I have a confession to make.
My wife and I really struggle to follow a budget. Don’t get me wrong, we have a budget! Heck, we actually have 3! One in excel, one in Mint, and another in Ynab.
But our problem is actually following our budget.
A few months ago we started to take this more seriously because we knew we weren’t saving to our fullest potential. The biggest leak in our budget? Overspending on food.
For 3 months straight we were spending over $600/month on groceries. For TWO PEOPLE!
The same day I figured this out, I started compiling a list of easy and cheap meal prep recipes. We’ve been able to bring out grocery budget down significantly, but we’re still working on it.
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If you aren’t convinced that meal prepping is worth your time, just know that it could be the secret to saving another $215,000 for retirement.
The list of 46 easy and cheap meal prep recipes below were not written by me, but by some of my favorite bloggers out there. Show them some love and check out their food.
Update: I’ve added a list of tips to meal prep on a budget at the bottom of the list! Scroll down to check them out.
If you have any favorite food blogs or easy meal prep recipes to add to this growing list, comment below!
Last preface: I haven’t tried every single one of these! My wife and I meal prep so we usually only cook 1-2 meals a week for dinner. Over time I’ll continue to add to this list. And I’m not a vegetarian so those will never be “tried and true”… One of you will have to tell me how they are!
46 Easy and Cheap Meal Prep Recipes That Will Save You Money
10 Easy and Cheap Meal Prep Recipes for Chicken
This one comes from one of my favorite food bloggers out there, FitMenCook. With only 4 ingredients, it is one of my favorite, cheap meal prep recipes for novices in the kitchen. Loaded with flavor, this chicken curry is a great high-protein option. The best part is, this recipe only takes about 20 minutes start to finish, so you can pull it off when you’re in a hurry! For those who are low-carb or keto dieting, this chicken is a great staple to put on a salad or in a veggie wrap.
The past 6 months I’ve been on a huge kick for African and other ethnic foods. If you want to branch out and expand your tastes, try this dish! If you’ve never used allspice and cumin on chicken, then you are totally missing out! This dish is super easy to put together and can be a great high-protein meal prep to get you through your week.
If you’re a fan of tomatoes, then this dish is for you! Put the chicken and spices in the crockpot, dump fresh or canned tomatoes in and then wait. It’ll definitely be a test to your patience as you have to wait 6-8 hours, but that makes this the perfect meal to put together before you head to work. Come home to a the smell of a fresh-cooked meal with little effort.
As a bonus, this one is also dairy-free, gluten-free, and whole-30. Did I miss anything?
If you don’t own a crock pot or slow cooker, I can’t recommend this one enough→ InstantPot 6Qt. My wife and I use it on a weekly basis and it has paid for itself 10x over in the amount of time it saves us.
Want to know how to meal prep a week’s worth of food in an hour? Sheet pans. Load up a baking pan with chicken, different veggies, drizzle some olive oil, and season it all to your preference.
The italian seasoned broccoli, red onion, and cherry tomatoes go great with the chicken and pair well over rice or quinoa.
The next four are all sheet-pan, easy meal prep recipes you can prep in 30 minutes or less!
One of my secrets to meal prepping is cooking a main dish of protein that can be dressed up and served a number of ways. This cilantro lime chicken is just as good in tacos as it is over a salad. Or you stuff them in a burrito or layer it on a bed of rice. Have kids? Make them some delicious, protein-filled quesadillas.
If you’re looking for a healthy chicken dish loaded with veggies, this is the one for you. Sweet potatoes, green beans, bell pepper, and broccoli served with chicken and topped in a cheese makes this budget friendly meal a winner in my book!
Double the recipe and you’ve got healthy lunches for the whole week!
This is the second dish from Chelsea’s Messy Apron and is amazing! It has a totally different set of flavor than the other sheet-pan recipes, but is incredibly easy to throw together. The balsamic glaze takes no time to put together and serves well as a dipping sauce for the chicken and veggies. If you have a hard time eating broccoli, this recipe is for you!
If you love garlic, put this recipe at the top of the list for this week’s meal plan. This asian inspired chicken is perfect for feeding the whole family or getting you through the rest of the week! I love putting it over some rice for a great post-workout meal, but if you’re trying to avoid the carbs, double up on the veggies and call it a day.
Even though I’ve always been a huge fan of slow cookers, I’ve only just started using them to make soups and chili! It takes 6-8 hours to cook, but will give you 6+ servings. Put this on right before you go to bed, wake up, and pack your lunch!
