Meal Prep Plan: How I Prep a Week of Family Meals from Aldi for $50
When it comes to buying groceries on a budget (but not sacrificing quality or choice), nothing beats shopping at Aldi. Sure, the no-frills atmosphere can take some getting used to, but these miniature food marts pack all of the essentials — plus some fun and inspired limited-edition buys — into just a few aisles.
This Power Hour is all about getting the most bang for your buck at Aldi. I’ll walk you through every step of preparing food for the week and getting the food to the table. With just a few hours of upfront time on the weekend, you’ll be set for the week. This week-long plan feeds a family of four and cost me just $50. Here’s how I did it.
Looking for more budget-friendly meal plans? Here Are 9 Weeks of Budget-Friendly Meal Plans to Make Right Now
My Meal Prep Goals
- Breakfast: Impossibly easy hot breakfasts for every day of the week (5 days).
- Lunch: Fast and filling lunches that last the week (5 days).
- Dinner: Family-friendly dinners that are easy to prep or can be whipped up in no time (5 days).
- Budget Goals: The goal of this week’s meal plan is to feed a family of four for the week using just $50 of groceries from Aldi.
Meal Prep Plan Snapshot
- Feeds: 2 adults and 2 children for dinner, and 2 adults for breakfast and lunch.
- Prep Time: About 2 hours
- Meals Covered: About 80% (no weekend meals)
- Weeknight Cooking Required: Moderate; most dinner items are prepared and ready for the stovetop or oven.
- DIY Instant Oatmeal Cups: Oatmeal is on the shopping list, but use this week’s breakfast to clear out any nuts, dried fruits, or chocolate chips from the pantry. Make 2 1/2 times the recipe.
These are the ingredients you will need for this week’s menu. Aldi’s offerings are more limited than other grocery stores, so being familiar with the items Aldi usually stocks is helpful when choosing recipes. Still, because their inventory can vary from week to week, don’t panic if you can’t find an exact match from your list in store. If, (ahem, when) this happens, substitute with a stocked ingredient that is available.
The most important step to shopping on a budget happens before you set foot in the store. Before you leave home, shop your pantry, refrigerator, freezer, and even your patio herb garden (if you’re lucky enough to have one!). Staple ingredients like, oil, butter, salt, pepper, and spices are not included on the list, so make sure you already have what you need.
While roaming the aisles, keep your eyes open for budget-friendly alternatives. Compare the prices between fresh and frozen produce and meats, and make sure to look at the unit prices for shredded versus block cheeses.
- Ingredients I had on hand: Fresh cilantro, fresh dill, fresh parsley, nuts, ground cinnamon, light brown sugar, coconut flakes
- Produce: 2 medium onions, 2 pounds sweet potatoes, 1 lime, 1 avocado, 1 (1-pound) package mini sweet peppers, 4 cups (about 4 ounces) fresh spinach, 1 spaghetti squash, 2 heads broccoli
- Dairy: 9 large eggs, 1/4 cup heavy cream, 3/4 cup Parmesan cheese, 3 ounces mozzarella cheese, 1/2 cup plain yogurt (Greek or regular), 3 ounces feta cheese crumbles, 1 (8-ounce) block sharp cheddar cheese, 2 cups (16 ounces) cottage cheese
- Dry Goods: 1 (42-ounce) container old-fashioned oats, 1 (7.5-ounce) package dried fruit medley, 1 cup creamy Caesar dressing, 1 (24-ounce) jar marinara sauce, 10 ounces penne pasta, 1 can black beans, 1 (7-ounce) can chipotle peppers, 1 (17.6-ounce) package potato gnocchi
- Meat: 1 pound package bulk or link mild Italian sausage
- Frozen: 2 1/2 to 3 pounds frozen chicken breasts
Power Hour: How I Get the Prep Done
Before you begin to meal prep, arrange a rack in the middle of the oven and heat to 400°F so that it is ready when you are. If frozen, transfer 4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts to the refrigerator to thaw overnight for Monday’s dinner.
