No one ever said sticking to a budget would be easy, especially when it comes to meal planning on a budget. I know I’m not the only one who has struggled with this issue. I know because many of you have written to me about it. Well, this post is for you, friends, because today I’m sharing my tips for meal planning on a budget.
First of all, I want to congratulate you for committing to stick to a grocery budget. Sometimes it can be difficult to admit you actually need a meal planning budget, so your commitment shows you’ve already conquered half the battle. Way to go!
Secondly, maintaining a grocery budget isn’t as hard as some people make it out to be. Sure, there will be days when you’ll feel like forgetting everything and heading out to Cracker Barrel for dinner instead of cooking. But once you get the hang of meal planning on a budget you’ll get those urges less and less. Then one day you’ll look at your bank account and see all the money you’ve saved from budgeting and realize it was worth it. Follow the tips below to make it happen for you.
Start in the kitchen.
Before you even think about planning out your meals for the week, take a look at your perishables. Which foods do you have on hand close to their expiration date? Write them down and keep this in mind when finding recipes for the week.
Next, take a look at your leftovers. Do you have leftover baked chicken or ground beef you could include in a pasta dish? Bring out the inner cafeteria lady in you and see how you can use leftovers to save your grocery dollars.
Shop the sales.
Check out the local sale ads for foods that are on sale and plan out meals for the week with these ingredients. This will save you money and provide you with the fresh produce items needed for healthy meals. Be sure to check out the newspaper, too, for coupons!
Use your smartphone to find the best grocery store deals. My favorite app to help me with meal planning is Favado. Not only can you search the sale ads, but you’ll get links to print out coupons to get the very best deals. Other apps like Ibotta and Checkout 51 are other options you can use to get money back on groceries. Check out this post for more info.
Keep a list of budget meals.
Keeping a list of family favorites that are budget friendly makes meal planning so much easier. Consult your list each week when planning your meals.
Try freezer meals.
If you have a busy schedule and visit fast food restaurants often due to lack of time, then freezer cooking may be an option for you. You can spend a day putting together freezer meals to have on hand for easy meal prep. I love doing this! I can spend a day making hamburger patties, pesto shells, lasagna and crock pot meals for the upcoming weeks that require little effort to heat up on those busy days. It also saves me money since I can purchase items in bulk from my local Sam’s Club.
Create a shopping list.
Once you determine the meals you’ll eat for the week, determine what items you’ll need from the grocery store and make a list. Focusing on a list cuts down on the number of impulse buys you may be tempted to make if you didn’t have a list.
Eat Before You Shop
Never shop on an empty stomach! When you’re hungry everything looks tasty and you’ll be more likely to forget that list and buy items you don’t need. Plan your grocery shopping trip after eating a good meal so your brain, not your stomach, will do the shopping for you.
Create a stockpile.
Keep a well stocked pantry and save money by stocking up on items you use regularly while they are on sale. Buying about 6 weeks worth of items while they are on sale should last you until they are put on sale again.
Keep your weekly menu visible.
It’s easier to stick to your weekly menu when you can see it, so keep yours visible so you will be prepared for mealtime. To make it easier for you, I even have a free printable menu planner to help you keep track of your meals. Print it out and stay on track with your meal planning on a budget!