Quick & Easy Meal Prep on $50 a Week or Less
If you find yourself low on a cash or need to quickly make easy and healthy meals for the week, then my routine is for you. All of the ingredients can be found at your local grocery store and you don’t need any special cooking utensils. As long as you have a working stove and your basic kitchen supplies, then you can make a week’s worth of meals in a few hours or less.
Keep in mind that the only mouth I am feeding is my own. If you have a family, or spouse you can very easily double, or triple the ingredients for everything in this article.
- Grocery List
- Chicken Breast
- Brown Rice
- Bacon / Sausage
- Peanut Butter
- Almond Milk
- Sweet Potatoes
- Vegetables of choice
Personally, I typically shop at my local Aldi’s, since I find it to have the lowest prices of the grocery stores in my area. Depending on your location, these prices are likely to vary and fluctuate from time to time. Regardless, this will give you a rough idea of everything you need to keep yourself well-fed for an entire week’s worth of eating!
Quick and Simple Breakfast
I like to keep it simple when eating breakfast. I’ll usually wake up early and make 2 or 3 eggs along with a few strips of bacon and a bowl of oatmeal. Cooking eggs, bacon, and oatmeal is pretty easy to do, so there isn’t a need for me to go over that.
After breakfast, I’ll shower up, get my things together and head to work. It isn’t until about 10:00AM until I start getting hungry again and I’ll usually have a breakfast smoothie to hold me over until lunch. I typically prep these smoothies ahead of time, place them in freezer-safe mason jars and then thaw them out the night before I plan on drinking one in the fridge.
I don’t have a set recipe for this smoothie, but it goes something along the lines below. Keep in mind I make mine in a Nutri Bullet and use the 32 oz cup.
- Handful of oats in the bottom
- One banana broken up by hand
- Scoop of protein powder
- Hefty spoonful of natural peanut butter
- Handful of spinach
- Fill all the way up to the max line with almond milk
If you want to add different ingredients, leave things out, or change things up, it’s all up to you! Sometimes I’ll throw in some frozen berries for more flavor or an extra scoop of protein powder. It all just depends on what I’m feeling that day.
If you’re not a fan of almond milk, you can use regular. I opt for almond milk because it’s less likely to upset my stomach later in the day. Yay for being lactose intolerant…
Around 10:00AM I’ll start sipping on this smoothie, then once that’s gone, I’ll keep drinking water or decaf coffee until it’s time for lunch. Once it’s time for lunch, I’ll pop in one of my pre-made meals into the microwave and eat that along with a glass of water.
Easy, Healthy Lunch
For my lunch, I’ll prep every single one for the week on Sunday or Saturday afternoon. I like to keep mine simple because it’s less difficult to warm up while on lunch. Chicken breast, brown rice, and broccoli is my go-to lunch recipe.
I cook this meal so frequently, I ended up purchasing a rice-cooker specifically to cook the rice and steam the broccoli, while I cook the chicken. It turned a 2 hour process into one that takes me a hour or less to complete since I don’t have to tend to the rice or adjust the temperature.
If this is your first time cooking brown rice, it’s a little different than white rice and little more difficult. Brown rice takes longer since it’s a whole grain and still contains the nutritious bran and germ vs. white rice, which has both parts stripped away.
While you can follow the directions on the package and your rice will turn out fine, simply remember to put in 2 cups of water for every 1 cup of rice, a 2:1 ratio. Bring the pot to a boil, and then turn the heat down to a little above a simmer. Cover this and allow it to sit over medium heat for about 45 minutes, stirring occasionally. If you need a little bit more flavor, exchange some water for chicken broth.
Once all or most of the water has been absorbed or the rice has reached its desired texture, pull it from the heat and distribute it equally in your meal prep containers. If you don’t have meal prep containers, regular Tupperware will do. Although you should consider purchasing a set of high quality meal prep containers if you plan on prepping your food regularly. You’ll thank yourself later.
