“Meal prepping,” as it has now come to be known in fitness circles, has always been a huge part of my budget eating strategy. Cooking your meals ahead of time and having them pre-packed in single serve portions just makes life so much easier, and drastically reduces the temptation to eat out. Shop once, cook once, have everything ready to go so you never have to waste time thinking about what your next meal will be. Meal prep does take a little bit of investment on the front end with planning and prepping, but once that’s done you’re free!
Sadly, I’ve gotten away from the meal prepping model lately and I know that I desperately need to get back into the swing of it. So, I’ve decided to start a new weekly series showcasing how I approach weekly meal prep. Meal prep can be a bit daunting for beginners, so I figured it would be helpful to see how I do it and give some weekly meal prep inspo for veterans along the way.
I’ll be using recipes that are already available on Budget Bytes and pairing them with other items to make a well rounded meal. The Sunday Meal Prep examples will just be one meal, like a lunch or a dinner, rather than a three-meal-per-day seven day plan (I don’t like to get that strict–I need some flexibility), but even having one of your daily meals prepped for the week is an enormous help. And once I have several weeks of examples, you can always combine them to do a three meal per day plan of your own.
And lastly, most of my Sunday Meal Prep posts will be for 4-6 servings. I only like to prep 5 days in advance, tops, because things just don’t last much longer than that in the fridge. For recipes that make six servings, I’ll usually stash one or two of the servings in the freezer for later. So if you only prep four servings of something at one time and there are seven days in a week, what do you do for the rest of the days?? Well, you can cook in four day cycles, you can have one “freebie” day, like date night, or you can fill in the extra days with items that you have stashed in the freezer like I mentioned above. It’s a wonderful system and once you get going you’ll feel like you have this adulting thing OWNED. ;)
So let’s get prepping, shall we??
For more information about meal prepping, how it works, and why I do it, check out Meal Prep 101: A Beginner’s Guide to Prepping and Portioning Meals, or check out my entire Budget-Friendly Meal Prep Archive.
Skillet Meatballs and Marinara Meal Prep
I was totally craving good old-fashioned pasta and marinara this week and I happened to have some Italian sausage in my freezer, so I knew exactly what I was going to meal prep. Skillet Meatballs and Marinara! This simple recipe requires very few ingredients and is super satisfying. I added some lightly steamed broccoli to round it out, and a banana for “dessert.”
This Week’s Meal Prep Includes:
Skillet Meatballs and Marinara (6 servings) $7.98
3 Tbsp grated Parmesan $0.31
1 Large crown Broccoli, steamed $2.40
4 Bananas $0.99
Total cost: $11.68
Each meal (with banana) $2.03
Each meal (without banana) $1.78
I only purchased four bananas because I planned on freezing two portions of the pasta and broccoli)
This is typically the type of meal that I would bring for myself for lunch when I still worked in the laboratory. The banana would be eaten as a snack earlier in the day or with my lunch as a sort of dessert.
If you’re buying lunch out every day when you work, you can see the extreme savings here, not to mention the health benefits. If the broccoli is prepared and there in front of you, you’re WAY more likely to eat it. I even used whole wheat pasta this time around to get a little extra fiber. :) Plus, these meals have automatic portion control. #win
- Only partially cook the broccoli so that when you reheat your meal, it doesn’t over cook and become mushy. I steamed my broccoli just until it was bright green and the stems barely began to soften.
- It’s always good to reheat your “meal box” in increments, stirring between each increment. I usually start with one minute, stir, and add 30 seconds more at a time until it’s heated through.
- Label and date items that you put in the freezer so you can stay on top of your inventory and eat older items before they get too old. A little masking tape and a sharpie will do the trick and then you can just remove the tape before washing the container.
- These blue top Ziploc containers are my favorite because they can go into the freezer, fridge, microwave, and dishwasher. But, if you don’t like reheating or eating out of plastic, there are several great glass food storage containers on the market as well.
So that’s all I have this week, but since this is a new series, I’d love to hear what information you’d enjoy seeing in the Sunday Meal Prep posts. If you have any questions, ideas, or just want to share your own tips for meal prepping, please leave a comment below. And just remember, if you’ve never left a comment before, your comment will be held in moderation until I can verify that it’s not spam. :)
Until next week!
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Fyi just realized that the grocery list that is hyperlinked in this page is actually for the Spaghetti Meal prep page: https://www.budgetbytes.com/spaghetti-meal-prep/
It threw me off but luckily was able to figure it out with some detective work :)
Hi Sandra, can you tell me where you’re seeing the link? I see a link to the recipe page (linked text: Skillet Meatballs and Marinara) and then the linked button that says “Click to Download the Grocery List” is linked to the pdf download. Thanks!
Yes, the linked button that says “Click to Download the Grocery List” doesn’t have the right grocery list when I click on it.
Aha! I see what you’re saying now. Thanks for the clarification! I fixed the link so it’s connected to the right grocery list now. :)
before I retired, I had a regular mon-fri job. on Saturdays I would go the grocery store, come home and not even put the groceries away, but start cooking. I would make 3 meals of 2 portions each since I lived alone, so I had 6 dinners prepared for the week. that left one evening free for dinner out, leftovers, pb&j, or whatever. I did this for years because of the time it saved –only one plate to wash up and containers–I had good balanced cheap meals, and I was tired when I got home and didn’t feel like cooking every night. by 6:00 I could sit down and relax with the whole evening free.
Omg this recipe was super easy and so so yummy. Thank you.
I made these today. First attempt at meal prep for the week. Made everything according to directions, found the sauce just needed a wee bit more sweet to it for my taste. It was really really good. Next time I would make more sauce. I had leftovers and didn’t have sauce for tomorrow. I will definitely add this to my rotation. Thank you for a great addition.
I’m super excited for this new series your running! I absolutely love meal prepping and my husband does not mind it but can’t say I have stuck to it. What am good at is making big batches of chicken or rice and freezing them in individual portions. What I want to get better at is making a meal portioning it out and leaving it in the fridge. I do that with my salad but not the actual meal. This is why I’m happy you started this series so I can follow your lead. As a busy mom I’ll take anything that will make my life easier, meal prepping it is.
LOVE this new series!! As a one person household, it is very helpful to plan a number of meals to cut down on waste and time cooking.
Made the meatballs and they were DELISH!! Have several meals in the freezer now. Delishious home cooked meals :)
Could see having “themes” to maximize variety and ingredients such as Mediterranean Week, Asian Week, Indian Week, etc.
Thank you, Beth for all you do! Dunno what it is, but your recipes are the most TASTY and there’s a clean, fresh air around all that you cook that I can’t explain.
I’m so excited you’re starting this. It’s definitely something I need to do more of.
Omg Beth are you psychic. I’ve been doing meal prep for health and budget reasons and have just started to run out of ideas and found myself slipping into eating out/ready-made meals. Looking forward to it.