Meal Prep Ideas That Won’t Break the Bank

Financial Wellness
6
min read

A homemade meal cooked from scratch is always comforting. But preparing it can sometimes be time-consuming.

When you have multiple priorities on your plate, it’s easy to fall into the habit of eating instant and processed food to save time.

The good news is, you don’t have to be Gordon Ramsay to prepare quick and healthy meals for yourself or your family. And you don’t have to spend a lot either.

Here are a few meal prep ideas that are both time and cost-efficient.

If you have 15 minutes: Broccoli Carbonara (Serves 4)


A recipe of body coach, Joe Wicks, this one is easy peasy and super healthy with less than 10 ingredients.

You will need:

1 head of broccoli florets

250g linguine

2 tbsps. olive oil

200g cubed pancetta (or bacon, as an alternative)

2 cloves garlic, minced

4 egg yolks

Salt and pepper

50g grated parmesan

How to prepare:

In separate pots, boil the broccoli florets for 3 minutes and boil the linguine in salted water for 8-10 minutes until it’s al dente.

On medium heat, cook the cubed pancetta or bacon in olive oil for 3 to 4 minutes, until they begin to caramelise.

Lower the heat, add minced garlic in and cook for 1 minute. Add the broccoli florets.

Drain the pasta and mix in, allowing all the flavours to combine.

Turn off the heat and add ¼ cup pasta water and 4 egg yolks.

Mix everything until the egg yolk has been evenly incorporated. Plate and top with parmesan.

Voila, you’re done.

You can pack this into 4 separate food containers and store it in the fridge for lunch at uni or work. Or you can serve it at once for a heartwarming family meal.

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If you have 30 minutes: Pesto Chicken and Veggies (Serves 4)


A recipe from Tasty, this protein-packed meal is low in calories but will keep you fully energised.

You will need:

2 tablespoons olive oil

4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts sliced

Salt and pepper to taste

455 g green beans

400 g cherry tomatoes, halved

115 g basil pesto

How to prepare:

Heat some olive oil in a large pan and add the chicken thighs. Season with salt and pepper and remove from pan once cooked.

Set the chicken thighs aside and slice them into strips or cubes.

Add green beans into the pan and cook until tender. 

Add back the chicken, together with the tomatoes and pesto. Stir fry until the tomatoes soften.

That’s it! This recipe serves 4, so that’s 4 packed lunches for you. You can also add quinoa or rice for a more filling meal.

If you want an Asian variation of this dish, replace the tomato with sesame seeds and use teriyaki sauce instead of pesto.

Amazon Fresh has a wide selection of Asian ingredients, so you can find them there. Use Zilch to pay over 6 weeks, with 0% APR.

If you have 45 minutes: One Pan Halloumi Veggie Tray Bake (Serves 4)

A recipe from BBC Food, this meal is equal parts healthy and yummy!

You will need:

1 large red onion, chopped

3 mixed peppers, diced

1 large aubergine, sliced into rounds

1 tbsp olive oil

250 g halloumi, sliced

A handful of fresh basil

Sea salt and ground black pepper to taste

How to prepare:

Preheat your oven to 220C/200C Fan/Gas 7

Toss the red onions, mixed peppers and aubergine rounds into a baking tray with olive oil, then season with sea salt and pepper.

Roast the vegetables for 25-30 minutes until they’re slightly charred.

Take out the baking tray from the oven. Re-toss the vegetables and top with halloumi slices, drizzled with olive oil.

Season each halloumi slice with salt and pepper.

Transfer the tray to the grill and cook for 5 minutes on the highest heat setting. Top with basil leaves.

Easy as pie! If you don’t have fresh basil leaves, you can replace them with dried basil. Here’s a tip: get your fresh basil leaves from Morrison’s.

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4. If you have 1 hour: Sausage Ragu with Dumplings (Serves 4)

A recipe from Delicious Magazine, this sumptuous dish will truly tickle your tastebuds.

You will need:

2 tbsp. olive oil

1 large red onion, finely chopped

1 large fennel bulb, finely sliced

2 garlic cloves, finely chopped

375 g pack pork chipolatas, skinned

2 tbsp tomato puree

2 400g tins chopped tomatoes

150g self-raising flour

25g fresh parsley

100g natural yoghurt

Chilli flakes for topping

How to prepare:

Heat olive oil in a pan or hob-safe casserole over medium heat.

Fry the onions and fennel for 10 minutes then add the garlic and cook for 1 more minute.

Add the skinned chipolatas and cook for 3-4 minutes. Stir in the tomato puree and tinned tomatoes, together with tomato juice from one tin.

Mix and bring to a boil.  Lower the heat and simmer for 15 minutes.

To make the dumplings, mix the self-raising flour with the parsley in a bowl. Add a pinch of salt and fold in the yoghurt.

Transfer the dough mixture to a chopping board and roll into a log. Chop into 8 and shape them into balls.

Put the dough balls on top of the sausage mixture. Cover and cook for 20 more minutes. Top with chilli flakes for an extra kick.

There you have it. A ready-to-eat meal for the whole family that you can also store in 4 food containers, refrigerate and enjoy for lunch for the next 4 days.

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See, cooking shouldn’t intimidate you. Setting aside 15 minutes to an hour once a week is all it takes to make your meal prep plans come to life.

And if you’re using 10 ingredients or less per dish, just like the ones above, you’ll be able to save a lot of money too while enjoying delicious dishes.

So add a little spice to your life. Go and whip up your own yummy meals.

Bon appetit!

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