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Feeding yourself is hard enough, but feeding a whole family—while keeping it healthy and affordable—is practically a superhero’s job.
It doesn’t have to be, though! The great minds behind the Busy Budgeter have come up with a plan that makes 74 pre-portioned dinners you can freeze and thaw as necessary. These aren’t your mom’s TV dinners—they’re balanced and packed with whole foods!
Healthy doesn’t have to mean time-consuming. Perfect for a busy family, each meal takes just 2-3 minutes to prepare. Just heat for 90 seconds (if thawed) or 90 seconds each on half power and full power (if frozen), and they’re ready to serve.
Oh, and did I mention they’re cheap? This whole undertaking costs less than $100 per week, including containers and condiments.
The real appeal of this meal plan is how simple it is. The emphasis on whole foods and freezer-friendly meals means daily prep time is almost zero. The only question is, what will you do with all that extra free time in your day?
Here’s the plan breakdown:
Ordering cheap containers in bulk helps keep costs extra-low. Rosemarie at the Busy Budgeter recommends these microwavable containers from Webstaurant Store, which can be reused for multiple meals. If you’re iffy about putting plastic in the microwave, check out these small glass containers. If you already have your own Tupperware or containers you prefer, there’s no reason you can’t use those instead.
These are the six main dishes in the meal plan. Each includes a protein (meat), starch (rice or potatoes) and at least one veggie side.
- Strip Steak, white rice, green beans: makes 12 meals
- Flank Steak, rice, squash: makes 12 meals
- Grilled Chicken, sweet potato, squash: makes 14 meals
- Lemon Chicken, sweet potato, green beans: makes 12 meals
- Teriyaki Chicken, rice, broccoli: makes 12 meals
- Ground Beef, sweet potato, broccoli: makes 12 meals
This menu is the basic outline, but Rosemarie also suggests a number of substitutions for different components. If you’re dealing with picky eaters, allergies or other issues, you can swap in different ingredients, like salmon, tilapia, carrots, asparagus, brown rice and sweet peas.
The guide on the Busy Budgeter includes a shopping list with the amount of each ingredient needed for this plan. If you’re feeding more or fewer people, just adjust these amounts to fit your needs.
Serving sizes for the meals are all the same: 5 oz. of meat, 1/2 cup of carbs and 1/2 cup of vegetables each. Each meal also has the same calorie count, which is helpful if you’re trying to track your calories.
According to Rosemarie, these portions will feed a family of four (two adults and two young children) for up to two weeks. If you’re just preparing meals for yourself, you can eat for 3-4 weeks on this plan—as long as you don’t mind a little repetition.
The Busy Budgeter doesn’t include breakfast meals in the plan, but she recommends investing in frozen sausages, breakfast sandwiches and oatmeal, which will fill you up without going over budget.
You don’t necessarily need all of this gear to prepare these meals, but we all know having good kitchen equipment makes life easer. The prep and storage process will be more efficient if you have some basic equipment, including:
- An electric griddle
- An in-oven meat thermometer
- Large food prep bowls
- A large cutting board
- A food scale
- A large pot
- Deep freezer
Prep and Storage
Rosemarie includes step-by-step instructions for preparing the meats, starches and veggies, and assembling and storing the meals. You’ll need about 3-4 hours for the whole process, so make sure you’ve given yourself enough time.
Two weeks of meals take up a lot of space, so chances are you won’t be able (or want) to store everything in your fridge and freezer. This is where a deep freezer, or backup freezer, really comes in handy. You can store 2-3 days worth of meals in your fridge, and keep everything else frozen until you’re ready to eat it.
Three hours in exchange for two weeks without shopping for groceries or prepping meals? Sounds like a plan to me!