Mass Meal Prep: 15 Low Cal Meals for Less Than $5 Each

Last month I started a 12-month weight loss journey. I have been calorie counting and doing between 30 and 45 minutes of working out each day.

Since I have small children, time is a precious commodity and preparing meals that are healthy, tasty, and easy is a bit of a challenge.

Today, though, I tried something new – mass meal preparation.

I must say, I’m very happy with the results!

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15 Meals Prepped in 5 hours (including clean-up)

Below I’ve provided a cost, recipe, and calorie breakdown for the 15 meals I was able to prepare during a 5-hour stint in the kitchen. Total, these meals will only cost you about $4.60 each – that’s CRAZY isn’t it? Yeah, crazy COOL!

INGREDIENTS – ORGANIZED BY STORE

Here’s what you’ll need:

Wal-Mart:

  1. ONE 2lb. bag of Marketside Raw Broccoli Flouretts ($9)
  2. Boneless, Skinless Thin-Sliced Chicken Breast ($15)

Costco:

  1. Kirkland Tail-off, Cooked, Peeled, Deveined Shrimp ($15)

Trader Joe’s

  1. Frozen Jumbo Sea Scallops ($12)
  2. Frozen Organic Jasmine Rice ($3.50)
  3. Frozen Rice Medley ($1.25)
  4. Frozen Fully Cooked Organic Quinoa ($2.50)
  5. Frozen True Belgian Brussels Sprouts ($5)
  6. Frozen All Natural Asparagus ($3.50)

Probably Already in Your Pantry (price will vary)

  1. Extra Virgin Olive Oil
  2. Butter
  3. Lemon
  4. Balsamic Vinegar
  5. Kosher or course salt
  6. Ground pepper
  7. Ground nutmeg
  8. Ground ginger
  9. Ground allspice
  10. Vanilla extract
  11. Dried rosemary

Total calculated cost (excluding pantry items) for 15 meals is just under $67.00, but we’ll round to $70 because of the pantry items. That makes your grand total for ONE of these meals just $4.60! * Note, if you want to use the portion control containers, they are reusable and will cost you about $1 a piece on Amazon. Click here to purchase the exact ones I did.

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These are the exact meal prep portion containers I purchased from Amazon (link above)

PREPARATION – ORGANIZED BY TYPE

We’re doing this mass-production style, so if the proportions seem exaggerated, don’t worry, they’ll get spread out across all 15 meals later.

Protein:

  1. Boneless, skinless, thin-sliced breast fillets (7 breasts, 7 meals):
    1. Heat 5 TBS of extra virgin olive oil in a large skillet
    2. Remove fillets from package and place in skillet
    3. Salt and pepper first side to taste
    4. Let cook on high for 10 minutes on first side
    5. Flip fillets over, reduce heat to medium-high, salt and pepper second side, and let cook for 10 minutes (longer for well done chicken)
    6. Slice, if desired
    7. Portion out in 4oz servings (1 breast)

      img_6678

      Boneless, skinless, tin-sliced chicken breast, seared in extra virgin olive oil, salt, and pepper

  2. Fully cooked, deveined, tail-off shrimp (I only used about ¾ of my bag, but you can prep the whole thing) (75 shrimp, 5 meals):
    1. Thaw shrimp according to package instructions
    2. Warm 2 TBS of butter in a large skillet on medium-high heat
    3. Place as many shrimp in the skillet as will fit without them touching one another
    4. Salt and pepper to taste
    5. Cook on first side until butter starts to brown and harden, about 10 minutes (or less if you want to warm not continue cooking them)
    6. Turn shrimp over and cook another 2-5 minutes (again, depending on your doneness preference)
    7. Portion out in 15 shrimp servings

      img_6681

      Fully cooked, peeled, deveined, tail-off shrimp, seared in butter, salt, and pepper

  3. Jumbo sea scallops (12 scallops, 3 meals):
    1. Thaw scallops according to package instructions
    2. Pat scallops dry on paper towel and season one side with salt and pepper to taste
    3. Heat 2 TBS butter and 1 TB extra virgin olive oil in medium skillet, making sure it starts to bubble before you add scallops
    4. Add scallops to skillet, seasoned side down, making sure they have plenty of room to breathe; you don’t want to steam them
    5. Sear for 3-6 minutes on first side (depending on desired doneness)
    6. Season exposed side with salt and pepper to taste
    7. Flip scallops gently – they may be sticking to the pan, and season second side with salt and pepper to taste
    8. Sear second side for 2-6 minutes (depending on desired doneness)
    9. Portion out in 4 scallop servings

      img_6686

      Jumbo scallops seared in butter, salt, and pepper

Greens:

