A Beginner's Guide to Healthy Meal Planning on a Budget
The best way to lose weight while saving money is to cook most, if not all, of your meals at home. Of course, there are a few caveats: the meals have to be healthy, affordable, and easy enough that you won’t mind cooking every day. That’s where meal planning comes in.
By planning out your meals in advance, you’ll know exactly what to buy and how you’re going to cook it. Plus, you’ll have leftovers on hand that can be transformed into new meals, and you'll be less likely to buy takeout since you already have the food in the fridge. Before you get started on your meal planning journey, check out the following tips to make healthy meal planning even easier — and more affordable, too!
1) Focus on wallet-friendly foods
There’s a common misconception that healthy eating must be expensive, but that’s simply not the case. Plenty of foods are good for your waistline and your wallet; think oats, eggs, beans, nut butters, whole-grain pastas, potatoes, and frozen vegetables. Using a tool like the Cooking Light Diet will help you quickly find healthy recipes that feature these ingredients, like whole-grain spaghetti pie or poached eggs in tomato sauce.
2) Shop with a list
We all know that we should never grocery shop when we’re hungry, but we should also never shop without a list in hand. If you go into the store unprepared, you’ll wind up grabbing extra things you don’t need, spending extra money and potentially wasting food. For extra convenience, the Cooking Light Diet will generate a shopping list for you based on your selected meals, taking all the stress out of the process.
3) Ingredient prep
You don’t have to prep your entire meals in advance, but you can help yourself out by preparing your ingredients when you have free time. That way, you’ll have things like produce already washed, cut, and ready to go when it’s time to actually cook, making dinnertime so much easier.
4) Stick to store brand
Choosing store-brand items when possible can lead to small savings that really add up over time. Plenty of stores, like Trader Joe's, offer diet-friendly foods that won’t break the bank.
5) Keep it simple
Cooking all your meals doesn't mean you have to be a slave to the kitchen. Make double batches of your favorite meals so you’ll have leftovers on hand. Additionally, focus on breakfasts and lunches with minimal prep and ingredients. Many breakfast recipes on the Cooking Light Diet are quick, easy and filling, like this flaxseed-filled smoothie.
6) Be realistic
Don’t force yourself into eating foods you don’t like or buying ingredients you won’t cook. If things like pre-chopped produce or microwaveable rice are easier for your schedule, get them! Convenience items are, well, convenient, and it’s much easier to achieve your weight loss goals with a little extra help.