- Prep produce: For the Spinach and Feta Frittata, chop 1 tablespoon fresh dill and dice 1/2 onion. For the Sheet Pan Gnocchi with Sausage and Peppers, cut sweet peppers into 1-inch chunks and refrigerate. For the Vegetarian Stuffed Sweet Potatoes, scrub and bake sweet potatoes until fork-tender. Finely chop 1 onion and 1 chipotle chile in adobo. For the Broccoli and Cheese Spaghetti Squash Casserole, cook spaghetti squash, grate cheddar cheese, and cut broccoli into florets.
- Bake frittata: Whisk eggs, cream, dill, salt, and pepper in a bowl. Then sauté onion until soft and add spinach until wilted. Add the cheese, then pour the egg mixture over the vegetables and cheese. Cook until the edges begin to set, and then transfer to the oven and bake until set. Cool completely, then store in an airtight container in the refrigerator.
- Prep beans: Sauté onion until soft, then add drained and rinsed black beans, 1/4 cup water, chipotle chile (add sauce if you like it spicy; otherwise skip it for a more mild flavor). Immediately remove from the heat. Cool, transfer to an airtight container and refrigerate.
- Assemble casserole: Cook the broccoli until crisp tender, then add spaghetti squash. Mix 1 1/2 cups cheddar, cottage cheese, 3 eggs, salt, and pepper in a bowl until combined. Add the cheese mixture to the skillet and stir to combine. Transfer to a 9×13-inch baking dish. Smooth the top and sprinkle with the remaining 1/2 cup cheddar cheese. Cover and refrigerate.
- Assemble oatmeal cups: Make 2 1/2 times the recipe. Pulse 2 1/2 cups oats in a food processor until the texture of cornmeal. Toss the oat flour with the remaining oats, brown sugar, cinnamon, and salt. Divide the into lidded jars (1/2 cup mixture per jar) and add a dried fruit medley or other nuts, coconut flakes, or chocolate chip toppings. Cover and store at room temperature.
Each morning add 1/2 cup boiling water to each DIY Instant Oatmeal Cup. Stir to combine, cover again, and let the oats sit for 5 minutes before serving.
Serve the Spinach and Feta Frittata warm from the microwave, sandwiched between slices of bread, or rolled between tortillas.
Monday, 3-Ingredient Baked Caesar Chicken: Pour creamy Caesar dressing in a baking dish, then add the chicken breasts. Flip to evenly coat in the dressing, then bake at 400°F until cooked through. Sprinkle the top with Parmesan cheese, and broil until melted and lightly browned. Garnish with parsley and serve.
Tuesday, Sheet Pan Gnocchi with Sausage and Peppers: Place sweet pepper pieces and gnocchi on a rimmed baking sheet, drizzle with olive oil, then season with salt and pepper. Toss to coat, and then spread into an even layer. Remove casings from sausage (if needed), then drop bite-sized pieces of sausage all over the gnocchi mixture. Roast at 400°F until the gnocchi are plump and crisp and sausage is cooked through.
Wednesday, Vegetarian Stuffed Sweet Potatoes: Reheat the baked sweet potatoes in the microwave until hot. Return the black bean mixture to the skillet, cover, and bring to a simmer. Cook for 5 minutes, then uncover and simmer until the water has evaporated. Squeeze in the juice of half of a lime. Mix yogurt and adobo sauce. Top the potatoes with the black bean filling, chipotle yogurt, diced avocado, cilantro, and more lime.
Thursday, Broccoli and Cheese Spaghetti Squash Casserole: Remove the prepared casserole from the refrigerator while the oven heats. Bake at 350°F until set and a thin knife inserted into the center comes out clean. If frozen, transfer 4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts (1 1/2 to 2 pounds) to the refrigerator to thaw overnight for Friday’s dinner.
Friday, 5-Ingredient Skillet Chicken Parmesan: Pound chicken to 1/2-inch thickness, then season with salt and pepper. Sear until browned, then transfer to a plate. Add 3/4 of the marinara, water, penne pasta, and salt to the skillet and bring to a boil until the pasta is almost al dente and most of the liquid is absorbed. Remove from the heat. Place the chicken on top of the pasta, then spoon the remaining sauce over the chicken. Top with mozzarella slices and Parmesan cheese. Broil until the cheese is melted and golden-brown and the chicken is cooked through.
This post originally ran on Kitchn. See it there: Meal Prep Plan: How I Prep a Week of Family Meals from Aldi for $50