What I love about asian dishes is how easy they are to make and how they stay good for several days! This healthy take on sesame chicken is lighter on the brown sugar and honey but still heavy with flavor. I wish it had some veggies tossed in, but get creative and add them yourselves! Red bell pepper, snap peas, and broccoli would be great to add.
Beef: 10 Easy and Cheap Meal Prep Recipes That Will Save You Money
If you’re trying to save money on food and have never been to BudgetBytes you are seriously missing out! Delicious food for cheap. And every recipe comes with the exact cost per serving! This stir fry can also be used for turkey or ground pork!
I cooked this meal a few months ago and I have been dying to cook it again! My wife gives me a hard time, but any kind of meat with a bowl of rice is the perfect meal for me. This one takes hardly any time to put together and is around $1.70/serving! Load up on whatever cut of beef is cheapest and fill up on sesame beef.
This right here is a home-run by Pioneer Woman. There’s nothing better than a hunk of meat slapped between two pieces of buttered and toasted bread with a bowl of au-jus broth to dip it in. If you’re able to find beef chuck roast on sale, you can come out at around $1.60 for each of the ten meals you’ll get to eat throughout the week! It seriously takes less than 10 minutes to get in the oven and then you’ll have to wait the most painful 6 hours while the amazing pot roast smell fills up your home.
If you haven’t gotten sucked into the instant pot craze by this point, then I’m actually impressed! Instant pots are basically a pressure cooker, but they have taken the food blogging world by storm. Want to skip on the 6-8 hour wait times with a crockpot? Buy yourself an instant pot and get the same meal done in 10% of the time. We were given one for Christmas this year and are obsessed!
This instant pot beef stew is loaded with flavor and light on the budget. With only 6 ingredients, this is definitely a budget friendly meal you can cook in a hurry.
Pinch of Yum is my favorite food blog by far. Anything you see on their site gets a huge vote of approval from me.
Any meal I can make for $2 or less AND cook in 15 minutes automatically gets added to my meal plan rotation. I grew up chowing down on stroganoff. The only problem with this dish is I can’t eat only one serving. The mushrooms and beef with the creamy sauce is just too good.
We made this enchiladas a few months ago for a group of friends and everyone asked us for the recipe by the time the night was over. The best part: we were able to introduce them to the amazing blogger, Rosemarie Groner of BusyBudgeter. Double, triple, or quadruple the recipe and eat these enchiladas all week.
This recipe comes from a fellow finance blogger, MrsMummyPenny! I’ve actually never had bolognese, but this recipe just got added to my list! This meal is loaded up with vegetables and since Lynn has been cooking this recipe for over 25 years I imagine she has perfected it! Check out her blog and give this recipe a try!
This is the second recipe from Chelsea and it is the perfect answer if you are dieting, but want to get your taco fix. Ditch the tortillas and put this delicious taco meat over a salad with all of your favorite fixings. I highly recommend guacamole, greek yogurt as a sub for sour cream, and some sliced up cherry tomatoes.
Try this one and thank me later! Less than 30 minutes to prep and under $2/meal.
If you’ve never had cuban beef, you haven’t lived. This shredded beef recipe is seriously life changing. Sear the meat, drop it in a slow cooker, and put it over some rice and beans. I’ll warn you that this one is a bit more time intensive, but it’s worth it.
And again, at less than $2/meal, this is an easy meal prep recipe you’ll want to make again and again.
This recipe might be the easiest on this whole list to make! All you need is a good sized hunk of beef, some spices, and 8-9 hours of crockpot time. Depending on the sale, this recipe could come out to less than $1/serving for 6+ ounces of beef. High protein and low cost makes this meal a staple.
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10 Cheap Pork Recipes to Save Money on Groceries
This recipe by Pioneer Woman might be the world’s easiest, high-protein, packed with flavor meal. With only 4 ingredients and a couple of spices, you’ll spend more time staring at your food than it’ll take to get in the oven. Warning, it does need about 6 hours in the oven to cook, but you’ll get about 13 meals (6oz protein per serving) at $1.08 each.
Pulled pork is probably the best cut of meat for those trying to save money. Usually you can find it anywhere from $1-3/lb, especially if you can get in on Costco’s legendary sales. The meat is super easy to cook with, but it needs a lot of time to break down the muscle fibers and meat.
Once done, the meat is tender and loaded with flavor! If you’re a fan of bbq, this is a great recipe to pull off!
I’ll be honest, I haven’t made this one yet. But it looks amazing! Cook the meat on low for 6-8 hours in a crockpot and then put the meat under a broiler to give it a nice char and crisp. This one will definitely be a staple.
