SAVANNAH, Ga. (WSAV) — Are you meal prepping for the back-to-school season? According to the USDA, food prices are up an average of 10.4% from June of 2021. They are projected to only continue to rise in the coming year.

Preparing your meals ahead of time is a great way to save money when prices are forever rising. So, how do you meal prep on a budget? What are the best foods to use and what should you avoid?

Here are some tips and some answers to some of your most asked meal prep questions.

Meal Prepping On A Budget

Chicken teriyaki stir fry meal prep lunch box containers with broccoli, rice and carrots
(Getty Images)

You can accidentally spend a lot of money if you’re meal prepping without making a budget. Some of the foods that are the simplest to make are also the most expensive. While using pre-made protein (think frozen meatballs, precooked chicken) may be more accessible to some and certainly does not need to be shamed, it may make the difference between a $3 meal and a $6 meal. These small changes can add up quickly.

Here are some good places to start when it comes to planning out your budget:

  • What is the maximum you are able to spend per meal?
  • What are you physically able to make with the time you have available to meal prep?
  • How quickly do you get bored of a certain food and are you willing to repeat meals?
  • How picky are the people you’re cooking for?
  • Are you willing to try alternative forms of protein?

All of these questions will help you get a good idea of how you should proceed. If you’re willing to spend more money on a meal, you can pick whatever protein source you’d like. If you’re trying to save funds and open to protein sources that aren’t meat, get ready for beans to become your new best friend.

Not a fan of the same food multiple times a week? It will likely be more expensive for you to eat a different meal every day of the week.

Are you cooking for picky children? Prepare to get them involved in figuring out what they enjoy, and prepare for that to be a bit more costly than just cooking for yourself.

Looking for more tips on budgeting? Check out this article from Unlock Food through the link here.

“Good” Versus “Bad” Foods

Healthy raw kale and quinoa salad with cranberry and almonds
(Getty Images)

Don’t get it confused: this is not a conversation about “healthy” versus “unhealthy” foods for meal prep. That is a conversation to have with a nutritionist. Instead, this is about what foods hold up well in the fridge or freezer. For that, you’ll want to look for things that don’t spoil quickly and don’t lose their flavor over time.

You don’t want to fill your fridge with a week’s worth of food only to get to Friday and realize how gross your roasted vegetables are after they’ve been in the freezer for four days.

To find a good list of foods you should include in your meal prep that won’t go back, you can click or tap on the link to an article by Well and Good here.

How To Meal Plan

A person writing in a notebook next to plates of healthy food.
(Getty Images)

There are lots of ways that you can meal plan depending on your budget, palate and ability.

It will take some time to figure out what works best for you. You might find that you enjoy eating sandwiches instead of meals requiring more effort. You might find that you work best with several options per day instead of a set schedule.

One article that could potentially help you plan is this one by Talia Koren at Work Week Lunch. This article gives an introduction to the benefits of meal planning and some tips on how to go through your schedule to find what makes for the greatest fit.

Sometimes it is easier to plan if you follow the plans of others first. If you’re looking for something super easy and extra simple to try out you can take a look at this video by fitness YouTuber Remington James. It features slow-cooked chicken, rice and sweet potatoes. If you want to branch out and diversify your meal plan, this video by YouTuber HealthNut Nutrition is a great starting point. Her meal plan features things like roasted vegetables, chicken, spiralized zucchini, fruit and more.