Meal prep for weight loss on a budget? It can be done! Here are 13 tips on how to meal prep for weight loss on a budget.
Hi there! I’m Chantal.
I’m a mom of two, certified personal trainer, and also a certified nutrition coach.
Welcome to my site!
Looking for some budget meal prep ideas? This post is just the thing you need!
It sounds corny, but learning to prep meals might just be the best thing you can do to maintain a healthy weight.
Related: High-Protein Cookbook PDF
In This Post: Everything You Need When it Comes to Learning How To Meal Prep For Weight Loss On A Budget
I have a tendency to spill my guts to my readers when it comes to writing, so I like to start off with a quick overview of what’s included in each post. Here’s what you’ll find in this one:
- Personal backstory on my own struggle with meal prep ideas for weight loss
- Why meal prep really is important when you’re trying to get healthy
- My best tips on meal prep for weight loss on a budget (as a personal trainer & nutrition coach)
So let’s get to it!
The Struggle With Meal Prep Ideas For Weight Loss (When You’re On A Budget)
I have spent the last 5+ years learning how to manage my fitness goals on one main income.
For the most part, I’ve been a stay-at-home mom while also trying to be a personal trainer and nutrition coach.
(This is the short version of the story. You can read more about me by checking my about page.)
For those wondering, I am not your picture-perfect personal trainer with the washboard abs and incredible Carrie Underwood legs.
I became a personal trainer in the middle of my season of having children, and I did not grow up playing sports.
I certainly wasn’t one of those women who could just “bounce back” to a size 4 right after having kids.
The point is that it has been a real struggle for me to get back into shape after babies.
And since I chose to be a homemaker for a few years, that meant a pay cut for our family.
Needless to say, it has required some creativity and dedication when it comes to meal prep for weight loss on a budget.
Related Reading: 21 Delicious High Protein Smoothie Recipes For Weight Loss
There are obvious struggles when you don’t have a lot of extra money laying around.
But that doesn’t mean that you can’t do the thing!
First of all, you can’t just pay for one of those expensive meal boxes that will send you prepped frozen food. (I looked into those and they will run about $1,000 per month for one person and all three meals.)
Secondly, when you are busy working or taking care of babies, your energy and time is precious. It would be so nice to pay someone else to meal prep and cook for you, but you just can’t!
Lastly, you don’t have all of the money to buy the most expensive (and sometimes bougie) supplements, fitness fads, and other crap they are trying to sell you.
(Plus, you are not dumb enough to buy into all of that wastefulness!)
Nope, you are here because you are smart, frugal, and you know that being healthy is totally possible on a budget.
Why meal prep really is important when you’re trying to get healthy
You already know that planning out your food is insanely helpful when it comes to budgeting and eating healthy.
But is that all there is to it?
Meal prepping doesn’t just save you money – it saves you time and it saves you decision fatigue.
It also saves you mental and emotional space, which saves you stress.
And if you have less stress, your hormones can regulate and that will actually help with weight loss.
As you can see, getting into meal prep for weight loss on a budget can have a bunch of intrinsic benefits.
But if you’re looking a little more into it, let me give you a few quick reasons why meal prepping really is an important part of your weight loss journey:
- Meal prepping allows you to prioritize protein, which helps build muscle, keep you full longer, and can actually improve your metabolism.
- Getting into meal prepping can help you avoid impulsiveness, emotional eating, and last-minute decisions that are made out of fatigue or a time crunch.
- Your meal prep can be done with fruit & veggies in mind, which helps you get the micronutrients (vitamins and minerals) your body needs to thrive.
- Meal prepping helps you stick to a calorie deficit, which as we know is one of the most important aspects of weight loss.
I could go on and on about why you should be meal prepping at least some of your food each week, but I’m sure you already know that you should.
So let’s get to my top tips on meal prep for weight loss on a budget.
How To Meal Prep For Weight Loss On A Budget
If you’re serious about utilizing meal prepping as an effective weight loss method, here’s how to do it on a budget!
Step 1: Brainstorm Weight Loss Meal Prep Recipes
You may already have a great meal prep recipe or two to use, but it’s important to switch things up a little so you don’t get bored with your food.
I have a pretty good list of high protein meal prep recipes that I suggest taking a look at.
You can also use Pinterest or Google to search for great high-protein recipes that you might enjoy.
Be careful not to get too crazy and elaborate with your recipes – the more complicated they are, the more expensive they tend to be.
Plus, your time is precious and easy recipes are truly a life-saver.
Here’s my super simple and cheap ground turkey meal prep recipe that I make all the time!
I also have a list of meal prep snack ideas if you’re going to need that, too.
Step 2: Write Out Your Weekly Menu
This is super important when it comes to meal prep ideas for weight loss.
You don’t have to plan out every single thing you want to eat for the week, but it is insanely helpful to have at least your dinners planned out.
Because when we’re going to mess up, it’s almost always at dinner!
If you get overwhelmed easily, one of the best ways to handle this is to just plan out a dinner menu.
Here’s an example:
Monday – Steak with Sweet Potatoes & Green Beans
Tuesday – Chicken Taco Bowls
Wednesday – Sheet Pan Turkey Kielbasa & Veggies…
You get the idea! It’s a great way to plan ahead!
If you’re wanting to do more, go ahead and do lunch & dinner plans for the whole week (including weekends) if you can.
This takes the thinking and stressing out of meal prep for weight loss when you’re on a budget. And it helps you actually stick to the budget.
