Healthy cheap meal prep ideas are hard to come by, but when you find them, they can really change your life. Nothing beats finding a way to eat healthy that is also budget friendly and time saving.
Making healthy cheap meal prep ideas is easier than you think. If you’re trying to save money and eat healthy at the same time, try these simple meal prep ideas.
Dirt Cheap meal prep recipes
1. Slow Cooker Bolognese (5 minutes prep & $1.65 per serving)
Any meal I can make for $2 or less AND spend 5 minutes prepping automatically gets added to my meal plan rotation. I grew up chowing down on bolognese. The only problem with this dish is I can’t eat only one serving. The tender beef and sauce is just too good. Here are some more ground beef meal prep ideas that I love!
2. Slow Cooker Chipotle Bean Chili (vegan)
This delicious Slow Cooked Chipotle Bean Chili is easy to make and costs only $1.61 per serving. All you need is a slow cooker, a handful of ingredients and 5 minutes to prep. It’s high in protein and low in calories, vegan and great for batch cooking.
3. Healthy Air Fryer Turkey Burger (low-calories)
These healthy air fryer burgers are perfect for a cheap meal plan. They’re super lean, containing just 3 grams of fat and net carbs while having a whopping 28 grams of protein. They take just 5 minutes to prep, making them a super quick, easy recipe to add. Plus, they’re delicious!
4. Traditional Slow Cooker Hungarian Goulash
This slow cooker goulash recipe is not like the goulash we are use too! It’s a traditional recipe from Hungary that was made with ingredients bought in Hungary. Don’t worry there are some easy ingredient alternatives so it’s easy to make at home. This Hungarian goulash is rich and spiced with a huge depth of flavor. It’s definitely the best goulash I have tried!
5. Quinoa and Mediterranean Roasted Vegetables (packed with veggies)
This super healthy quinoa and roasted vegetables is as close as it gets to super food! It’s packed with complex carbs, fibre, healthy fats, whole proteins and vegetables whilst being low in saturated fats.
This is one of my favorite recipes when I am looking to give myself a health kick! Plus it’s so affordable, each portion costs less than $2 per serving.
6. Slow Cooker Carnitas and Rice (less than $1 per serving)
This is one of my go-to recipes made by yours truly! These slow cooker carnitas are amazing and when you pair them with some loaded up mexican rice–it makes for some incredibly cheap meals. I’m talking less than $1 per serving. This is one of the best meal prep ideas for college kids.
7. Keto Copycat Skyline Chili
If you’ve ever wanted to make Cincinnati-style Skyline chili at home, this is your recipe! If you want to keep it low-carb, avoid adding spaghetti and serve it with delicious zucchini noodles!
8. Instant Pot Charro Beans Recipe
Growing up in Austin, we had charro beans any time we ate our for Mexican food. This recipe is loaded up with spices, white onion, bacon, and different kinds of peppers to give it a kick. Make these as a side or a main dish if you want to use less animal protein. Be sure to check out our full list of instant pot meal prep recipes!
How to Meal-Prep a Week of Healthy Lunches for Less Than $20
Follow this easy plan to meal-prep on a budget and create a week healthy and yummy lunches for less than $20. The Sunday meal-prep steps outline what can be done ahead of time, so that all that’s left is to quickly assemble the meals.
If you’ve gone to a movie (in an actual movie theater) recently, then you know easy it is to spend $20. One ticket, a water and a small popcorn, gone! Heck, most pizza places charge $24 for a large pie these days. Twenty bucks doesn’t get you very far anymore. Or does it? One way to you can help stay on track with your budget is to meal-plan. By planning out meals for the week, you’ll be less likely to resort to expensive takeout or last-minute trips to the grocery store where you inevitably buy something you already have at home in the pantry.
