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Avoid the Calories and Dollars with These Healthy Meal Plans on a Budget

Not going to lie – I have been super excited to write this blog post for quite some time so if at any point you notice that I am screaming then I AM SORRY!  Sorry.  I just get super passionate about eating healthy and showing people how they can save money, so why not combine the two with some healthy meal plans on a budget?

Especially during this crazy world that we’re living in right now with COVID-19, I feel like all of our food budgets are going up (but hopefully eating out is going down) and maybe you’re finding yourself buying some unhealthier foods? 

I know that we are.

I was recently talking with my wife about how COVID has really taken away some of the enjoyments in life so now I have really been looking forward to the little things – spending time with my family, catching up on yardwork, good beer, good food, etc.

Two of those are good things…the other two drastically make the scale tick higher!  And also make the pocketbook a bit lighter…

So, why not try to find some healthy meal plans on a budget?

I recently talked about 7 easy & cheap grocery list tips to keep your budget on track so when you combine those tips with these meal plans, you’re going to be setup for success!

In a way, I kinda break my meals down into two different sections – staples and sales!

Staples

Staples are things that are always good, healthy and cheap and can be used in many different meals.  Take a look below:

  • Protein
    • Eggs – $2.39/18 Eggs
    • Chicken – $1.88/lb. (2 servings)
    • Pork* – $2/pound* (2 servings)
    • Chickpeas – $.59/can (3.5 servings)
    • Black Beans – $.59/can (3.5 servings)
  • Carbs
    • Oatmeal – $2.79/container (30 servings)
    • Red Potato – $3/3-pound bag (9 servings)
    • Sweet Potato – $.89/pound
    • Russet Potato – $.60/pound
    • Brown Rice $3.89/box (18 servings)
    • Wheat Pasta – $1.19/box (8 servings)
    • Wheat Bread – $1.19/loaf (22 slices)
  • Veggies
    • Canned Green Beans – $.45/can (2 servings)
    • Frozen Corn – $1/bag (5 servings)
    • Frozen Fajita Packs – $1.29/bag (5 servings)
    • Green Peppers – $74/each
    • Iceberg Lettuce – $1.19/head
    • Roma Tomatoes – $.99/lb.
    • Frozen Peas and Carrots – $1/bag (5 servings)
  • Fruits
    • Bananas – $.47/lb. (about 3 bananas)
  • Other
    • Pasta Sauce – $1/jar (6 servings)
    • Peanut Butter – $2.29/jar (35 servings)
    • Yogurt – $.69 each
    • Salsa – $1.29/jar (22 servings)
    • Almonds – $11.99/bag (32 servings)
    • Cheese – $1.88/bag (8 servings)

I love this list of staples because I think that I could make a ton of meals with only these options if there was nothing on sale that caught my eye.  You’ll notice that I put an asterisk beside ‘Pork’ because I shop at Meijer and they always have a ‘Buy 1 Get 1 Free’ deal on their pork, so I will buy like 10 pounds at a time and freeze it, so I always have some when I want it.  That’s the only meal like that so that’s why I consider that to be a staple for me.

Out of just the staples, you can make a ton of awesome meals:

  • Breakfast
    • Scrambled Eggs and Oatmeal (put peanut butter in the oatmeal)
    • Omelet with Frozen Peppers and Red Potato Hash browns
    • Peanut Butter Bread
    • Eggs with Salsa and Greek Yogurt
    • Egg Muffins with Oatmeal
  • Lunch/Dinner
    • Pork chops, green beans and red potato
    • Smashed Chickpeas on toast
    • Wheat Pasta, Marinara and chicken
    • Chicken sandwich with wheat bread, lettuce and tomato
    • Banana and Peanut Butter sandwich on whole wheat
    • Stuffed Green Peppers with literally any combination of those proteins, rice, corn and salsa on top
    • Grilled Chicken Salad with Green Pepper and Tomatoes
    • Pork Fried Rice with chopped pork chops, brown rice and peas and carrots
    • Burrito Bowl – Brown Rice, black beans, salsa, fajita vegetables, corn and salsa

I think that’s a pretty solid list of meals all under $2, don’t you think?  To me, that seems like a really simple, easy to make list – and notice that everything that I have is all healthy – Greek yogurt, whole wheat pasta and bread, brown rice, proteins and then veggies.  Complex carbs and good protein options!

You might have been reading through the list and felt like I left some things out that seem cheap and I would agree.  I think there are a lot of cheap veggies that I left off the list but they can vary drastically in price from time to time so I really wanted to keep those separate and put them in my ‘specials’ list, so let’s check that out now!

