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How To Meal Prep On A Budget (Cheap, Easy & Healthy Ideas)

Learn how to meal prep with these meal prep on a budget ideas. Healthy and easy meal prep that’s perfect for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. If you love the sound of healthy eating, but think it’s too expensive, you’re going to love these healthy cheap meal prep ideas. Most of the recipes on this list can be prepped in less than 30 minutes.

cheap vegan meal prep

Healthy Cheap Meal Prep Benefits

I always seem to be busy. As much as I enjoy cooking, I don’t have much time to spend in the kitchen. On top of my busy working life, I try to stay fit and it’s never great after a hard workout to start cooking a meal from scratch.

The temptation to snack on not-so-healthy food or rely on takeaways can be huge. If you have a family to feed, time and budget pressures can be overwhelming and it’s easy to slip into unhealthy ways. I know, I’ve been there!

Discovering meal prep was a lifesaver.

Instead of preparing healthy meals 2 or 3 times a day, I could spend 2-3 hours in the kitchen on a Sunday night and meal prep for the week. I’d get back from a busy day and there was always a healthy meal to quickly reheat.

I not only saved time, by eating healthy food I felt better, had more energy, and lost inches off my waistline!

And all it took was a few tips and tricks such as having a meal plan, preparing a shopping list, and meal prepping 2 or 3 times a week instead of trying to cook healthy meals every day.

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cheap vegan meal prep planning

Benefits Of Meal Prepping

1. Save Money: There is far less food waste when you meal prep. When you go food shopping you’ll take a shopping list with you and buy exactly what you need for the week. There’s no temptation to add items you don’t need. You’re not throwing food away you didn’t get around to cooking or spending money on expensive takeaways. Meal prep a healthy lunch to go and save money!

2. Save Time: It’s much quicker to batch-cook food. You can make one dish that lasts for 2 or 3 meals. By prepping food on a Sunday night, you’ll have so much more time during the week.

3. Eat Better: Meal prep can make it much easier to keep to a healthy eating plan. When you have healthy meals and snacks ready to eat, you’re less likely to be tempted by unhealthy choices.

cheap healthy meal ideas and recipes in containers

How To Meal Prep For Beginners – Tips & Tricks

In case you’re completely new to meal prep, I’d better explain what it is. Meal prepping is simply preparing your meals in advance. This could mean cooking all your dishes for the entire week on a Sunday night or just prepping a few recipes for a couple of days and cooking again later in the week.

These are my tips to meal prep for beginners:

1. Meal Plan

It’s best to plan out your menu for an entire week. If you just plan 2 -3 days ahead, all your best intentions tend to go by the wayside during a busy week.

2. Food Shop For The Week

Go food shopping armed with a list of ingredients for your meal plan. I like to do one big weekly shop and have a small top up shop for a few fresh ingredients mid week.

3, Keep Your Meal Prep Easy

If you try to cook too many recipes your meal prepping quickly becomes too complicated and takes too long. Try and stick to 2 – 3 easy meals for weekdays.

4. Don’t Meal Prep Too Many Meals

There’s a limit to how long prepped meals will stay fresh in the fridge. I like to be cautious and have a 3-day limit and I’ll freeze a couple of meals for later in the week.

5. Double Up On Recipes

Make a big batch of one dish and then use it in different ways. For example, prepare a big pot of chili and use it as a filling for tacos, burritos, or enchiladas later in the week.

roasted vegetables

Meal Prep Containers

When you’re on a budget the last thing you want to do is spend money on expensive containers. There’s nothing wrong with using some old Tupperware – empty ice cream containers are ideal.

But if you’re looking for something a bit more stylish and sustainable, my favorites are glass containers – you can get ones that are oven-safe, microwavable, and dishwasher-safe. It’s best to have a variety of sizes to suit your needs and make sure they have silicone lids that seal in freshness.

