Meal Prep for Weight Loss on a Budget

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The thing that nobody tells you about being an adult is just how busy you become. On top of working, running errands, and taking care of your kids, you also have to make meals for everyone—including yourself. Planning healthy meals every day can get overwhelming, especially when you already don’t have a lot of time. That’s why it can be so helpful to prep your meals ahead of time.

Meal planning is a good idea to avoid fast food and prioritize healthy food in your diet. It can also help with weight loss. The idea behind meal planning is simple: plan out all your meals for the week, and make enough of your dishes to eat for several meals. Then you divide the dishes up into individual containers, complete with all of the sides and toppings. Just stack them in the fridge and pack them up for lunch or warm them up for dinner. 

Meal prepping can take more prep time up front on the day that you make your meals, but the time and energy you’ll save throughout the week is worth it. Just imagine: you’ve come home from a long day at work and instead of having to come up with a meal and make it, all you have to do is pull it out of the fridge!

The good news is that Meal prepping is an easy way to have a quick meal ready and save on the extra cost of going out or buying food multiple times a week. It works for everyone, whether you’re a college student, working full time, or staying home to take care of the kids. One of the best ways that meal prepping can help you is through portion control. 

Most meal prep containers are split into smaller compartments that can only hold a certain amount of food. This will help you portion out exactly the amounts of each kind of food you want at each meal. Of course, the other big benefit of meal prepping is that it’s a great way to save money. When you’re making your own meals instead of eating out or getting takeout, you can get a lot more food for the same amount of money. Meal prepping is one of the most effective ways to lose weight while on a budget.

Once you’ve got it down to a system, meal prepping might become your favorite time of the  week. Once you’ve purchased your whole grocery list, clear out a Sunday afternoon to make some meals for the week ahead. No matter how much temptation it is, it’s not actually a good idea to make all the food for the entire week. Cooked food only lasts about four days. So plan for two days in your schedule to make just enough to last you the following few days. With a little bit of prep work, all of your cooking time will be confined to just a few hours a week but you’ll also lose weight, feel better, and save money. 

The key to making meal prep work for you in your weight loss journey is to find healthy, easy recipes that you will look forward to eating. Once you’ve picked out your recipes you can build a shopping list to take to the grocery store, and then you’re ready to begin your meal prep. Here are some tips and healthy meal prep recipes to get you started with your meal prepping.

Choose the Right Container

The secret ingredient to meal prepping successfully is the container. You want a container that is packable, reusable, and leak-proof. You can find dedicated meal prep containers, but popular options also include bento boxes, glass containers, and lidded bowls. It should also be easy to clean—ideally dishwasher safe, since you’ll be using it over and over again for weeks.

Pick Meals You Like

If you keep making the same meal over and over, you’ll get bored and not want to eat it anymore. The food will pile up in your refrigerator, going bad, and you’ll have to throw it out. TopFoodInfo suggests planning new meals every so often so you stay interested and excited. It’s a great way to keep your food fresh—it can’t go bad if you’ve eaten it! Successful meal preppers keep a list of recipes that they enjoy and rotate through them. That way they get to keep eating the things they enjoy, but don’t eat them so much they get sick of them!

Use the Right Ingredients

Make sure you’re making meals out of ingredients that will last a few days in your fridge, and that are actually healthy for you. Healthy foods such as sweet potatoes, black beans, whole grains, hard-boiled eggs, and fresh produce are great building blocks to construct some of your favorite meals. You can find recipes online for the easiest ways to prepare meals in sheet pans, over the stove, or in a slow cooker. Here are some easy meal prep recipes that you can use:

Protein Bowls

Protein bowls are versatile, easy to make, and of course they pack some lean protein! You can make any combination of protein, starch, and veggies that you want to make all kinds of different meals: burrito bowls, quinoa bowls, hummus bowls, the list is endless. AllNutritious has a delicious, healthy recipe for a chicken burrito bowl. It is made with rice, corn, tomatoes, black beans and, of course, chicken. The ingredients are easy to find and inexpensive, especially if you buy more chicken than you need and freeze it. This recipe is full of fresh, Mexican-inspired flavors and is simple to make.

Sandwiches and Wraps

There’s probably no type of food with more variety than the sandwich, and any sandwich can become a wrap if you just swap out the bread for tortillas. Sandwiches are also a great vegetarian option, and they’re one of the best cheap meal prep ideas. Bread (or tortillas) and sandwich fixings are relatively cheap. You can make plenty of healthy lunches out of some bread, cheese, vegetables, and deli meat. You can even go crazy and make hot sandwiches with a panini press (although they probably won’t stay warm all the way to lunch!). Cooking with Anadi has a long list of healthy sandwich recipes that are perfect for meal prepping over on her blog.

*BreakfastBreakfast is a meal too, and many people don’t have time to make it—which means it’s a perfect candidate for meal prepping in large quantities. Overnight oats are an excellent and popular option to make the night before you need them. You can add fun flavors like peanut butter and cocoa powder. But overnight oats aren’t the only option! There are many other meal ideas that would work for breakfast: breakfast sandwiches, or smoothies. Downshiftology even recommends crepes.