these on days I don’t work out, but try to make sure they have fiber!

  • Brown rice (a classic)
  • Quinoa (usually tri-color or dark)
  • Sweet potatoes (mashed or air-fried)
  • Root veggies from above + hummus

In addition, I have a few other go-tos for foods for treats and quick meals:

  • Sweet potato toasts topped with avocado or hummus and Everything but the Bagel seasoning
  • Kale sauteed in olive oil with garlic and lemon pepper (from Target is extra lemony)
  • Keto bolognese with zoodles
  • Bibimbap bowls subbing kale and brown rice
  • Paleo banana bread (because I bought way too much coconut flour last year)
    • Banana pancakes (also paleo)
    • Protein smoothies with frozen fruit, protein powder, and almond milk
    • Chia seed pudding flavored with matcha, PB Fit, or chocolate
    • Oatmeal with add-ins (protein powder, fruit, nuts, etc.)

And there you have, 95% of my diet. With proper meal planning, I average less than $30 weekly at Aldi & Trader Joes. My protein powder lasts me at least two months, and at $30 amortized I’m still usually under that amount.

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