P.S. I personally can eat the same lunch for a few days in a row, but I don’t like to have the same dinner every night. It can be cost and time-effective to repeat meals during the week, but it’s your call!
Step 3: Grocery Shop / Place An Order
Once you have your lunches &/or dinners planned out for the week, it’s time to make sure that you actually have the ingredients.
I like to do this on a Friday or Saturday so that I have time to map out the following week.
To do this in a cost-effective way, you’ll want to know exactly what you already have on hand when you make your grocery list.
This is where you might want to do a pantry and freezer inventory so that you’re not wasting any food.
Once you do that, go ahead and make a list of healthy food to buy. I personally love to order groceries for delivery or pickup. It’s an easy way to stick to the plan & shopping list.
This helps me not only stick to my budget, it also helps me avoid impulse buys at the grocery store and again, helps me stick to my nutrition goals.
Pro Tip For Meal Prep On A Budget: BUY IN BULK!
For me personally, I know that I can use chicken breast, olive oil, ground beef, whole grains (like brown rice), peanut butter, frozen vegetables, and a few other things on repeat.
So to make healthy recipes easier and more cost-effective, I buy the ingredients in large quantities whenever I can.
(This includes healthy fats like coconut oil & salad dressings, too!)
Fresh produce is a little tricky, so I often keep a stash of frozen fruit & veggies as a backup!
Step 4: Invest In Some Meal Prep Containers / Kitchen Tools
It’s really hard to really get into food prepping if you don’t have the food storage and kitchen tools you need.
I know you’re on a budget, but you really do need a few things to get started. I highly recommend the following:
- Good meal prep contains for individual meals and any other meal prep recipe. I love these glass ones.
- Large food storage containers for bulk prep of fruit, veggies, and proteins.
- An assortment of baggies, plastic wrap, foil, parchment paper, etc. for cooking & fridge time.
- A fully-equipped kitchen when it comes to basic appliances and tools. (Here are the best kitchen tools for weight loss.)
Trust me, you will be super glad you have this stuff when you start to get serious about meal prep and weight loss.
The good news is that you can buy them once and pretty much don’t need to ever again!
P.S. Did you check out my high protein weight loss meal prep recipes list yet?
Step 5: Dedicate A Block Of Time To Weekly Prep
If you’re serious about meal prep for weight loss on a budget, you’re going to have to pencil it into your schedule.
Meal prep costs time and money up front, but it saves you time and money over time.
(I estimate that I can save $200-400/month for my family when I stick to our weekly menu.)
That’s why this is one of my best meal prep tips: Set aside 1-4 hours to meal prep depending on your goals.
If you are only prepping snacks, it shouldn’t take too long.
If you are prepping just one meal, you can easily make 3-5 lunches or dinners in under 2 hours if you keep it simple.
My tip is to make sure you start with a lean protein and focus on whole foods whenever possible.
While prepping snacks is helpful, it goes a bit further to focus on your main meals – this is the easiest way to protect yourself from overeating.
When in doubt, focus on protein!
Related Reading: 10 Healthy Sheet Pan Dinner Ideas (Perfect For Weeknights!)
Step 6: Learn What Freezes Well & How Long It Keeps
You would be amazed at what you can freeze (that you probably aren’t already freezing)!
If you’re looking for ways to bulk prep and want to be cost-effective when meal prepping, freezing is really important!
You can pretty much always freeze leftovers, but you can use your freezer to get the best bang-for-your buck when meal prepping, too!
I personally like to eat things for about 3 days before things get iffy as far as food safety, but the freezer makes that easier to prolong.
For example, if I make a meal prep recipe that yields five meals, I will probably keep 2-3 meals in the fridge and pop the rest in the freezer.
However, you can freeze so many other things (like individual ingredients) when you buy them bulk.
Doing this cuts down on food waste and also ensures that you have ready-to-eat meals at your fingertips.
Just be sure to use storage that is meal-prep friendly and can go from freezer to fridge, microwave, or oven!
Step 7: Keep Troubleshooting & Keep Notes
Still looking for frugal meal prep tips so you can eat healthy meals consistently?
Learning how to meal prep for weight loss on a budget doesn’t come without a learning curve.
If I’ve learned anything about fitness, nutrition and weight loss, it’s that you just have to keep learning.
Every single day is a new learning opportunity and results come when you apply each lesson as time progresses.
Your skills and knowledge will compound over time – just be patient!
I’m a big note-taker, so I have paper journals and Google docs full of things that I’ve learned.
No matter what kind of learner you are or where you are on your journey, I highly suggest keeping some sort of notes on your journey.
This works super well and comes in really handy when we fall off the wagon and need to be reminded of what has worked (and what hasn’t) in the past.
For example, I have learned again and again that a super-low calorie diet always backfires for me. (No matter what all of the gurus say.)
Thanks to tracking and journaling, I know that 1,700-2,000 calories per day is my sweet spot for slow-and-steady weight loss without feeling like I’m starving.
But that took me a few years to trouble shoot and discover!
As you embark on your own meal prepping & weight loss journey, be patient and just keep learning.
This is the best way to keep the healthy meal prep ideas rolling and keep your motivation high.
I hope this article has helped you when it comes to meal prep for weight loss on a budget.
Now go find a healthy meal prep recipe and get started!
Best of luck on your journey,
Related Reading: Easy Overnight Oats With Greek Yogurt