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In addition to their fun signature finds, the creamiest Greek yogurt, and my favorite hand lotion, the thing I love most about shopping at Trader Joe’s is their budget-friendly prices (and no, I’m not being paid to say this — I genuinely love this store). So when reining in my weekly food budget, it felt like a no-brainer to do all my shopping at TJ’s.
In less than two hours, this Power Hour will help you prep a week of breakfasts, lunches, and dinners for two adults — all for about $50. Ready to see how it’s done? Let’s get started.
Grocery shopping on a tight budget requires a bit of planning when you first get started, but the payoff is well worth it. And the longer you follow a set food budget, the more you’ll begin to get acquainted with the items that do and don’t work for you, and find creative ways to trim spending even more.
I’m happy to tell you I was able to easily stay under my $50 budget without eating the same thing on repeat all week along. That being said, I relied on the same basic breakfast for most of the week (the meal where we have the highest tolerance for repetition), and we did rely on leftovers a few times. While a couple of meals included meat, I chose recipes that use budget-friendly cuts and could be stretched into multiple meals, and otherwise largely relied on recipes that use inexpensive pantry ingredients and produce.
Below are the ingredients I bought or used for this meal prep plan. I also relied on staples already in my pantry, like oil and spices.
Power Hour: How I Get the Prep Done
My approach to meal prep is all about efficiency, multitasking, and embracing the “meanwhile.” This means I always start with the tasks that take the most time, and I aim to take advantage of those sporadic hands-off moments (the oven preheating, water coming to a boil, etc.).
A Week of Budget Meals from Trader Joe’s
Here’s how all that prep turns into ready-to-eat breakfasts, grab-and-go lunches, and dinners that have a helpful head start.
Starting the day with a warm bowl of oats in the middle of winter never gets old. To change things up a little, we alternate oatmeal toppings between sliced banana plus a dollop of yogurt and chopped apple and cinnamon. It’s easy and cheap. We also repurpose the leftovers from the potato and sausage skillet for a midweek breakfast.
The theme for this week’s budget lunches is beans, lentils, and tortillas, and alternates between quesadillas, soup, and leftovers. The quesadillas are folded like a Crunchwrap, which makes them easy and mess-free to eat, plus they can be frozen and reheat like a dream. To stretch the sweet potato fajitas into a hearty lunch, we assemble them into wraps with generous dollops of Greek yogurt for extra protein. There was a good amount of leftover carrots and celery from making the soup, so we cut them up for snacks throughout the week.
Despite the $50 budget, we only have one repeat dinner this week. The potatoes for Monday’s skillet dinner are already par-boiled, which means the whole meal comes together in a single pan in about 20 minutes. I count that a dinner win! It’s very much the same story on Tuesday, where some prep has already been done for the fajitas, so all that’s left to do is chop the sweet potatoes and toss everything on a baking sheet. Wednesday and Thursday night involve no more than reheating the chili, which we top with shredded cheese, a dollop of Greek yogurt, and sliced scallions. And as always, Friday night is pizza night, and we keep things simple with store-bought dough, marinara, and pre-shredded mozzarella.
Power Hour Meal Prep is the series where we help you put it all together. We show you how to eat well during the week with an hour or two of Power Hour prep over the weekend. Every plan is different; mix and match to find your own personal sweet spot.