Growing up in Austin, my idea of chili was always “Texas Chili”. It had to be loaded with spices, beans, and tomatoes. The first time I had any kind of green chili with pork, I was blown away. It’s a delicious combo that will leave you happy and full, and better yet, it’ll save you money! Top your soup with some jalapenos to kick it up a notch.
This is another one by Budget Bytes! The cost comes out to an impressively low $1.57/serving. It’s delicious, healthy, and takes almost no time at all to cook. Save this one for nights when you know you don’t have time to cook. The spinach and white beans make the perfect combo with the italian pork.
If you haven’t caught on yet, but of my favorite recipes are some form of meat & veggies. I generally try to avoid carbs, but sometimes it’s hard to eat on a budget this way. This recipe of turkey sausage and veggies is amazing! Super healthy, super easy, and a budget friendly meal you can cook over and over.
Last time I ran a Keto diet I ate this meal ALL the time. Eating healthy and saving money can be a difficult balance to strike. You need to try this one if you’re trying to save money and eat low-carb. It’s basically everything all of the goodness inside of eggrolls, stuffed into a lettuce wrap instead.
Now I know the name might throw you off, but this meal is incredible. The sausage and the potatoes soften up and almost create this mash of goodness. If you’ve got any meat & potato types in your family, this one HAS to be in your line-up. It’s one of those meals that really does warm you up all over.
I promise this is the last pulled pork recipe you’ll have to read about! It really does make the perfect pulled pork though. These pork sandwiches also come out to around $0.75 each, so if you’ve got a crowd to feed–this is the recipe for you! With 8-12 hours of brining time and another 8 hours of cooking, you definitely need to plan ahead for this one.
Sausage wraps were a staple in my house growing up. My dad would fire up the grill and 15 minutes later we’d be chowing down. This recipe definitely dresses them up a bit more but the mix of garlic, cheese, and tomatoes definitely take this to the next level.
2 Cheap and Easy to Make Fish Recipes
Fish is one of the highest cost forms of protein but there is no doubt it is one of the healthiest. To get down to $2/lb, the fish portions are smaller, but if you load up on extra veggies you can still have a full meal for cheap.
Tilapia is one of the cheapest cuts of fish, but can be questionable. Sure, it may not be best to eat farm-raised fish, but wild caught ain’t cheap and I figure if eating tilapia helps me lose weight I’ll end up better for it. This dish is SUPER easy to make and only takes about 20 minutes! Just make sure you de-thaw your fish if it comes frozen.
This one actually has 4 different fish recipes you can use! Not all of them fall into the $2 or less range, but the “Citrus Soy Salmon Fillet Recipe” is awesome! Salmon is by far one of the healthiest foods anyone can eat and this recipe knocks it out of the park. Easy to make and about as close to a budget friendly meal as you can get with salmon.
3 Turkey Recipes to Save Money and Lose Weight
This recipe comes from my wife! Last fall she I came home to the amazing smell of this sweet potato turkey chili! I’ve asked her to make it several times since then because it is so good! Healthy and with only 5 ingredients + spices, it’s so easy to make. If you’re a fan of chili, you will love this one.
Also, Pinch of Yum is my favorite food blog that exists, so check them out. If I am craving anything the first thing I do is google, “______ pinch of yum”. Amazing food and even more amazing people behind it.
If you’re looking for a cheap, low carb recipe these meatballs have to be on your list! They are super easy to make but loaded with flavor. Combine these with a side salad and you’ll make your heart and wallet happy.
Here’s another easy to make skillet meal for you! My wife gives me a hard time, but most of the food I eat is basically just a mash of meat, veggies, and however many carbs I allow myself to eat. These take a bit longer to make because of the chopping involved but you can easily make a week’s worth of food in one go. Depending on your health goals you can double the meat, veggies, or rice to get the balance you want.
5 Budget Friendly Vegetarian Recipes
I’ll be real here… I’m the furthest thing from a vegetarian. I love meat. I eat meat in almost every meal. BUT I’m also trying to be healthy and save money, so I’ve been thinking about subbing in some vegetarian meals to get some more veggies in. If you’re like me, you can also use these recipes as your base and add a few ounces of meat to complete the recipe for you!
All that being said, I haven’t tried all of these, but they look amazing!
This salad looks amazing! I love every ingredient in this salad and I’m sure it would make for an awesome side salad with chicken or salmon. If you’re looking for something light and fresh, give this one a try and let me know what you think!
I first had lentil soup a few months ago and was blown away! It was hearty, tasty, and incredibly filling. This lentil curry recipe will take a bit of effort and some of the ingredients are less common, but if you’re wanting to try something out of the box this is a great recipe to go with.
