I take pride in planning and cooking most meals for my husband and I. I meal plan with three things in mind: cost, time and healthiness. I focus on making easy, healthy meals because I want to fuel our bodies without spending tons of time doing it. We feel good when we eat healthily. We’re happier and more energetic. And, eating well is one of the ways that we nurture our sex life. (Yep! What you put into your body affects your relationship!) So, yes meal planning helps promote a healthier sex life in our marriage.
I had to change my mindset about food when I started making healthier meals for us a few years back. I’m a southern girl, so I made a lot of southern food. I cooked and ate for the taste of food. I didn’t cook and eat to fuel my body. So, I had to train myself to cook for healthiness, not yumminess. (Though, I don’t think I’ve sacrificed yumminess at all. I just don’t eat fried okra and mac ‘n cheese as much.)
Curious how to eat healthy on a budget? You’re in the right place! Before I dive into my strategy for planning easy, healthy meals, let me tell you more about why meal planning is so important to me.
The Benefits of Meal Planning
The benefits of meal planning come down to feeling and being healthy; staying on budget and saving time. I already told you how eating healthily affects our marriage, so I’ll skip over that benefit.
Meal planning also saves money because I go to the grocery store with a plan. I only buy grocery items that I’ll need each week. I don’t fill the buggy with random, junky items, then feel disappointed that we spent money and have nothing to show for it.
I meal prep the week’s lunches each Sunday. My husband can quickly grab lunch before leaving for work without me packing it each day. I work from home, but having prepped meals saves me time in the day. We eat healthy lunches, and we save money by not eating lunch out. It’s a win-win.
How to Plan Healthy, Budget-Friendly Meals
My strategy for planning healthy, budget-friendly meals is pretty simple. Friday is usually my meal planning and grocery shopping day. I’ll plan breakfasts, lunches and dinners for the weekend and the following week. I write down each day of the week, then consider what I’ll want to make/have time to make those days.
I keep things simple, and I don’t make fancy dishes unless it’s a special occasion. I plan most dinners to last two nights. (A meal will usually last longer if it’s a soup.) This is because I don’t want to cook every night. For example, I’ll cook something that makes leftovers Monday night if I’m meeting a girlfriend for drinks Tuesday.
I plan most meals to consist of a protein and a couple veggies. I use fruits to include accompany lunches and to eat as sweet treats. (ie, apples with peanut butter and chocolate chips) I rarely buy meats or veggies to only have for one night. This can quickly add up. (You can read more about my budget-friendly grocery tips here.) For example, I won’t cook an entire bunch of asparagus one night. We’d never eat all of it. So, I make sure my meal plan includes two nights with asparagus as a side.
I write my grocery list based on my meal plan. Then, the hubby and I are off to the store! (He pushes the buggy, I grab the goods.)
My Go-To Healthy, Budget-Friendly Meal Ideas
Meal planning takes less time when you have healthy, budget-friendly meals in mind. Here are some of my go-tos. (You can Google any of these for the recipes.)
- Bell pepper nachos
- Tacos and/or taco salads
- Tortellini + roasted veggies in pesto sauce
- Rice + beans
- Spazoodles (either meatless or with ground turkey)
- Zoodles in pesto sauce with bacon and peas
- Baked sweet potatoes with simple salad
- Pot roast with potatoes + carrots
- Veggie beef soup
- Cabbage detox soup
- Tuscan veggie soup
- Chicken fiesta soup
- Breakfast hash or omelets for dinner
- Chicken parm with zoodles
- Veggie night (go-tos are sweet potatoes, mushrooms, whole carrots, beets, squash)
- Sweet potato chicken boats
- Ranch roasted pork chops, potatoes + green beans
- Italian roasted chicken, corn on the cob + green beans
- Salmon with bacon wrapped asparagus
- Cobb salad (eggs, bacon, tomato, cheddar, cucs, chicken, ranch)
- Kale salad (pecans, apples,
- Blackened chicken salad (avo, cucs, tomatoes, olive oil)
- Zucchini lasagna
- Frozen pizza (not always healthy, but a good treat!)