HOMBERKING 10 Pack Glass Meal Prep Containers 2 Compartment, Glass Food Storage Containers with Lids, Airtight Glass Lunch Bento Boxes, BPA-Free & Leak Proof (10 lids & 10 Containers) - Grey

Ways To Save Money

Meal prep is a great way to save money but these tips will help you stretch a tight budget further:

1. Eat nutritious plant-based whole foods

Some of the cheapest foods you can buy are plant-based, naturally high in protein, and low in fat:

  • Beans and lentils – use canned beans or opt for the dried version to save money.
  • Whole wheat pasta
  • Whole grains – brown rice, quinoa, whole wheat bread
  • Rolled oats
meal prep bowls

2. Use Seasonal Produce

It’s a sad truth that fresh fruit and vegetables can be expensive. One way around this is to plan your recipes using seasonal produce.

I always love making recipes with zucchini and eggplants in the summer months but in the winter I use carrots and parsnips in stews and soups. These easy bean salad recipes have great ideas for using seasonal produce!

3. Check For Bargains

Do you always shop the reduced-priced shelves? It can be a good way to buy affordable fruit and vegetables. There’s no harm in buying produce close to its expiry date when you’re going to cook it straight away. These bargains can be a good way to save money.

4. Bulk Buy

Meal prep meals are all about cooking in bulk and if you have a freezer, food prep isn’t limited to making dishes for just one week. Find your local bulk food store and make the most of it. Many key plant-based ingredients will last for months in the larder. For example, buying sacks of rice works out at a fraction of the cost of using those tiny 1-pound bags.

5. Buy Frozen Fruit And Vegetables

Berries, green beans, and peas are just some items on my shopping list I regularly buy frozen. It’s a good way to save money. Frozen fruits and vegetables can be better than fresh – nutrients are locked in at the time of picking compared with fresh produce which can take days to reach our supermarket shelves.

cheap vegan meal prep

Easy Breakfast Meal Prep Recipes

Healthy breakfast recipes that are easy to grab and go on a busy morning. These meal prep breakfast recipes provide a healthy start to the day!

Healthy Overnight Oats

vegan meal prep overnight oats

Prep Time: 5 minutes

Vegan, Vegetarian

Quick to make and perfect for keeping you full until lunchtime. Meal prep the basic recipe from rolled oats and chia seeds in just 5 minutes, then add your favorite toppings before you serve. Delicious!

Tofu Scramble

tofu scramble

Prep Time: 20 Minutes

Vegan, Vegetarian, Gluten-Free

This is one of my favorite breakfasts and my go-to recipe when I want a quick protein boost.

Healthy Waffles (Fluffy & Crispy)

vegan waffles

Prep Time: 30 Minutes

Vegan, Vegetarian

Waffles are perfect for meal prep! They freeze really well and can be reheated in the toaster or a toaster oven for an easy breakfast. Great if you’re in a hurry and eating breakfast on the go!

Get more healthy breakfast meal prep ideas. 10+ more ideas with something for everyone!

Salads And Meal Prep Bowls Recipes

Healthy salads and bowls are my ideal meal prep lunches for work. They make quick and easy lunch ideas.

Easy Vegan Meal Prep Bowls

Prep Time 10 – 15 minutes

Vegan, Vegetarian

vegan meal prep bowls

Meal prep bowls are only limited by your imagination. Fill your bowl with vegetables and some fruit, whole grains, filling protein, and some healthy fats. Top with a drizzle of dressing and sprinkle with toppings.

Healthy Sweet Potato Buddha Bowl

Prep Time: 60 minutes

Vegan, Vegetarian

vegan sweet potato buddha bowl

The sweet potatoes in this dish will fill you up a treat. You can make a budget version of this dish by serving the roasted vegetables with plain brown rice.

Use mangos if in season – otherwise, sliced bananas make a healthy substitute. Instead of the almond butter dressing, I just dribble on some plant-based yogurt.

Get creative with the recipe. I added some lamb lettuce to my dish with a few slices of ripe avocado.

Easy Quinoa Burrito Bowls

quinoa burrito bowls

Prep Time: 30 minutes

Vegan, Vegetarian

These burrito bowls will give you plenty of energy to power through the day. And they’re so easy to make! You can rustle up 5 days’ worth of protein-packed, healthy tasty meals in less than 20 minutes!