  1. Broccoli (9 cups; 6 meals):
    1. Remove large stems and cut larger florets in the smaller ones
    2. Heat 3 TBS of extra virgin olive oil in a large skillet
    3. Add all of the broccoli to the skillet
    4. Add an additional 2 TBS of extra virgin olive oil to top of broccoli
    5. Add salt and pepper to taste
    6. Sautee until just tender
    7. Portion out in 1.5 cup servings

      img_6689

      Broccoli, sauteer in extra virgin olive oil, salt, and pepper

  2. Asparagus (about 60 spears; 5 meals):
    1. Pre-heat oven to 400 degrees
    2. Thaw according to package instructions (or just leave out on the counter for 20 minutes)
    3. Arrange both packages of asparagus on foil-lined cookie sheet
    4. Drizzle with extra virgin olive oil, salt, and pepper, to taste
    5. Roast 20 minutes
    6. Broil on high an additional 10-20 minutes depending on charring preference
    7. Portion out in 12-15 spear servings

      img_6682

      Asparagus, roasted and broiled in extra virgin olive oil, salt, and pepper

  3. Brussels Sprouts (6 cups; 4 meals):
    1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees
    2. Empty both package into microwave safe-bowl and cover with cling wrap
    3. Thaw in microwave for 4 minutes
    4. Uncover and halve each Brussels sprout
    5. Put the halves back in the bowl and add 3 TB of extra virgin olive oil, 3 TB of balsamic vinegar, ½ TB kosher or course salt, and 1/8 tsp. group black pepper; stir until fully combined
    6. Arrange all of the sprouts on a tin-foil lined cookie sheet
    7. Roast for 20 minutes
    8. Broil on high an additional 10-20 minutes depending on charring preference, flipping halfway
    9. Portion out in 1.5 cup servings

      img_6679

      Brussels sprouts, roasted and broiled in extra virgin olive oil, balsamic vinegar, salt, and pepper

Grains:

  1. Jasmine rice (4.5 cups; 8 meals – will have one leftover half cup):
    1. Heat three bags – one at a time – according to package instructions
    2. Portion out in half cup servings
  2. Rice Medley (2 cups; 4 meals):
    1. Heat one bag according to package instructions
    2. Pour contents into bowl
    3. Add a half tsp. of each of the following to the bowl: ground nutmeg, ground allspice, ground ginger
    4. Add 1 tsp. vanilla extract to the bowl
    5. Add a quarter tsp. of kosher or course salt to the bowl
    6. Add a half TBS of extra virgin olive oil to the bowl
    7. Stir all ingredients until fully combined
    8. Portion out in half cup servings

      img_6674

      Warm spice rice medley

  3. Quinoa (1.5 cups; 3 meals):
    1. Heat one bag according to package instructions
    2. Pour contents into bowl
    3. Add 1 TB of extra virgin olive oil, the juice of one small lemon, a quarter a tsp. kosher or course salt, 1/16 tsp. ground black pepper, 1 TB balsamic vinegar, and 1 TB dried rosemary (crushed in fingers) to bowl
    4. Stir all ingredients until fully combined
    5. Portion out in half cup servings

      img_6669

      Oil and vinegar quinoa

The calories for each of the portions are all similar enough to ensure each combination stays below 680 calories per meal, and, even then, you’d have to eat all of the most calorie-laden items from each category in the same meal to hit that. Most combinations stay below 600 calories per meal. The lowest possible calorie count is 440, and you’re still getting plenty of food! The calorie counts for each of the food items are broken down as follows:

  1. Seared chicken in extra virgin olive oil (4 oz; one breast): 230 calories
  2. Seared shrimp in butter (15 pieces; 9 oz): 280 calories
  3. Seared scallops in butter and extra virgin olive oil (4 pieces 4 oz): 280 calories
  4. Sautéed broccoli in extra virgin olive oil (1.5 cups): 120 calories
  5. Roasted asparagus in extra virgin olive oil (12 spears): 90 calories
  6. Roasted balsamic Brussels sprouts in extra virgin olive oil (1.5 cups): 220 calories
  7. Jasmine rice with 1TB soy sauce (1/2 cup): 120 calories
  8. Balsamic quinoa (1/2 cup): 180 calories
  9. Warm spice rice medley (1/2 cup): 120 calories

Just a few final notes:

  1. Today I used what I had on hand, but I would much rather have used fresh (not frozen) Brussels sprouts and asparagus. The cooking times in the oven will need to be adjusted for fresh/raw greens by adding 20 minutes, but the outcome is WAY better.
  2. I buy the thin-sliced breast fillets because they are generally about 4oz each, which is one serving size. It just makes life easier because I don’t have to weigh them out, after they are cooked, I jut have to slice them and put them in the container – I already know they are 4oz and can move on with my calorie counting from there.
  3. If you want a good sear on your meat, you need to let them cook on very high heat for at least the first half of your cooking time. This WILL make a huge mess. You can either fight it or use a different method, but the best result is the one that emulates the way food is cooked in a restaurant.
  4. I like my food charred and/or well done. If you don’t, simply reduce the cooking times provided above.
  5. All servings are based on LOOSLY packed measuring cups

So that’s it! I hope you all enjoyed and are able to use this post to your advantage! I’m loving finding new ways to do this whole “fitness” thing well, and I’m sure you are too!

Until Next Time My Friends,

S. Taylor

The Taylor of All Trades

One thought on “Mass Meal Prep: 15 Low Cal Meals for Less Than $5 Each

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