If you’re looking for cheap meal prep ideas, look no further. Here we’ve come up with an affordable, healthy and yummy lunch menu for the week on a budget of just $20. With some planning ahead and a little bit of prep work on Sunday afternoon, you’ll be pleasantly surprised just how far $20 can get you. And by batch-cooking and using the same ingredient in multiple ways, you’ll not only stay on budget but you’ll also save time during the busy workweek. Meal prep on a budget has never been so easy!
Tips for Saving at the Grocery Store
- Make sure to check your pantry before you shop. What do you already have on hand?
- When you plan your trip to the store, keep in mind that it may make sense to purchase smaller quantities of some of the ingredients. The couscous, for example, may be available in bulk. That way you can buy only what you need (about 2/3 cup) instead of a larger box. The same goes for the chicken: you’ll only need 2 chicken thighs so, if possible, purchase them at the meat counter. Alternatively, you can always plan to freeze extra chicken for another use.
- When looking for the best value, look at the unit prices. They’re usually on the lower left side of the price marker. Just make sure to check which unit each sticker is using to make sure you are comparing the same unit and amount.
Sunday Meal-Prep Steps
Step 1: Make the Oven-Roasted Chicken Thighs
Boneless, skinless chicken thighs are a surprisingly affordable protein. We also love that this recipe comes together with only 5 minutes of hands-on time. For easy cleanup, line your baking sheet with foil or parchment. As the chicken bakes, move on to Step 2.
Step 2: Cook a Batch of Easy Whole-Wheat Couscous
This super-simple method for cooking couscous takes less than 10 minutes. While the couscous stands, move on to Step 3. Once the couscous has finished cooking off the heat, make sure to fluff it with a fork before measuring it out for the lunch recipes.
Step 3: Hard-Boil 4 Eggs
Step 4: Make the Basil Vinaigrette
This bright green vinaigrette is a shortcut to big flavor; it’s used on two of the lunches. You will not need all of this dressing, nor all of the Honey-Mustard Vinaigrette (below), so you’ll have some extra dressings on hand for salads at dinner too.
Step 5: Whisk Up the Honey-Mustard Vinaigrette
This all-purpose salad dressing adds flavor to more than just salads. It also makes an irresistible dipping sauce for crunchy vegetables or crispy chicken strips. You can store both salad dressings sealed in jars in the fridge. If they solidify when they get cold, simply warm them to room temperature in a warm-water bath before using.
Step 6: Wash & Prep the Kale
We’ve used chopped kale in the Mason Jar Power Salad with Chickpeas & Tuna. You’ll need 3 cups for that. While you’re at it, finely chop 1 more cup of kale for the Couscous & Chickpea Salad.
Meal prep recipes
Cook in advance for the week ahead. We have recipes for freezable soups, big-batch family meals and simple lunch ideas from salads to protein pots.
- Meal prep: pastaA star rating of 3.9 out of 5.19 ratingsMake three lunchbox pasta meals in one go to save you time midweek. They’re nutritious and healthy with variations using salmon, chicken and aubergine
- Big-batch bologneseA star rating of 4.6 out of 5.60 ratingsWhip up a huge batch of bolognese that’s fit to feed a hungry crowd, or freeze half for a speedy midweek meal
- For-the-freezer ratatouilleA star rating of 4.2 out of 5.11 ratingsMake a batch of our healthy veg mix, then serve three ways- with feta, as pictured, with jacket potatoes, or in stuffed peppers
- Courgette & tomato soupA star rating of 4.3 out of 5.73 ratingsBatch cook a vegetable soup when you have a seasonal bounty and you’ll always have a healthy meal in the freezer
- Creamy chicken & sweetcorn soupA star rating of 4.4 out of 5.12 ratingsMake the chicken base for this recipe and freeze it so that you can cook this creamy chicken and sweetcorn soup in just 20 minutes during a busy week
