Back when I lived in my apartment in New Hampshire, I had a pretty good mealprep routine going. My income wasn’t great but I also had very few expenses, and I was able to save up quite a lot of money just by limiting my spending, and eating cheaply was a major player. Forgetting to cook for myself often meant eating at the diner across the street, where I could easily blow two hours’ wage on a single meal that was less tasty and much less healthy than what I could make myself.
Since leaving my last job and starting a new one where I can work from home, it’s never been easier to have full control over my meals, but I haven’t made an effort to get back into that habit. I still find myself forgetting to cook and ordering delivery instead (which costs even more than I would ever spend across the street from work).
Having just returned from Japan and with several other trips on the horizon, it feels like a good time to get myself back on track. I’m going to try blogging about what I eat each week, including approximate costs per meal. My goal will be to spend no more than $3 per meal on average, but without sacrificing on flavor or nutrition. I’ve also been trying to gain weight and build muscle lately, which means that high protein is important.
Broadly speaking, my plan looks something like this:
- Rice. Lots of rice. I’ll be picking up a big bag of brown rice right at the beginning, which will probably account for a big chunk of this week’s budget, but which will carry across multiple weeks in the future.
- Beans and other similar vegetables will probably account for a large portion of my dinners. I’ll be leaning towards stuff like taco bowls, curried chickpeas, lentil daal, and cajun red beans. If I was trying to go ultra-cheap, I could be buying these dry, but I’ll probably be sticking with cans most of the time.
- Most of my vegetables will probably be frozen. I might buy some of them fresh (bell peppers for example) and freeze them myself, but in general I want to limit my trips to the store and make sure I always have ingredients on hand without worrying about spoilage. Stuff like onions that get used quickly will be bought fresh, along with hard vegetables that can stay in the fridge for a while. For salads, I’ll mainly be using cabbage since it’s cheaper and heartier than lettuce.
- Eggs are on the expensive side but they’re good enough that I’ll allow them. I’m going to aim to eat a dozen eggs every week. These will likely be fried for breakfast or boiled for egg salad.
- Lean meats like ground turkey and canned tuna will be my main protein drivers. I’ll probably supplement with ground beef on some weeks where my other expenses are low. I’ll likely prepare these as soboro or dry curry most of the time.
I don’t plan to prep for the entire week on one day, but ideally most of my meals will be at least partially pre-prepared. Finally, I’m going to dramatically cut back on how much I spend on eating out, and swear off delivery entirely.
It’ll probably take some getting used to but I’m a believer in using periods of motivation to supercharge strong habits. Let’s see how this goes.