Good Eats for Cheap: How to Meal Prep the Whole Week for $50

Ah, the chilly weeks of early November. The snow has come out in full force, and it’s a great time to escape the plummeting temperatures by spending your free time inside and with friends and family. Cozy! But we’re also reaching the point in the semester where the snow can result in your commute taking you an extra 10 minutes in the morning. 

It’s tempting to recoup those extra couple of minutes by skipping out on breakfast and grabbing a bite out later to make sure you catch that bus. But turning this into a habit will soon eat at that green insulation in your wallet. If you’re looking for tips on building better habits, check our recent blog post!

Even if you’re working full-time, the costs of tuition, transportation, and rent will quickly chomp into your budget, which could affect what food you choose to eat. But just because you’re living the student life doesn’t mean you have to persist on the age-old stereotypes of microwave ramen and Kraft Dinner for every meal (despite how delicious those options may be in moderation).

With only $50 a week (prior to tax), here’s how you can meal prep for the week without declaring bankruptcy.

A failure to plan is a plan to spend

Before you go on and save all this extra dosh, you need to first account for where the money spent is entering and leaving from. Having an Excel spreadsheet or similar budgeting templates handy to account for your cash-in and cash-out for the week can help immensely and highlight where you may be spending a non-essential chunk of your paycheck. Be sure to review how your money is being used and if you’re happy with the amount headed to your savings!

Additionally, the $50 used throughout this post is only a soft-capped suggestion. The cost of living has gone up substantially in recent years, and sometimes that results in you spending an extra couple of dollars you really didn’t account for initially. Don’t be too hard on yourself if you happen to go a buck or two over to make a recipe!

This sentiment rings especially true when purchasing non-perishables, spices, and other long-lasting necessities, which will last you for months and actually save you time and money over your meal prep journey. Sometimes, you just gotta spend a little money to save a little money. Just because you exceeded your budget one week does not mean you have to throw in the towel!

Checking off the most important meal of the day

We know how tempting it is to skip breakfast, but it’s the most important meal of the day for a reason – and you can keep it in your meal rotation without going over budget.

With endless options, cereal for breakfast is never a bad choice, and it’s relatively cheap! While you may miss out on your favourite mascot greeting you every morning, no-name brands are a simple and virtually identical option to help you stay fed without spending too much. Additionally, if you decide to eat your breakfast in some classic 2%, the milk used in your meal can double as ingredients in dishes that you may cook later on in the week. Call that efficiency. 

Cereal isn’t your vibe? Overnight oats are a no-hassle, tasty breakfast that you can make anywhere. If you’re looking for a quick recipe, check out our residence recipes blog for a quick how-to.

The best part about these two options is the ingredients are available at essentially any grocery store – and for only a sliver of your allotted cash spend. Additionally, buying large amounts can help you save your cash for next week’s budgeting, so don’t be afraid to buy in bulk if it will save you money in the long haul!

Prepping these breakfasts for a week will cost you between $8 and $12 dollars depending on what ingredients you choose to buy!

Never leave out lunch

A good sandwich will never fail in times of need. They’re portable, nutritious, and customizable to your heart’s content. Turkey, PB&J, and tomato and cheese make quick and painless lunches you can take anywhere.  

Some bread and meal ingredients will last you about a week with whatever you like best. A loaf of bread, sliced deli turkey, lettuce, and tomatoes (or other veggies that you can get from our weekly Mobile Grocery Store, done in partnership with Fresh Routes) will make a combo that can’t be beaten price-wise – ranging from about $15 to $18 dollars of your allotted budget. Plus, if you’re over a certain sandwich, feel free to cast it aside and reimagine your sandwich to find your next favourite lunch!

Delicious Dinners on a dime

How could we forget dinner, the most versatile meal of the day? To change up your meals and have some variety in your supper, pasta is a cheap option with limitless permutations to prepare. 

As a quick example, some bow-tie pasta, cheap pesto, and parmesan to sprinkle on top will net you around three unbeatably tasty meals for just over $10 – but you can come up with a dozen different pasta combinations for essentially the same price. Be a mad (pasta) scientist and keep experimenting to find what works best for you! 🧑‍🔬

Another option is soup! Soups are a fabulous source of nutrition, resulting in happy taste buds, and are perfect for the colder weather outside. While you can buy some canned soup and get away with it for a couple of meals, a homemade soup like mushroom ramen or chicken noodle will bring you personal cooking fulfillment and slightly more savings. Best of all, sans some meats and vegetables, you likely have all the necessary ingredients around the house once you get your hands on some broth!

Soups will slide in at just enough to get you under the $10 remaining. The best part about a good soup? It can fill you up heartily and last you over half of a week, depending on how much you make. 

Additionally, if you don’t fancy these two dinner options, our residence recipes blog also features some stir fry and casserole recipes to spice things up!

Good food doesn’t necessarily mean breaking the bank

If you’re looking for cheap produce to use in your meals, the Fresh Routes Mobile Grocery Store is set up on the main floor of Wyckham House every Monday from 11 am – 1 pm! This pop-up shop offers affordable ingredients for student budgets, enough for you to get your weekly supply and make sure you remain under budget.

SAMRU also partners with the Community Kitchen Program of Calgary to offer the Good Food Box, which allows you to purchase fresh, healthy fruits and vegetables monthly at an affordable cost!

Kick some of your food spending habits

Finally, and arguably the most important, the best way to keep your food spending down is to not falter at the temptations of that juicy burger on your ride back home. 

While we all deserve to treat ourselves with a McDouble once in a while, the extra dollar or two you’d be spending on a meal could quickly snowball into a large sum.

And as much as students require their caffeine kick, a daily coffee can run you up between $15 and $30 dollars per week, depending on your order. Try to scale it back and potentially brew your own coffee or tea (although we wouldn’t blame you for waiting until pumpkin spice season is over 🎃).

Finally, make sure you make food delivery services the exception rather than the norm. While we also love kicking back and watching a couple of episodes of your fave sitcom while bags of goodies appear at your door, the ~ghastly~ fees and tips on top of food costs will make your wallet feel as if every day is Halloween.

If you have any questions, suggestions, or delicious recipes to make the dollars and cents last, please send your inquiries to!