We’ve all heard the advice before that if you want to eat healthy on a budget, you need to meal prep! My belief is that this is the most common advice because it really works. I personally am a huge fan of meal prepping as I’ve not only seen the benefits it has on my wallet, but also the time it saves me throughout the week. If you are not already a fan of meal prepping, you can check out 6 tips to meal prepping on a budget.
That being said, if I am being realistic, there are some weeks I just don’t get around to meal prepping! So, I’ve developed a number of backup plans, tips, and tricks for whipping together a cheap and easy meal that doesn’t need to be meal prepped.
1. Step up your ramen (or other soup) game
Most of us can remember a time when we relied on the convenience of ramen to get ourselves fed. And while ramen is definitely a fast and easy option, it’s definitely not the most nutritious. This simple trick will make instant ramen more nutritious all while reducing food waste.
Search your refrigerator for veggies that are on the verge of going bad; if they are not already diced, cut them into bite size pieces, and throw them in your ramen!
Because throwing this meal together should take you no more than ten minutes with very little clean up involved, you still get the convenience of ramen while fueling your body with a slightly more nutritious meal.
Ramen not your thing? No worries, this trick works with your favorite canned soup as well!
2. Keep canned beans, frozen veggies, and grains on hand
If my weekend came and went without meal prepping, it usually means I had too many other things on my plate. And that means my week is likely going to be busy as well. That’s why I always keep canned beans, frozen veggies, and grains stocked up!
With these three ingredients, I know at the bare minimum I can make a meal that will keep me satisfied. Since the veggies and beans are essentially ready to eat, all I have to do is boil some water for pasta or instant rice to get dinner on the table. Heck, maybe I’ll even answer an email or two while the water heats up!
To make this a little more exciting, I use spices liberally with this meal. My go to’s are garlic and onion powder, but when I am feeling creative I’ll use basil or a turmeric and ginger combo.
3. Have breakfast for dinner
I think generally people agree that breakfast is easier and faster to put together than most dinners, so why not have breakfast for dinner when you are in a pinch?
From oatmeal, to scrambled eggs, to avocado toast, or even a smoothie, these meals taste great and have very little prep involved! So don’t let the time of day dictate what you can or cannot eat.
4. Master one go-to recipe that you don’t mind eating over and over and over again
The first several times you make a new recipe, the cooking experience is a little bit more labor intensive. To start off you need to look up the ingredients and create a shopping list, sometimes you even need to go on a hunt in the store to find those ingredients that are new to your repertoire. Then while cooking you’re stirring the quinoa while trying to refer back to directions for the next step, all while trying not to burn the veggies!
After all that you just hope it tastes good!
So, by mastering one, maybe two recipes, you streamline the entire process. You can breeze through the groceries store. You can relax and turn on your favorite tv show while cooking. And you know it’s going to turn out well and be a meal that you really enjoy!
5. Frozen and instant meals
When I first began meal prepping, I latched onto a strange false assumption that I had failed at meal prepping if I had a frozen or instant meal every now and then. But I’ve come to learn that progress is far more important than perfection!
Having a frozen pizza or box of mac and cheese on a night when I don’t have the bandwidth to cook a fresh meal is still cheaper than ordering food in or eating out! And it certainly doesn’t mark me as a failure at meal prepping.
6. If you are going to get takeout or delivery, split the meal in half (even thirds) and supplement with home cooked food
We all know that per meal, restaurant food is more expensive than home cooked food. But the truth is it tastes great and is easier than putting something together yourself. So if you are going to order food, see if you can make it last longer.
Try cutting the meal in half or in thirds before you dig in! Then supplement with food you have at home.
For example, when I order Chinese food, my favorite dish is General Tso’s tofu, but instead of getting the combo which comes with both the tofu and rice, I opt for the tofu only because I know making rice at home is very cheap and fairly easy. Typically, the order will come with the same amount of food at about the same cost, but now it lasts three, sometimes even four meals rather than one or two.
If you need help understanding why meal prepping is the way to go for your budget, talk to one of our Trainers on Demand!
Healthy, Non-Prepped Meal Ideas | The Financial Gym is written by The Financial Gym Team for financialgym.com