How to Prepare Cheap (And Fast) Meals and Snacks at Home

by Will Lipovsky · 4 comments

food at home
Preparing cheap meals at home isn’t hard, but the task gets more complicated if you want to do it quickly. This article will show you how to do.

I’ve been cooking nearly all of my meal at home since graduating from college. I started the habit because cooking saved me tons of money compared to eating out at restaurants. Now I cook mainly because it actually saves me a ton of time. That’s right, cooking at home saves more time than eating out. The fastest way of course would be to get food delivered, but it’s tricky for many people to get delivered food that is also healthy. So let’s stick with eating at home.

I’ll take this opportunity to address any concerns people may have right now. First, this style of cooking does take some upfront investment. It means having a decent kitchen, decent cookware, a decently sized refrigerator/freezer and at least a little time at home each day. Also, this style of cooking does not lend itself to a huge amount of variety. If you enjoy eating a massive variety of foods, then this may not be for you.

But if you’re focused on cooking cheap, healthy, quick, tasty meals at home – keep reading.

Start by thinking of what every good meal needs. I eat ‘low carb’ so I aim to have proteins and veggies mostly. A typical meal may start out as a fillet of cod + mixed veggies or perhaps ground turkey + chickpeas or black beans. Shop for these items in large quantities.

The next step is to cook in large quantities. I’ll cook all of the chicken breast, ground turkey, fish, vegetables, etc. that I can a few times every week. For these few hours per week, my kitchen operates like a commercial kitchen – prepping food fast and efficiently. I keep many burners going and watch everything closely.

Once I have all of the raw ingredients ready – I’ll do a little meal planning. Honestly, I only meal plan one day in advance. And I mainly do this to make sure my diet is diverse enough. I don’t want to be eating the same nutrients during every meal, so I break things up by the day.

On top of the base proteins and veggies, I have snacks and toppings. The snacks are fast – nuts, dried fruit, cottage cheese, etc. Easy stuff. The toppings are what makes eating chicken breast 6 times per week interesting. These consist largely of spices and salsas. They give each meal a unique flavor. I probably have six different kinds of salsa in my refrigerator right now. And there are no sugar added in any of them either (which is something you really have to watch out for).

Snacks are important. As mentioned earlier, I buy bags of nuts and dried fruit. Honestly, pretty much anything works for a snack if you can keep the food cold. A lot of small containers are handy for these, and it’s important to realize that it’s okay to spend a bit extra on these snacks. After all, it’s far, far cheaper than stopping at convenience store, which may happen if you only buy cheap snacks and don’t keep them in high quality containers which make them convenient and also keeps the food fresh.

Things to Remember in Order to Make Cooking at Home a Habit

  1. Buy food you actually enjoy eating. Do not make food you make at home to be inferior to that of a restaurant. You don’t want to relapse back to eating out simply because you didn’t buy quality food at home. It’s wise to use even better ingredients than restaurants.
  2. Appreciate the power of planning. I know not everyone likes to plan, but it absolutely makes things easier.
  3. Create a rhythm. Once you have a rhythm down, cooking at home becomes second nature. It won’t be an inconvenience – just the norm.
  4. Invite people over. If the social experience is what you enjoyed about eating out – invite people to your home. Feeding other people at home can still be cheaper than paying for only yourself when you eat out.

Don’t worry about being perfect. There’s no need to scrape every last bean out of the can. There’s no need to use a tiny scraper to get out every tiny bit of tomato sauce. I used to be a perfectionist but then I decided that perfection gets in the way of accomplishment. As it’s said, ‘Perfection is the enemy of done.’ Enjoy your cheap and healthy diet.

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  • Arminius Aurelius says:

    P.S. By the way , a slow cooker is a great way to prepare meals with little effort . A roast can easily offer 5 or 6 meals . You can have a meal or two and then freeze the rest for another evening . Also another easy and great way to save money is to but when items are on sale , Buy 1 and get 1 FREE .
    I then buy 3 or 4 and get 3 or 4 FREE . When you save money , you earn money without any effort and tax free.

  • Arminius Aurelius says:

    Eating out often can be quite expensive You can eat a meal at home for $4.00 to $ 5.00 MAX . That would include a salad , meat / fish , vegetable and potato or rice . In a restaurant the same meal would cost you about $ 18.00 to $ 20.00 a person. A cocktail at home , 55 cents for 1 1/2 ounce whiskey / vodka and a soda would cost about 80 cents compared to about
    $ 7.00 to $ 10.00 in a restaurant . A cup of coffee in a restaurant cost about
    $ 1.25 to $ 1.50 a cup whereas brew it at home at a cost of 20 cents a cup .
    Add it up how much money you can waste . From 20 years old to 80 years old is 60 years / 21,900 days . Work hard , spend , spend , spend and live the ” good life ” and in the end you are impoverished after 45 years of hard work. Remember financially or otherwise , a small leak can sink a great ship.

    • David @ says:

      Thumbs up on the advice. There’s a saying in Chinese that says small amounts are afraid to be calculated for the long term. The bottom line is that small expenses can definitely add up!

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