Specials

  • Protein
    • Beef – we buy 96/4 but can sometimes find it as low as $5/lb., but that’s still expensive compared to the other items so we don’t get a lot of beef
    • Steak – same thing here – this is usually $7.99 when it’s on sale, but even if we split a pound of steak, you’re still looking pretty cheap compared to a steak at even an average restaurant like an Outback Steakhouse
    • Ribs – these are often on sale the same time as the pork chops that I buy, but I don’t buy them in bulk because we don’t go through them fast enough.  But boneless ribs are fire and a super easy crockpot meal!
    • Roast – similar to chops and ribs, but we buy only when they have them and maybe buy two at a time if it’s BOGO
    • Egg Whites – I can sometimes get them as low as $4/box which is $.20/serving and they have way less fat and calories but about the same protein as eggs.
  • Carbs
    • Nothing!  All the “healthy” carbs are pretty cheap on a normal basis
  • Veggies
    • Jalapenos – I love jalapenos and put them on everything, so they’re actually a staple for me, but I’ve seen them vary in price from $1/pound – $3/pound
    • Zucchini and Squash – $1/pound – $2.50/pound
    • Corn – $.19/ear – $.50/ear
    • Spinach/Spring Mix – $3.50/big box – $6/box
    • Mushrooms – $2/container – $4/container
    • Carrots – typically $1/lb. but have seen go up higher before
    • Onion – $.99/lb. if on sale, you!
    • Asparagus – no lie it’s $.99/lb. – $3.99/lb.
  • Fruits – fruit can vary soooo much
    • All berries – can legitimately vary from like $1.50/lb. to $4/lb.
    • Watermelon – Have seen at $2/melon (on 4th of July Weekend, mind you) to $5
    • Apples – all depends on the apple, but can be $1.17/lb. for Granny Smith up to $4/lb. for Honeycrisp
    • Avocados – I know this is a fruit but to me it’s a vegetable but I’ll put it where it’s supposed to be…I’ve seen the little ones be as low as $.50/each and the big ones be $/1 each, so it’s about $.50/serving up to $1.33/serving.  Might not seem like a ton until you put it on every single breakfast like my wife does!
  • Other
    • Salad Dressings – can get major off brands for like $1/bottle if you buy in bulk!
    • Wheat Things – We will STOCK UP on Wheat Thins when they’re cheap.  I’m not lying.  I bought 5 FAMILY boxes for myself and my wife like two months ago because while they’re normally $4 each, they were $3.39 and if you bought 5 you saved $5, so we basically saved like 40% on them.  Ridiculous? Yup.  But I view it as if I just got $8 more to invest, baby!
    • Hummus – it’s hard to find this on sale but sometimes the off brands will be a $2/4 type of deal.  But we’re suckers for some good Sabra hummus at full price…and we need something to dip those wheat thins into!

So, what sort of meals are unleashed with all of these special items?  Oh man, an absolute ton!

  • Breakfast
    • Still omelets but with many different veggie options
    • Yogurt with Berries and Almonds
    • Scrambled Eggs with avocado on top and oatmeal – this is the low/carb version of avocado toast and a fav of my wife!  Also – note how perfect this photo is vs. mine lol
  • Lunch/Dinner – Honestly, it’s easier just to do some meat/veggie options and then you can mix & match, so:
    • Meat:
      • Pork Chops
      • BBQ Ribs
      • Chicken
      • Steak
    • Veggies
      • Grilled Zucchini & Squash
      • Medley with mushrooms, jalapenos, onion & asparagus
      • Grilled corn on the cob
      • Side salad with ALL THE VEGGIES
      • Foil Pack dinners with any meat, potato, carrots and veggies
      • Grilled veggie medley with all of these veggies and then throw in some Italian dressing

Honestly, my wife and I are simple people that like to have protein, a carb and a veggie.  Today we had pot roast, carrots and sweet potato.  I had chicken, zucchini and sweet potato for lunch.  She had chickpeas and veggies for lunch.  She had the breakfast that was shown above and I skipped breakfast (so I could drink more beer at night!)

As long as we have those three food groups, we’re happy.  The key thing that we really try to do is find amazing sides that you can then use in combo with other options. 

For instance, we have an air fryer, and will take red potato and cut it long ways to make potato wedges. Then you can have wedges, which seem like a treat but are still really healthy because it’s in an air fryer, with literally any meal.

A very large majority of these meals can be made for under $2/meal – like almost all of them.  On average, my wife and I spend about $125/week on groceries which might seem like a lot, but is a half-pound of meat, a full serving of veggies and carbs for only $2 a meal or so.

AND it’s clean.  We eat healthy, home cooked meals, and I know exactly what goes into them – and I track my calories, so that really matters to me so I know exactly what I am eating.

If you’re like me and sitting there going, “Andy, you just said $2/meal, for two people, for a week, is $2*2 people*21 meals = $84, right?” 

Right.

But you forget a few things:

  • I like nice beer
  • My wife likes nice wine
  • We have cats that eat and need litter
  • We need cleaning supplies
  • And sometimes we just really like to treat ourselves with an amazing meal with super nice steaks and just go all out.  This meal still costs like $35-$40 all in, with steaks that are $20/lb., and some nice wine, and still wayyy cheaper than eating out but it tastes even better!

I really think that you can have an endless amount of healthy meals that are cheap as long as you’re dedicated and willing to stick to your meal plan.  My BIGGEST piece of advice to stay on track with these, and its expenses that I didn’t include in this post, are to get spicy!

Get seasonings and hot sauces when they’re on sale!  Buy cheap things like apple cider vinegar as a marinade.  Honestly, Italian dressing is like the best chicken marinade and if $1 of salad dressing makes $10 worth of chicken taste so good that I actually eat it, it’s worth it!

Experiment!

Just try different things.  If you’re good eating salad multiple times/week, try to maybe get two different salad dressings and alternate days – Greek salad one day, Caesar the next.  Alternate six days and you won’t be sick of them and you are still meal prepping – you’re just on LEVEL 2 MEAL PREP!

You’ll eventually get to a point where you know exactly what you want and can alternate things without even looking at a recipe, and not only that, but meal prepping these healthy meal plans will save you so much time.

I legit spend 2 hours on a Sunday making meals that make all lunches and dinners throughout the week. 

Do you spend more than two hours making food?  I think the answer is likely yes.

At the end of the day, we’re doing this for two reasons – health and budget.

But is it actually keeping you in your budget?  You’ll never know if you don’t track it.