• Meal Planning


Turning $45 Into 16 Healthy Meals!

Finding creative ways to maximize the value of your expenses is essential. When it comes to food, we often seek solutions that are economical, delicious, and healthy all at the same time. That's why in this article, we explore  smart strategies to stretch your grocery budget to the maximum. With just $45 worth of groceries, we will show you how you can prepare four delicious recipes, each capable of feeding 4 people. We will not only help you save money but also inspire you to discover the joy of home cooking and the satisfaction of sharing a good meal with your loved ones. So get ready to embark on a culinary journey that will surprise and delight you without breaking your wallet!

Below, we share five practical tips for planning your meals economically without sacrificing taste or quality:

  1. Plan Your Meals Weekly: Before you go shopping, create a weekly meal plan. Decide what dishes you will prepare and what ingredients you need. This will help you avoid impulse purchases and optimize your budget. Creating such a plan can take hours, but with the Little Lunches app, you can create it in minutes! You'll get:
    • Personalized weekly menus based on your dietary preferences, dietary restrictions, and calorie requirements.
    • Automatic Shopping List: Little Lunches generates a shopping list automatically based on the ingredients needed for the meals you have planned. This simplifies your shopping trip and avoids unnecessary purchases.
    • Recipes and Meal Suggestions: The app offers a wide variety of healthy and delicious recipes for each meal. If you're out of ideas or looking for inspiration, Little Lunches provides meal suggestions based on your preferences and dietary restrictions.
    • Expense Tracking: With your weekly menu and shopping list already planned, you can keep a financial track and adjust your meals according to your budget.
  2. Buy on Sale and In-Season: Take advantage of sales and seasonal products. Seasonal foods are often more economical and fresh. Look for discounts and promotions at your local store and buy in bulk when possible.
  3. Opt for Basic Ingredients: Staples like rice, pasta, and legumes are economical and versatile. Include them in your shopping list and use them as a base for many of your recipes.
  4. Reduce Food Waste: Avoid food waste by planning your portions and storing ingredients properly. Make use of leftovers to prepare additional meals or freeze them for later.
  5. Buy in Bulk and Choose Generic Brands: Consider buying food items in bulk and opting for generic brands instead of well-known ones. This is often more cost-effective, and you won't sacrifice quality in most cases.

Below, you'll find a grocery list for $45 USD and four recipes that each serve 4 people. (16 servings at $2.80 USD each!)

Grocery List:

  • Chicken drumsticks
  • Onion
  • Red bell pepper
  • Cilantro
  • Vegetable broth
  • White rice
  • Frozen peas
  • Marinara sauce
  • Garlic


Spices you should already have at home on any occasion and are not included in the budget:

  • Olive oil
  • Salt
  • Garlic powder
  • Paprika
  • Curry
  • Cumin
  • Chili powder

Recipe #1: Chicken and Vegetable Rice


For the chicken:

  • 1 tablespoon of olive oil and more for cooking
  • 5 chicken thighs or drumsticks
  • ¼ teaspoon of salt
  • ¼ teaspoon of garlic powder
  • ¼ teaspoon of cumin
  • ¼ teaspoon of paprika

 For the sofrito and rice:

  • ½ onion, finely chopped
  • ½ red bell pepper, finely chopped
  • 2 cloves of garlic, finely chopped
  • ¼ cup of cilantro, finely chopped
  • ¼ teaspoon of salt
  • ¼ teaspoon of garlic powder
  • ¼ teaspoon of paprika
  • ¼ teaspoon of cumin
  • ¼ teaspoon of curry
  • ¼ teaspoon of chili powder
  • 1 cup of marinara sauce
  • 1 ¼ cups of vegetable broth
  • 1 cup of white basmati rice
  • ⅔ cup of frozen peas


Step 1:
Add the chicken to a large bowl and add olive oil, salt, garlic powder, paprika, and cumin. Use clean hands to mix the chicken in the mixture.

Step 2:
Add olive oil to a large skillet and place it over medium-high heat. Once the oil is hot, add the chicken and cook until it's browned, about 4-5 minutes, then flip and cook for another 4-5 minutes. Remove from the skillet and transfer to a plate.

