Groceries are one of the biggest budget breakers when you’re trying to stay in control of your money. I get it. I’m a mom. I’ve got a husband and two kids that need to eat three meals a day and it gets overwhelming. But it’s not hopeless – I’ve got 4 easy tips for meal planning on a budget that anyone can do.
We’ve all been there. You go to the store. Everything looks good and you plan for multiple new recipes you found.
Except. You didn’t exactly plan. You just kinda showed up and threw a bunch of stuff in your cart and two days later you’re staring into the pantry or fridge wondering what you’re going to make for your peeps that are somehow starving right this second.
And you aren’t made of money so throwing all that unused and rotten food away makes it even worse.
It’s not hopeless and you can easily get on track to not wasting money and meal planning on a budget. Here’s how!
Meal Planning on a Budget – Simple Steps Anyone Can Do
And don’t think that meal planning while staying on a budget means you have to eat garbage. It’s definitely not true and you can still eat healthy and delicious meals without taking out a loan every week.
Tip One For Budget Meal Planning – Make a Plan
You’ve got to plan. I know right? Meal planning doesn’t happen without an actual plan. Take a few minutes each week, sit down, and plan your meals.
Tip Two – Bulk Shop If It’s Possible and Reasonable
What does that even mean? Buy in bulk if it’s possible and reasonable?
Well, some people don’t have the option of a warehouse-type store, but even if you don’t, you can still buy extra of something if it’s on a good sale. Is there a great deal on something you love? Plan on getting two and save one for next week.
But what about the reasonable part?
If you are going to spend three times the amount of money on 80 pounds of apples, but only one person in your house eats apples, then that’s not reasonable. Just because it’s a good deal doesn’t make it smart for you or your household.
Think about how much of what you’re buying that you will realistically eat. Or commit to the meals that revolve around whatever it is you bought that’s a great deal.
Tip Three – Shop Your Pantry
I’ll confess. I make this mistake all the time. When I’m making our list or plan for the week, it never fails that I buy something that we already had hidden away in the pantry.
One way to solve this is to declutter your pantry or food cabinet.
Take it all out. All of it.
Throw away expired stuff and organize in a way that makes sense for you. I keep baking stuff together, snacks in one place, etc. Then it’s easier to see what you actually have and you don’t make the same mistakes I do!
Plan a meal or two around what you already have. If you have tons of canned veggies, why not make a soup or stew? Or if you have pasta, sauce, and garlic sitting in the pantry, make a spaghetti dinner one night.
The point is to use what you have so you don’t buy duplicates or waste food.
Tip Four – Eat Leftovers
I happen to love leftovers. For starters, I cook once, eat twice. And for two, it saves me money. I can stick to my budget meal planning better when I factor in leftovers once or twice that week.
There are plenty of times that we add “a mix” to one of the nightly meals which basically means we are using up what’s left. These are some of our favorites to use for leftovers:
- Tacos – taco meat reheats perfectly and tastes just as good the second time around
- Spaghetti – I never complain about eating spaghetti twice and it’s super easy to make a large pot of it without extra effort.
- Vegetable Beef Stew – one of our absolute faves in the colder months and it tastes amazing reheated.
- Instant Pot Pork BBQ – this meal makes at least 8-10 servings every time and it’s delicious fresh and as leftovers!
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If you’re still not sure if it’s even possible to get your food budget down, definitely check out my friend Rachel’s course Food Budget Overhaul. She’s the writer behind This Crafty Home and she knows her stuff!
She’s got everything you need to finally get that grocery bill in check. Meal planning ideas, prep help, batch cooking, freezer meal prep, money saving strategies, and so much more.
It’s possible to win at meal planning on a budget. And you don’t have to manage to save enormous amounts each week. Any amount adds up over time. Even if you cut it by $30 a week, that’s over $1500 a year that you’ve saved! Just think of what you could do with an extra $1500!
Suggestions for Budget Meal Planning:
Keep it simple. If you’ve got kids, let them choose one thing they want that week, whether it’s a type of cereal, eggs, waffles, juice, or whatever is easiest for your busy morning. Add only a handful of breakfast items to your meal plan each week to keep costs down.
No one needs four different types of cereals, every juice flavor, and every brand of cereal/granola bar each week. Even if you prefer smoothies for breakfast, choose which flavor to have this week. Smoothie ingredients can add up quickly and since many of them call for fresh veggies/fruits, you don’t want to overspend or risk throwing out good food.
Plan for leftovers. You’ll save not only money but time preparing food. And one of the best ways to stick to a budget meal plan is to pack your lunch and reduce the number of times you eat out for meals.
I get it though – everyone likes to go out to eat. It’s nice to have someone else do the work sometimes and it’s quick and easy. So, add it to your budget. And limit yourself.
If you can find a day to meal prep and pack all your lunches for the week, this will save money as well.
I like to find a recipe that makes a ton, heats up well, and still tastes good several days later. Check out these Easy Instant Pot Chicken Recipes for ideas. The honey garlic chicken is one of my faves for budget meal prepping!
This is where our budget tends to go nuts. But the number one way to keep it in check is to plan.
Make a list of meals that you love to eat – tell the family to contribute to the list also. When it’s time to make your meal plan, grab the list of your favorite meals and use it.
Choose one day for dinner that you eat a mix of what’s left in the pantry or fridge. Plan one or two days for leftovers from the night before. These two things will save you tons of money each week and you’ll have less waste.