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Meal Planning on a Budget

Cooking at home can spare you money, calories, and even time if you play it right. We're here to guide you through the art of meal planning!
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Created from scratch in the SideChef Kitchen, where recipe inspiration and ingredient experimentation are a way of life.
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Created from scratch in the SideChef Kitchen, where recipe inspiration and ingredient experimentation are a way of life.
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You Can Do It!

With today’s fully booked schedules and ever-increasing workloads, there rarely seems to be enough time and energy to enjoy a proper, healthy, homemade meal. While the closest fast-food drive-through may seem like a convenient solution to dinner woes, relying on takeout is costly to both the bank account and body.

Some simple meal planning will ensure there’s always something quick, healthy, and delicious in stock, no matter how long and packed the day may be. Follow these simple tips to ensure a successful meal plan that saves time and money.

1. Choose the right foods.

A successful meal prep relies on picking foods that cook and store easily. Nobody should have to choke down three-day-old boiled broccoli. Safe, budget-friendly options include oats and rice, both of which are cheap, quick, and store well. For meats, buying and prepping in bulk, then freezing for later enjoyment saves time and money.

Bonus tip: Cooked produce gets soggy and disgusting after a few days in the tupperware, but unlike meats, they are quick and easy to prepare on the fly. Also, don’t be afraid of the frozen type, which is cheaper, pre-cut and just as nutritious.

2. Invest in spices.

Meal prepping usually doesn’t always allow for much variety, but that doesn’t mean settling for bland, unappetizing leftovers. Adding spices and quick sauces can transform the boring baked chicken from Sunday into a Moroccan spiced delight.

3. Stay organized.

With all of the extra food in the fridge, it’s crucial to keep track of it. Digging through a packed freezer guessing which items are still edible is a recipe for food waste. Staying organized will also lead to smarter shopping choices, saving time and money. To start, plan, check and double-check the grocery lists. When prepping, cook each component separately--that tomato sauce for pasta on Monday might just make the perfect marinade for Tuesday’s taco meat. After the cooking, label everything and keep a “file system” for the fridge to ensure everything gets eaten before expiration.

4. Keep an arsenal of recipes.

Meal planning gets a bad rap for being monotonous, but building an arsenal of quick, easy recipes will shake things up. After all, variety is the spice of life. For ideas, check out these 15 perfect prep recipes or these 33 easy packed lunches.

5. Plan backwards.

For the budget-conscious ones, seeking out sale items, then planning the week based on those supermarket steals can save some serious cash!

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