Step 3:
In the same skillet, you'll make your sofrito by adding the finely chopped onion and red bell pepper. Sauté for 2-3 minutes, then add the garlic and sauté for 30 seconds. Next, add your spices: salt, garlic powder, paprika, cumin, curry, and chili powder. Add the rice and mix it to incorporate with the spices. Cook for 30 seconds. Then, add the marinara sauce and vegetable broth, the peas, and the cilantro. Stir well to combine.

Step 4:
Place the previously browned chicken on top. Reduce the heat to low, immediately cover the skillet, and cook for 20 minutes. After 20 minutes, remove the skillet from the heat and let it rest covered for 10 minutes. Serve immediately. Garnish with cilantro and serve with a squeeze of fresh lemon juice. Enjoy!

Recipe #2: Rice with Lentils


  • 2 tablespoons of olive oil
  • 1 ½ finely chopped onions
  • ⅓ cup of green lentils
  • 4 cups of water for the lentils
  • 2 cups of water for the rice and more for the onions to taste
  • 1 cup of white rice
  • 1 teaspoon of cumin
  • Salt to taste


Step 1:
We begin by caramelizing the onion: add olive oil and onion to a skillet and cook for 6 minutes, stirring constantly. Add 3 tablespoons of water to the onion and continue cooking while stirring constantly.

Step 2:
While the onion is cooking, add the lentils and 4 cups of water to a pot. Cover the pot and cook for 40 minutes. If it needs more water while cooking, add it.

Step 3:
Continue cooking the onion until it is completely golden brown, stirring constantly. If you see it sticking to the pan, add a little water and stir constantly until you achieve golden, caramelized onions.

Step 4:
When the onion is ready, add the rice, a pinch of salt, and cumin. Cook for 1 minute. Add two cups of water. Stir, cover, and cook on low heat for 20 minutes. Remove it from the pot and let it rest for 10 minutes.

Step 5:
When the lentils are soft and the liquid has been absorbed, add a pinch of salt and stir to incorporate. Add the cooked lentils to the prepared rice with onions. Stir to combine the lentils with the rice and onions and serve.

Recipe #3: Chicken with Vegetables


  • 4 chicken thighs
  • 5 potatoes, cut into wedges
  • 1 bag of frozen broccoli
  • 2 tablespoons of olive oil
  • ½ teaspoon of salt
  • ¼ teaspoon of garlic powder
  • ¼ teaspoon of paprika
  • ¼ teaspoon of cumin
  • ¼ teaspoon of curry


Step 1:
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F (204 degrees C).

Step 2:
Place the chicken, potatoes, broccoli, oil, and seasonings in a large baking tray. Mix everything with clean hands to season.

Step 3:
Bake for 50 minutes, and enjoy when finished.

Recipe #4: Mediterranean Salad


  • 1 container of quartered cherry tomatoes
  • 1 cup of finely chopped parsley
  • 1 can of low-sodium chickpeas (rinsed and drained)
  • Juice of 1 yellow lemon
  • 1 cup of crumbled feta cheese
  • 3 tablespoons of olive oil
  • Salt to taste
  • Cumin to taste (optional)


Step 1:
Mix all the ingredients in a large bowl until well combined and enjoy!


Meal planning not only saves money but also relieves the mental burden of last-minute decisions about what to cook. In this regard, the Little Lunches mobile app stands out as a valuable tool. 

An invaluable tool for busy parents who want to provide the best for their loved ones. This application simplifies meal planning extraordinarily by offering personalized menus, healthy recipes, and an automatic shopping list. It eliminates the stress and mental load that often come with meal planning, allowing parents to spend more quality time with their children and less time worrying about what to serve for dinner.

In addition to the convenience and benefits, Little Lunches also translates into a more balanced diet for the family. Through careful planning and ingredient selection, parents can ensure that their children receive the necessary meals for proper development.

In summary, meal planning on a limited budget doesn't have to be an overwhelming task for parents. The Little Lunches app proves that it's possible to provide delicious and healthy meals for the family without overspending or wasting valuable time. By adopting this tool, parents can take control of their budget and ensure that their loved ones enjoy meals that nourish their bodies. It's time to simplify life, reduce the mental load, and take a step toward a healthier and more economical future for your family. Download Little Lunches and experience the difference for yourself!

Jessica Facusse, co-founder at Little Lunches

7 months ago