This recipe is legendary within the personal finance realm. The Frugalwoods are a blogger couple living on a 66 acre homestead in Vermont and they write all about frugality and life on a farm. This recipe is their ultra frugal recipe that comes out to a crazy low $0.39 per serving!
I’ve made this recipe MULTIPLE times and it always saves me a ton of money. The rice, beans, and mushrooms mixture is amazing. Give it a try and add a bit of chicken or beef to up the protein a bit if you need to.
Now I’m super skeptical of vegan chili but after having some vegan queso last week with taco tofu on top, I’ve decided to give this one a try! This recipe is loaded with veggies and spices and might be the only way this meat lover gives vegetarian recipes a try.
At 225 calories a serving, this recipe will help you save money, time, and eat healthy. Everything we’re all trying to do.
Apparently lentils are pretty common for vegetarian and vegan eating. They’re a cheap source of non-animal protein and adds great texture / heartiness to a meal. A full cup of lentils will give you about 20 grams a protein!
This lentil soup recipe looks amazing! And since all of the ingredients are veggies or spices, it is super cheap to put together if you’re in a hurry!
2 Non-Meat but not-quite Vegetarian Recipes
2018 has been the year of thai food for my wife and I. Nearly every time we eat out or have friends over we’re doing thai food. Thai chicken tacos, thai pizza, thai chicken noodle soup, thai everything! What I love about thai food is that most of the flavor and richness of the dish come from putting together the right ingredients rather than just dumping in spices.
This thai curry vegetable soup looks amazing and is a $1.50 / serving!
Growing up, one of my favorite dishes my mom made was hot and sour soup. A few months back I had the strangest craving for a bowl of this soup and found the perfect recipe for it! I made it that night and had a bunch of leftovers, but they didn’t last long! I had this soup for breakfast and lunch the next day and made it again the following week!
4 Cheap Pasta Recipes that Anyone Can Make
Unfortunately I don’t eat a ton of pasta these days because if I even look at carbs I’ll gain weight. That being said, every once in a while I like to treat myself to some rich, carby, cheesy pasta. THis one pan penne is loaded with beef and chunks of mozzarella cheese, and you can do it all in one skillet.
Goulash is a hungarian dish that is basically just stewed meat, veggies, and pasta that is seasoned well with paprika and other spices. What I love about this recipe is that there are only 5 steps to finish it. Brown the meat, cook the pasta, add in the veggies, and put it all together.
One of my absolute favorite food combos is pasta with sundried tomatoes! Add in some spinach and other veggies and you have a super healthy, but really good tasting pasta. If you want to up the protein simply add some chicken. At less than $2/bowl this is a super great budget friendly meal!
This pasta looks amazing and is incredibly easy to put together! You can add in whatever veggies you want to jazz it up a bit and make it a healthy option!
7 Tips to Meal Prep on a Budget
1. If you’re trying out a new recipe, stick to the regular amount.
After you’ve tested it out, feel free to double or triple the amount so you can have more leftover. The last thing you want to do is spend a bunch of money only to cook a meal you don’t like at all.
2. Buy in Bulk
The easiest way to meal prep on a budget is to buy as much food in bulk as possible. Meat, potatoes, and any kind of meat is easy to buy in bulk and save hundreds of dollars a year. Buying in bulk only makes sense if you’ve got the space to store it and you know you’ll eat it before it all goes bad.
3. Unit Price per Food
If you’re trying to meal prep on a budget, the most important thing is to keep an eye on the unit price for the food you’re buying. The less you pay per ounce or pound of food, the better.
4. Eat Less Meat
If you’re used to a high protein diet, then you know how expensive meat can be. If you can find ways to eat sub in cheaper protein sources like nuts, beans, or dairy products, it can be a huge money-saver.
5. Reduce Food Waste
The average American throws away over $600 a year in food! One of the easiest ways to meal prep on a budget is to simply eat the food you buy. The less food you throw away, the less food you have to buy!
6. Find Ingredient Overlaps
This is one of the best things you can do to meal prep on a budget. My favorite thing is to make 3-4 lbs of meat and then find ways to incorporate it into different meals. It makes my meal prep easier and cheaper because I don’t have to buy as many ingredients.
7. Freeze it
Whenever I make chili or soup, I try to make enough to freeze for the days where we haven’t had time to go by the store and don’t have any food. The biggest weakness when it comes to eating out is the desire for convenience.
I’m all about finding easy and cheap meal prep recipes! If you’ve got any favorites, share them in the comments below!