Feeding Your Family for $40: BACK TO SCHOOL Meal Prep Guide for busy parents

Meal Prep Expert creates, healthy, fast dinners
Posted at 4:10 AM, Aug 07, 2017

Kids are heading back to school in just a matter of days. Now, many busy families are working to find meals that are healthy, fast and budget-friendly.

Instead of hitting the drive-thru, ABC Action News went to a local meal prep and nutrition expert to find out how you can feed your family for less than $40.

Erin McKinnon is a busy Tampa mother who says most couples aren't fighting about religion or politics. Instead, she says the biggest argument is about meal time.

"I think they need to add dinner in there because it's the worst!" McKinnon said.

McKinnon has a very active toddler who is about to start preschool in just a few weeks. She said she wants meal time in her house simplified.

"I just want quick and easy," she said.

Armed with a grocery list and a mission, Maiselyn Guzman, a local meal-prep expert and nutrition expert, walked McKinnon through a grocery run at a local Walmart.

"The first thing we're going to do is pick our vegetables," Guzman said.

Guzman chose two heads of broccoli and then went to find a complex carb. In this case, she chose two sweet potatoes.

After that, Guzman swung around the store to the meat section, looking to find two proteins. She grabbed a package of ground turkey and a bunch of chicken breasts. She was looking to cook at least four of the chicken breasts.

"They're 93 percent lean," Guzman told McKinnon. " We've got about three pounds here. You'll be surprised at how much you can get from this."

Guzman said her best tips are to come in with a shopping list so you do not get distracted and also to stay on the outside aisles of the supermarket. She said that is where the most nutritious, non-processed food generally is.

Guzman however did go into the inside aisles to grab a box of penne pasta, a jar of red pasta sauce and a large bag of Jasmine Rice.

Guzman said Jasmine Rice tends to reheat better and is similar to brown rice in nutritional value.

The final price tag came out to $34.14. Guzman said you will get right around this amount at almost any major grocery store buying basic ingredients.

Then Guzman headed into the kitchen to show how to prepare all of the food, creating several types of delicious meals in just 90 minutes.


(makes about 12 meals)


2 sweet potatoes
1 package ground turkey
2 heads of broccoli
4 chicken breasts
2 cups Jasmine Rice
1 jar red pasta sauce
1 box penne pasta, any kind
1 green pepper
1 red pepper
sprinkle of cilantro


aluminum foil
baking pan
skillet or wok
large pot to boil water/cook pasta
olive oil spray
salt, pepper and other seasonings
10-15 microwave safe Tupperware containers


  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees
  2. Begin boiling water
  3. Cover baking sheet with aluminum foil, lightly spray with olive oil spray.
  4. Wash and dry all vegetables
  5. Trim all fat off of chicken breast and cut into 1 inch pieces, set aside
  6. Dice green and red pepper, set aside
  7. Chop broccoli into small pieces, trim stems, set aside


  1. Place thawed chicken breasts on baking sheet and season with salt, pepper and other spices as desired.
  2. When water is boiling, cook pasta per recommendations on package
  3. When oven is preheated to 350:
  4. Wrap two sweet potatoes in foil, place in top shelf of oven (cook time 50 min)
  5. Place baking sheet of chicken breasts into oven (cook time NO MORE than 30 minutes)
  6. Begin cooking rice per package instructions.
  7. Begin cooking ground turkey on medium heat, seasoned with salt, pepper and other seasonings as desired. Throw in diced peppers and cook together (cook time about 20 minutes or until fully cooked)
  8. When pasta is finished cooking per package instructions, drain out all water and place pasta back in pot. Mix in red tomato sauce and continue cooking on medium. (The point is mostly just to heat the sauce)
  9. When chicken is cooked, remove from oven and chop into 1 inch pieces.
  10. Remove foil that chicken cooked on from baking sheet, rinse baking sheet and reapply foil. Place broccoli on baking sheet and lightly spray with olive oil spray. Place in oven (350 degrees) for about 10 minutes.
  11. Once sweet potatoes are cooked, remove from oven, remove foil and scoop out the middles of the potatoes and place into mixing bowl. Mash with fork until mashed to proper consistency.


  1. Start by placing chicken breasts portions into Tupperware containers. Add broccoli and one scoop rice.
  2. Place cooked pasta/sauce combo into Tupperware containers. Then cover with ground turkey/peppers combo. Add broccoli if wanted.
  3. Place ground turkey/peppers combo into Tupperware containers. Add broccoli and sweet potato mash

The meal types included:

  • Ground Turkey w/ peppers, pasta and sauce
  • Baked Chicken, Rice and Broccoli
  • Ground Turkey, Sweet Potato Mash and Broccoli

Each meal can be reheated in the microwave and can last up to five days.

Ultimately, Guzman was able to create three different kinds of meal styles and a total of 12 dinners.

"To have somebody show you how simple it can be, it's very cool," McKinnon said.