Meal Prepping on the Cheap

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If you’ve previously been used to eating cheap microwave food or late night £2 meal deal from the local chicken shop, the the price of meal prepping can begin to add up. Note that this is not because it is expensive to meal prep but because good food does not come cheap, after all you get what you pay for. However, you don’t necessarily have to have a lot of money so as to eat healthy. Below are some tips that can help you meal prep even on a small budget. Let us know if we missed anything in the comments.

Plan, plan, plan

If you want to eat healthy on a shoestring budget, the first thing that you need to do is to plan. At first, meal prep may appear as a big complicated mess. However, once you have a routine, you will find that it’s an easy task which also saves you a great amount of time and money.

A picture of the paprika app on the ipad. | Image Source: thesweetsetup.com/apps/best-recipe-manager-ios-mac/

A picture of the paprika app on the ipad. | Image Source: thesweetsetup.com/apps/best-recipe-manager-ios-mac/

To start off, we recommend that you create a meal calendar. This will enable you plan your meals for the week ahead prior to going shopping. Planning your meal beforehand not only enables you to eat healthier but also saves money and time while at the grocery shop. There are various meal planning apps such as Paprika and Pepper Plate that will help you keep recipes organised, create a shopping list, plan your weekly meals and even eat lots of healthier, homemade foods. Alternatively just write everything down and take it with you when you go shopping.

Buy in bulk

Buying in bulk is another way to save on your meal prepping. Not only does it save you money but also time of going to the grocery store time and again. You just have to portion it out and then freeze some for later use. You can separate the servings into plastic bags and put the leftovers in the freezer for use in the upcoming week. Another advantage of creating portions in advance is that it makes the meal management plan to be much more effective.

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I used to buy my meat from supermarkets but this cost far more when compared to bulk purchases from wholesalers such as Makro, Costco or Muscle Foods. The first two are members only wholesalers but the third option delivers direct to your home. For those in the London area I would strongly recommend a visit to Smithfields Market in the City of London but be ready to for an early rise. The meat market opens at midnight and closes early hours of the morning as this is where many restaurants and smaller retailers source their meat.

Check your pantry first

Once you’ve come up with your plan for the week, make sure to take stock of what items you already have in your pantry. Using ingredients that you’ve already purchased helps prevent food spoilage and keeps you from overbuying. You can also tailor your week’s menu to use up what you already have.

Try Generic brands

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Try the store brand for anything you buy regularly, you may notice zero differance. Always check the back too as sometimes the cheaper brands add more sugar to disguise the use of lower quality ingredients.

Make sure that you compare prices between generic (store brand) items and name brand products. In most cases, generic items are just as good as their brand name counterparts but at a fraction of the price of brand names. Before you make a decision, take a look at the nutritional info of both products, sometimes the brand is worth the extra few penny’s.

Buy seasonal food items

One of the simplest ways of saving money with your meal prepping is buying produce that’s in season. Produce that is not naturally in season is available because it has been imported from somewhere it is in season. Importing from far away costs the store more and so they must charge more per item. Such produces are cheaper when in season since they don’t have to be transported from other parts of the globe.

We also recommend using your more perishable items first and leaving longer lasting items towards the end of the week. This allows you to use the freshest ingredients in their prime and get the maximum benefit from them.

 
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About Author

Mehmet is a qualified pharmacist and lover of shorts, whatever the season. Whilst his background is in science his interests are in fitness, music and entrepeneurship. He is the founder of Gym Meals London and believes quality food, an active lifestyle and regular stretching is the obvious secret to good health.

2 Comments

  1. Good tips Mems, you’ve covered all the fundamental stuff, just a couple of other things you could do:

    – Cutting up all vegetables beforehand, putting them into containers and freezing them – this allows me to enjoy the benefits of fresh veggies and prevents the problems of produce going off, so I won’t have to throw it away and buy more in its place, otherwise sticking to frozen produce is a good way to extend the longevity of the food you buy

    – Getting in healthy fats can be a problem which finding good sources and paying high prices for them, and it’s important not only for macros but for keeping healthy (hormone production, keeping joints supple etc) – I’ve found that making investments in quality sources of healthy fats (olive oil, omega 3 capsules, nuts) in advance allows me to just add them into my meals over a long period of time, and it pays off in the long run, adding these to other sources such as avacadoes, milk, eggs, cheese and fish

    – Sticking to raw, organic foods which have been through less processing is healthier and cheaper, but also tends to taste plain and the diet routine becomes hard to stick with – buying a few shakers of oregano, paprika, basil, black pepper and sea salt is a cost-effective way of adding flavour to your meals and keeps you on-track with your routine

    • Hey Imran,
      Thanks for checking out the site! I couldn’t agree with you more, this really isn’t a complete list and I plan to make a longer post detailing exactly how to meal prep later (and maybe I should add to this one too). Chopping vegetables in advance is a solid idea and freezing them is definitely a very budget friendly approach.

      It sounds like you’re following a paleo style diet (a.k.a real food) which is great, but I’ve never found organic to be cheaper – maybe if you factor in health costs from eating bullcrap and getting type II diabetes further down the line; even then the NHS will provide free healthcare and prescriptions.

      Anyways thanks for checking out the blog and a leaving a comment (you are the first, achievement unlocked right?!)

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