How to Prep Healthy, High-Protein Meals on a Budget: Dietitian Tips
How to Prep Healthy, High-Protein Meals on a Budget: Dietitian Tips
  • Save money on healthy meals without sacrificing nutrition using simple tips, a dietitian said.
  • Buying in bulk can help you bargain shop, while freezing extra food helps prevent costly waste.
  • Pantry staples and frozen veggies can help you make easy recipes packed with protein and vitamins.

Eating healthy doesn’t have to cost a fortune. Even as prices are skyrocketing on kitchen staples like eggs, some simple strategies can help you plan high-protein meals on a budget according to Bianca Tamburello, registered dietitian at FRESH Communications.

For a well-balanced diet, you’ll want to include affordable protein sources as well as vegetables, whole grains, and beans, she told Insider.

Save money without skimping on nutrients by bargain hunting, shopping for frozen foods aisle, eating your veggies, and finding creative ways to use ingredients, Tamburello said.

Buy in bulk

One of the simplest ways to save on meal prep is to buy larger quantities of unprocessed foods, since pre-portioned servings tend to be more costly, according to Tamburello.

For example, you could buy a canister of oats for less than a box of single-serving oatmeal packets, and then prepare overnight oats with Greek yogurt for extra protein, she said.

Similarly, avoid pre-cut veggies at a premium price — a little time doing kitchen prep yourself can lead to significant savings.

Get creative with leftover ingredients

Shopping sales can help you stock up on your favorite cooking staples at a discount, especially if you freeze any surplus items while they’re still fresh, Tamburello said

“Avoid wasting food by meal prepping freezer friendly items like soups, stews, and casseroles. Store items that you’ll eat in the next few days in the fridge and store the rest in the freezer,” she said.

Another strategy to make the most of your grocery haul is to find creative ways to incorporate what you have on hand. A big tub of Greek yogurt, for example, can be a high-protein base for sauces, soups, or desserts, or even subbed in to baked goods.

Eat more canned or frozen seafood

Fish is a fantastic source of protein and important nutrients, and canned and frozen varieties have similar benefits at an affordable price point, said Tamburello (who works with the Chilean Salmon Marketing Council).

She said frozen salmon from Chile is a good option because it’s especially high in healthy omega-3 fatty acids and low in mercury.

Other fish such as sardines, cod, and tilapia are also on the FDA’s “best choice” list to avoid contaminants.

Add more plant-based proteins like beans to your meals

Even if you aren’t vegetarian, plant-based proteins like tofu and beans can help stretch meals further on a budget, according to Tamburello.

“There’s no rule that you have to cut out all the meat,” she said.

Try mixing a can of black beans into turkey tacos, or adding white beans into a pasta dish. This can increase the number of servings you’ll get from a recipe, as well as adding more protein and fiber to the dish.

Stock up on fruits and veggies from the freezer aisle

Even if your goal is to eat more protein, produce can be a great way to pack more vitamins and minerals into your meals, and also get enough fiber, an important nutrient for digestive health and satiety, Tamburello said.

To save money, remember that frozen produce is just as healthy as fresh, and can be a convenient way to have healthy food on hand year-round.

“Buying frozen fruits and veggies can be a major cost cutter, especially for your favorite produce that’s not in season,” she said.

Tamburello recommends combining frozen veggies, a protein source, and a pantry staple for an easy, healthy meal in minutes — think boxed macaroni and cheese with chicken and frozen broccoli, or instant ramen with frozen veggies and tofu or edamame.