While the rice is cooking, you can start cooking your broccoli. If you don’t have a steamer that’s not a problem. Take your florets and break them into individual pieces and be sure to wash them in a strainer. Fill the bottom of a frying pan with a quarter to half an inch of water, or just a little bit more than needed to cover the bottom. Place your broccoli in the pan, cover, and bring the water to a boil.
It shouldn’t take more than 5 or 6 minutes to full cook the broccoli. If you’re unsure if it’s cooked, pick a piece up with a fork, let it cool, and then bite into it. It should be soft, but firm to the bite. Once you have cooked the broccoli, drain any remaining water and place the broccoli on a plate. Repeat, until all broccoli is cooked.
Last up is the chicken! If you decide to do the rice, broccoli, and chicken all at once, be sure to thoroughly wash your hands after handling any raw chicken. To make it easier to cook and store, I dice my chicken up beforehand. You can cut yours into strips, or cook them whole, whatever works best for you.
Using my trusty cast iron (you can use any pan, but I prefer a cast iron), I drizzle some olive oil across it and allow it to heat up. Once it’s reached a medium to medium-high temperature, toss the chicken and occasionally flip and stir. Once the internal temperature reaches 165 degrees Fahrenheit, the chicken is done. If you don’t have a thermometer, check to make sure it is not pink on the inside and all the juices run clear.
Sometimes to add a little more flavor, I’ll throw some Worcestershire sauce on the chicken once it’s almost done cooking. If you’re on a low salt diet, go easy on the sauce. Worcestershire is high in its sodium content.
Now that the chicken is done, I’ll place it on another plate and wait for the rice to finish. When the rice finishes cooking, I’ll distribute it evenly into each container. I don’t really have a set measurement, but I estimate it’s about a cup to 1.5 cups of fully cooked rice. I then will place the chicken on top and then the broccoli in the side compartment.
Lastly, I’ll take a picture for Snapchat (did you really meal prep if you don’t put it on snapchat?), throw the lids on and then wait a few hours to let them cool before placing them in the fridge. Each morning, I’ll grab one out and take it with me to have for lunch. If you need a little bit more flavor, throw some BBQ sauce, ketchup, or yum-yum sauce on it.
This meal usually will hold me over until I get home to make dinner. I do keep a few granola bars and small snacks in the office in case I get hungry.
Delicious and Nutritious Dinner
After leaving work it’s either time to workout or cook dinner. Again, I keep my dinners pretty simple with a meat, carb, and vegetable. I will keep frozen chicken breasts or some type of ground meat on hand and almost always have a bag of sweet potatoes.
If I’m going to workout, I’ll put whatever frozen meat I’m cooking under some cold running water and leave that going while I’m running or lifting. The faucet doesn’t have to be at full blast, rather it can be the bare minimum drizzle, just as long as it is helping to defrost. My workouts usually take about an hour, which has always been enough time for the chicken to be fully defrosted and ready to cook.
Once I get back, I’ll drizzle some olive oil in a pan, turn it to medium high, and dice up a sweet potato. The sweet potato goes in the frying pan, and then the chicken goes into another pan, also containing olive oil. Lastly, I’ll put a pot on in the back of the stove with a canned vegetable warming up over medium heat. A little salt and pepper to taste on everything, and occasionally a teaspoon of butter in with the veggies.
If you find yourself hungry after dinner, a really easy snack to make is a simple PB&J, but with a twist. Instead of just using bread, toast it beforehand. It makes the sandwich much better in my opinion. Not to mention, if you get a sweet tooth late at night, the jelly will help to curb that. If a PB&J doesn’t work for you, a hot ham and cheese, tuna sandwich, or a bowl of cereal are my next go-to’s.
If you have never meal prepped before, or even cooked before, the only advice I can give is to simply start. You’ll get better as time goes on and more comfortable with cooking all around. Before you know it, you’ll be making chicken ratatouille and using fancy words like “sauté,” or “garnish.”
Seriously though, if you plan on doing this regularly, spend $20 or $30 and get some glass meal prep containers. They’ll last virtually forever as long as you take care of them, and it makes eating healthier 10x easier versus without them.
Also published on Medium.