- Smoky black bean chilliA star rating of 4.5 out of 5.6 ratingsFreeze the mince base so you can have this chilli on the table in minutes during a busy week. The kids can have fun packing their own tortillas
- Vegetarian bologneseA star rating of 4.7 out of 5.53 ratingsMake the most of vegetarian mince for this easy veggie bolognese that’s low in fat and calories. Cook a large batch ahead and freeze for easy family dinners
- Mini lentil shepherd’s piesA star rating of 5 out of 5.25 ratingsMake these mini veggie shepherd’s pies ahead and freeze them for a nutritious family supper when you’re pushed for time. They contain three of your 5-a-day
- Vegan breakfast muffinsA star rating of 4.3 out of 5.21 ratingsThese easy vegan breakfast muffins with muesli and pecans are perfect for making ahead of time and freezing in batches for a quick morning snack
- Italian vegetable soupA star rating of 4.6 out of 5.122 ratingsWarm up your week with this good-for-you vegetable soup that’s easy to freeze ahead
- Tuna Niçoise protein potA star rating of 4.4 out of 5.3 ratingsLooking for a tasty protein fix after a workout, or a lunch that will fill you up? Try a tuna and egg Niçoise pot, delivering 30g of protein per portion
- Steak & broccoli protein potsA star rating of 4.8 out of 5.4 ratingsThese protein pots feature steak with a tasty Japanese twist served with wholegrain rice and a zing of sushi ginger. Rustle them up in less than 20 minutes
- Vegan shepherd’s pieA star rating of 4.2 out of 5.121 ratingsA warming vegan supper with porcini mushrooms, leeks, carrots, and butternut squash, topped with crispy potatoes. It’s low calorie, low fat, and perfect for when the nights draw in
- Storecupboard pasta saladA star rating of 4.4 out of 5.64 ratingsThis pasta salad makes a quick and healthy lunch, or is perfect prepared ahead for a picnic or lunchbox
- Picnic quichesA star rating of 4 out of 5.6 ratingsA crisp, short pastry base and a pancetta, cherry tomato and parmesan filling make these perfectly portable tartlets ideal for picnics and summer days out
- Vegan raguA star rating of 4.5 out of 5.14 ratingsMake this healthy vegan ragu base and turn it into a variety of meals, like warming lasagne, mouth-watering moussaka or a hearty bolognese
- Big-batch chicken soupA star rating of 4.4 out of 5.3 ratingsUse a whole chicken to make a big batch of family-friendly chicken soup. Treat the recipe as a base and add your choice of veg, or bulk it up with grains
- Bulgur & quinoa lunch bowlsA star rating of 4.6 out of 5.18 ratingsThese meal prep grain bowls use one base and two deliciously different toppings. Choose from avocado, olives and rocket or chickpeas, beetroot and orange
- Spiced lentil & butternut squash soupA star rating of 4.9 out of 5.140 ratingsCook a big batch of this filling spiced lentil and squash soup and freeze the leftovers for a speedy supper another day. It’s healthy and low in fat
- Mozzarella, pepper & aubergine calzoneA star rating of 4 out of 5.3 ratingsTry these healthy Italian-inspired mozzarella, pepper and aubergine calzones for a working lunch, or pack up and eat outdoors on a warm day
- Apple & penne slaw with walnutsA star rating of 3.9 out of 5.12 ratingsTry a fresh twist on the classic pasta salad with a tangy, veggie yogurt-based dressing, plus apples, walnuts and chickpeas. It’s a healthy, low-calorie lunch option that provides 3 of your 5-a-day
- Wholemeal wraps with minty pea hummus & beetrootA star rating of 4.5 out of 5.8 ratingsThis quick lunch option contains 3 of your 5-a-day and makes great fuel for exercise. Homemade wraps are easy to make and are much tastier than shop-bought.
- Tomato, pepper & bean one potA star rating of 4.7 out of 5.28 ratingsMake a batch of this stew at the weekend, then chill or freeze it in portions for easy midweek lunches. See our different toppings to keep it interesting
- Scandi beetroot & salmon pastaA star rating of 4.4 out of 5.5 ratingsEat well at work with this easy-to-prepare Scandinavian-inspired beetroot and salmon fusilli salad. It’ll keep you going through the afternoon