Meal preparation on a budget

Meal preparation on a budget

The idea of ​​preparing meals – spending a few hours once a week to get everything ready for several days of food – may seem daunting, but just like with running, you have to put in the work in advance to reap the rewards along the way.

“In our busy household, my mantra is always ‘cook once, eat twice’,” Elyse Kopecky, co-author of Run fast. Eat slowly. and Run fast. Cook quickly. Eat slowly., Narrator Runner’s World.

Preparing meals, Kopecky says, will ultimately save you time, money and mental stress. Who does not want it? Kopecky, who hosts a virtual cooking class, is about using runners across multiple meals. For example, she will prepare a large portion of her characteristic pulled chicken to use for tacos, in power bowls (cereals, protein and vegetables) and on salads.

And even though preparing meals requires you to pay more money for groceries in advance, in the long run you will stretch these ingredients for several weeks, making it a budget-friendly decision, Jerlyn Jones, RDN, LD, a spokesman for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, tells Runner’s World.

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Why runners should prepare meals

Runners plan their training, and nutrition is a part of it, so it makes sense to think about proper refueling and refueling. And because exercise puts physical and mental strain on the body, reducing stress with meal preparation is a win-win.

“Meal preparation helps reduce the mental strain around meal composition,” he says Heather Caplan, RD, LDN., a runner and Colorado-based registered dietitian.

And when it comes to overall health, Caplan says preparing meals and snacks in advance forces you to shop and cook on purpose – choosing foods that will boost your running and recovery.

Jones points out that without thinking about meals, you may be more likely to order takeaway more often, where you may be attracted to foods high in sugar or less good for you fat, as in fried foods. Plus, she says, takeaway and dining get expensive.

“Meal planning helps you decide what to eat in the future, and you are not trying at the last minute to figure out what to make or go out and spend money you have not taken into account,” Jones says.

How to prepare meals on a budget

The key to preparing meals, whether you’re on a budget or not, is buy in bulk. Bulk ingredients make it possible to make several meals at once. Bulk ingredients are also cheaper per. unit than buying individually, even if you pay more in advance.

For example, a pack of seven-pound family-sized chicken breast costs about $ 15.40 or $ 2.29 per person. pound. Compare that to $ 6.89 for just one pound of chicken breast. Even if you are not feeding a family, you can freeze extra chicken to stretch those dollars. And often you can find sales and coupons for your go-to items, Briana Butler, RDN, LD, Narrator Runner’s World.

When buying in bulk, with the goal of preparing more meals and saving money, it is also a good idea to think of durable products, says Jones, such as rice, beans and peanut butter.

“If you buy shelf-stable items, they last much longer than if you order takeaway, which only lasts for a meal or two,” Jones says.

A bag of rice, for example, could serve as a complex carbohydrate – essential for exercise and recovery – over five meals, Caplan says. A can of soup, even if it is not perishable, lasts only one meal. That said, another great way to stretch your ingredients and meals, she says, is to combine foods.

“Think of things that work for more than one meal or things that combine well, like adding rice or frozen vegetables to a soup,” Caplan says.

Jones emphasizes the importance of being creative with meal planning. Variation is, after all, the spice of life. “This is where recipes come into play,” Jones says. “Find different ways to make the bulk chicken you bought – put it in soup, salad, add rice to a stir-fry, serve with a tortilla like a burrito.”

She also recommends using different spices when cooking that chicken to allow for different flavors such as Indian or Caribbean-inspired dishes. “A packet of chicken can turn into different cuisine based on spices and other foods you make with it,” Jones says.

And you do not have to buy organic to eat healthy, Butler adds. “You can still reap the benefits of whole foods, even if they are not organic, so do not let the label – or lack thereof – prevent you from nourishing your body,” she says.

The best cheap ingredients for meal preparation

When choosing ingredients for meal preparation, consider how these ingredients will nourish your running and recovery, Caplan says. She goes on to say that for the average runner, having enough food is of the utmost importance, and preparing meals is a good way to ensure that there is always fuel on hand.

→ Grain

cooking on a budget

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Cereals, including white or brown rice, whole grain pasta, farro and quinoa, are durable, inexpensive and versatile. They are also the best source of simple or complex carbohydrates that runners need to nourish their muscles.

Cereals in sacks are significantly cheaper than instant cereals – for example rice or quinoa – and they also last longer. For example, a 16-ounce bag of brown rice costs about $ 1, or $ 0.07 per serving. ounce.

Whether your cereal is rice or pasta, make a box or two so it lasts the week. Top with various proteins, such as chicken, canned tuna or salmon, and mix with vegetables for well-rounded meals that do not get boring. Not sure what to have for a quick, healthy breakfast? Top your rice with a fried egg.

→ Frozen or canned products

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Dietitians everywhere want you to know that frozen or canned fruits and vegetables are just as nutritious as fresh ingredients – if not more so! Not only are frozen and canned goods cheaper than the fresh stuff, for people living in food deserts – areas without easy access to large grocery stores – frozen or canned goods can be all that is available, Caplan says. A bag of frozen vegetables can cost as little as $ 0.89.

Of course, you can eat your fruits or vegetables next to what your main meal is, or you can mix vegetables into a stir-fry or frittata (see below). But avoid frozen vegetables that come with a sauce, Jones says. These tend to be much higher in sodium and added sugar.

Use frozen or canned fruit in a smoothie or mixed with oatmeal – another cheap, durable, runner-friendly grain. A bag of frozen fruit can cost as little as $ 2.00.

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→ Eggs

cooking on a budget

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A dozen eggs cost just over a dollar (if they are not organic or grass-fed, which is significantly more expensive), making them an incredibly inexpensive source of high-quality protein, Jones says. Plus, they provide vitamin D and choline.

One of our favorite egg dishes is a vegetable frittata: Saute the vegetables you have, then mix six to 12 eggs with cheese and milk, and bake at 400 degrees for about 25 minutes until the eggs are well done. Frittatas are stored well in the refrigerator or freezer and can be easily reheated for meals throughout the week.

→ Peanut butter

cooking on a budget

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We have never met a runner who does not like peanut butter (unless it is allergic). It is a plant-based protein that provides heart-healthy fat and it goes with pretty much anything. While not necessarily healthier than other nut butter like almonds or cashews, peanut butter is significantly cheaper – as little as $ 3.00 per serving. jar. (Select brands that have just peanuts in the ingredients, and maybe a little sea salt.)

“Unless you’re allergic, peanut butter is a must-have for your pantry,” Jones says. Use it on toast, bananas, in fried dishes (it has a lower sugar content than most sauces and increases the protein content) and even just outside the spoon.

→ Beans

cooking on a budget

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Like grains, such as rice and pasta, beans – dry or canned – are inexpensive, provide high-quality plant-based protein and can serve as a solid base for a variety of meals. They are durable and thanks to their fiber content, a small portion can still satiate.

“Beans are an easy source of protein, carbohydrates and fiber,” says Caplan. “They are versatile: Use them in salads, burgers, burritos and tacos. There are so many options and they are really cheap.” A can of beans can cost as little as $ 0.55.

Think outside the box with a bean salad – easy to make with cheap ingredients that last for many lunches or dinners: Mix black beans, garbanzo beans (chickpeas!), Red kidney beans, onions, frozen peas, frozen corn, chopped peppers, chopped tomatoes and chopped spit bowl. Turn with olive oil, salt and pepper, and season with your favorite spices.

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