Best apps and tips to help you prep healthy meals on a budget

Want to prepare healthy meals on a budget for your family? Follow our expert guidelines and top app suggestions to give you the best head-start.

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With looming deadlines and never-ending to-do lists, it can be time-consuming and stressful to constantly think of healthy meals to put on the table each night. In fact, according to Pew research conducted last year, even though most men and women work full time and share many household chores and tasks these days, 71% of moms say they still handle both the grocery shopping and cooking in the home. This also includes the kitchen clean up after meals.

So, to make your life easier, we’ve compiled a list of the best apps to help you prep healthy meals that won’t break the bank. Turns out, the success lies in the planning and prep!

ALSO SEE: 10 tips to keep your kids healthy on a budget

Yummly

About the app: This app allows you to create a digital recipe box, which is basically a hub of all your favourite recipes in one place. Plus, it has a section with many guided recipes (with video tutorials) to make it easier for you to prep and cook in less time.

You can also put your dish of the day onto the family calendar, so that everyone can see what’s for dinner!

Why is it budget-friendly?  Yummly works out personalised meal plans – depending on your food preferences and family size –  to help you shop for the items you need, without wasting money on what you don’t need or want. You can also download an additional app on Yummly to scan ingredients – and you’ll get recipe recommendations.

Yummly.com

Free for iTunes and Android users

Mealboard

About the app: This app helps you plan meals by date, create personalised shopping lists and help keep track of what’s already in your grocery cupboard, so you don’t buy what you already have. Plus, you can add meal notes and adjust portions based on who’s coming for dinner. You can also import recipes from other sites into the app and it’ll help you work out a meal plan and shopping list

Why is it budget-friendly? The app lets you keep track of what items you have at home, and what you need. As you cook, you can adjust what you have left and work out what you need for the next meal. This helps you plan ahead, and avoid food waste.

Mealboard.com

From R60 for iTunes and Android

Clean and Green Eating

About the app: This app contains a wide variety of simple, easy recipes for the whole family. All the recipes are delicious, but follow the clean eating philosophy which means simple, wholesome ingredients, less preservatives and no unhealthy fats. So, rather than searching endlessly online or in your stash of recipe books for healthy recipes every week, this app has plenty! Search for recipes by name or category (such as breakfast or dinner, vegan, low-fat, calories).

Why is it budget friendly? We love that it lets you list what you have at home already and tries to match a recipe to your ingredients. Plus, there’s an automatic shopping list built into the app, which saves you time on shopping and prepping meals.

From R49,99 on iTunes and Android

To help you make meal prepping and cooking even simpler, we asked international health expert and mom, Maria Ascencao for her top healthy eating tips (on a budget):

  • Avoid shopping when you are hungry as it may lead to impulse buying.
  • Prepare large meals to freeze and use over the course of the week.

ALSO SEE: 10 quick and easy freezer-friendly meals to save time

  • Read labels, ask questions, do research and make informed decisions.
  • Let your kids help in preparing foods and choosing the healthiest ingredients. Try to make treats at home rather than buying them as you can control the ingredients in them.

Here are Maria’s budget-friendly healthy foods to put in your shopping basket:  

  • Choose whole foods first (like fresh fruits and veggies, rice and potatoes) and avoid sugar and processed foods.
  • Learn to appreciate less expensive foods and add beans or lentils to make your dish go further.
  • Increase your intake of good fats such as coconut oil, cold pressed olive oil, avocado, nuts and seeds.
  • Try to eat organic produce if possible – it’s a good investment in the long-term.
  • Follow a balanced holistic diet that includes lots of green leafy vegetables and fruit.

“There’s no doubt that long, irregular work hours can lead to unhealthy eating habits for the whole family and while meal prepping may seem daunting, it can be a short, streamlined, simple process,” says Maria.

Here’s how to prep and plan like a pro:

  • Good planning is key. It saves time and gives you freedom to spend more time with your family in the week.
  • Keep a list of varied, family favourite healthy recipes and prepare accordingly.
  • Consider your and your family’s schedule for the week and based on this, plan your meals and the preparation needed to cook healthy meals.
  • Make a shopping list based on the above and stick to what you need for meals.
  • Invest in good kitchen appliances that will save time such as food processors, slow cookers, hand blenders, egg boilers or cutting devices.
  • Use the right containers for portion sizes and types of foods, label them or use clear containers if necessary.
  • Make your own healthy sauces or dips to change up regular meals with different and exciting tastes.
  • Wash and chop veggies, fruits and salads and store them in separate containers.

Focus on wholesome, healthy foods

Avoid processed foods or meats, fast foods and sugar as much as possible. These convenience-type foods are often the most expensive items on shelf! Plus, it’s a myth that healthy eating isn’t filling or tasty. Healthy food such as fruit and vegetables are both filling and delicious. Follow a balanced diet rich in fruit, vegetables, lean protein and wholegrains.

About the expert:

Maria is a cultural creative who lives natural health and wellness. Her history in the health and wellness industry spans from setting up Vitamin Express at the V&A Waterfront in Cape Town to launching and establishing Bioharmony as a leader in health services and nutraceutical supplements, founding The Health Independent Newspaper, establishing the Cape Lobby for Health Freedom, negotiating partnerships for a wide range of international brands and travelling globally to launch new health products. Maria also rolls out international marketing campaigns for Coyne Healthcare on a global scale. Learn more about Maria Ascencao here.

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