Trader Joe's truly has a special place in my heart. Sometimes, when I have a bad day, I just roam around the aisles, and it automatically cheers me up. One time I even met my favorite actress there, so let's just say it's meant to be. In addition to the love I have for Trader Joe's, I am also a die-hard fan of meal prepping my lunch.

Knowing that I have all my meals ready for the week starts me off on a productive note and relieves a lot of stress that stems from me not knowing when and where my next meal will be. If you're new to meal prepping, welcome to the lifestyle; check out these tips to get yourself started. 

Yes, we may all be college students, which in one way or another might make us all broke, but that doesn't mean we have to subject ourselves to unhealthy eating habits and/or the nightly ramen. I challenged myself to meal prepping five days of vegan lunches with $20 at Trader Joe's (not including purchases of salt, pepper, and olive oil). 

Here's How It Went

beer, wine, pizza, coffee
Delissa Handoko

My approach for meal prepping my lunch would be creating a nutrition bowl, pretty much where you can throw a bunch of ingredients together and still feel satisfied. Every bowl needs a theme, so I went with a Mediterranean-style, because who doesn't love Mediterranean food?

Every great bowl needs a base, protein, and toppings that can be easily customized to create new flavors and keep things interesting.


Emili Sabanovic

My Base:

Cauliflower Rice: $2.49

+ Kale (10 oz): $2.29

My Protein:

Baking Falafel Mix: $2.99

My Toppings:

+ Pita Chips: $1.99

+ Eggplant Garlic Spread: $2.49 (This is personal preference; you can definitely substitute with hummus, tahini, or your favorite Mediterranean dip)

+ Lemon: $0.49

+ Parsley: $1.99 (I bought the plant that way I can keep it by my window and constantly have a supply of herbs!)

+ 1 Jumbo Red Onion: $0.99

Everything But the Bagel Seasoning: $1.99

My total came out to $17.71, a little less than my budget of $20, and look how much food I bought! Meal prepping my lunch left me at under $4 per meal, which is a huge win seeing that I usually spend double that buying a less healthy, less flavorful lunch.

How I Made My Bowls

Emili Sabanovic

I sautéed the entire package of riced cauliflower (five servings) in olive oil with half the red onion, parsley, Everything But the Bagel seasoning, salt, and pepper until softened.

Then, I arranged it into my meal prep containers alongside the pre-chopped kale that was mixed with the rest of the red onion. I chose to dress the kale with the lemon juice, Everything But the Bagel seasoning, salt and pepper, but I packed my dressing on the side so that the kale wouldn't get soggy throughout the week.

Instead of frying the falafel, I decided to bake it by following the directions on the box.

Emili Sabanovic

Finally, I threw everything together, topping my cauliflower rice and kale with the falafel and a dollop of the eggplant spread. I packed pita chips and dressing on the side, and boom, my meal prep was done for the week.

Emili Sabanovic

Because of the versatility of this bowl, you can easily swap the cauliflower for quinoa, kale for spinach, and the eggplant spread for a different dip for a whole new flavor profile while maintaining the same price range. Meal prepping even just your lunch for the week can save you a lot of money—these five bowls were under $20, which is less than one lunch you might order on Postmates.