Sweet Potato Chickpea Buddha Bowls

sweet potato chickpea buddha bowls

Prep Time: 30 minutes

Vegan, Vegetarian, Gluten-Free

Chickpea bowls are one of my favorite go-to recipes. These vegan meal prep bowls are filling, and nutritious plus you can customize them however you want. This one-pot meal is simple but delicious – sweet potatoes, chickpeas, tender stem broccoli and kale, and a quick tahini sauce.

Meal Prep Lunch & Dinner Recipes

These meal prep ideas are all healthy, nutritious, and affordable. Double up the recipes and batch cook to feed a crowd or to have plenty of portions to meal prep for the week.

Sweet Potato Black Bean Chili

sweet potato black bean chili

Prep Time: 45 minutes

Vegan, Vegetarian

This easy dish uses a lot of spices but they’re ones most people will find in their pantry. Otherwise, the list of ingredients is short and affordable – sweet potatoes, black beans, and diced tomatoes. Tasty and delicious, this chili is super versatile. Eat it as is with some vegan sour cream, or serve it with cooked brown rice, quinoa, or even pasta.

Easy Vegan Meatballs

easy vegan meatballs

Prep Time: 30 minutes

Vegan, Vegetarian

Everyone loves meatballs! These vegan meatballs are made with tempeh. It’s a plant-based protein made from fermented soybeans. You can buy it in most good supermarkets. It’s cheap to buy, packed with protein, and makes a delicious vegan meatball!

Easy Three Bean Chili

three bean chili

Prep Time: 30 minutes

Vegan, Vegetarian

I don’t think you can ever have too many chili dishes. This meal prep recipe is packed full of healthy protein and fiber. The great thing about chili is that you can make a big pot, eat it throughout the week, and freeze any leftovers.

Vegan Chickpea Burgers

vegan chickpea burger recipes

Prep Time: 50 minutes+

Vegan, Vegetarian

When it comes to chickpea burgers it’s best to meal prep the patties in advance but assemble the burger when you’re ready to eat. The patties keep well in the fridge. Our burger recipes have something for everyone. Just add your favorite toppings – slices of red onions and tomato, bbq sauce, avocado, or anything else you fancy!

Healthy Bean Soup

best vegan bean soup

I can live off bean soup. Seriously. There are so many different ways to make it and so many different types of beans you can use. Bean soup is ideal for prepping. Make your soup in bulk – you can keep it for several days in the fridge or freeze it.

Simple Roasted Summer Veggies

summer roasted veggies

Prep Time: 30 minutes

Vegan, Vegetarian

Delicious vegan meal prep ideas don’t have to be difficult to make. Slice up eggplant, zucchini, and bell peppers, drizzle with olive oil, and bake in the oven. Make in bulk for easy meal prep and store in a sealed container in the fridge. Eat cold or reheat – wonderful with chunky fresh bread for a healthy lunch.

Red Lentil Dahl

red lentil dahl

Prep Time: 25 minutes

Vegan, Vegetarian

Everyone should know how to make red lentil dahl. It’s another perfect recipe for meal prep. You can make a big pot and eat it throughout the week. Dahl is healthy, delicious, and cheap to make. Most lentil recipes are ideal for meal prep!

Meal Prep Snacks & Healthy Treats

Just because you’re trying to eat healthy food doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy a snack or sweet treat now and then. It’s always best to opt for home-cooked snacks instead of shop-bought versions which are loaded with added sugar and other highly processed ingredients.

Here are some meal prep snack ideas:

Healthy Trail Mix: No preparation required – just make your own by mixing together a selection of nuts, seeds, and dried fruit.

Roasted Chickpeas: Quickly roast in the oven and enjoy munching at your desk!

Homemade Energy Balls: The basic ingredients are rolled oats, dates, and a selection of chopped nuts with nut butter and maple syrup to bind the ingredients together. Throw everything in a food processor for 1 or 2 minutes. Scape out the mixture and roll it into balls.

Take a look at these healthy snack ideas to meal prep for work for more ideas. Or if you have a sweet tooth, try these plant-based desserts!

vegan dessert recipes carrot cake

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