When I first started meal planning, it didn’t matter how much we increased our grocery budget, I always thought we needed more. I knew the benefit of meal planning, but always felt like it was impossible to get everything we needed on the budget that we had (which was already higher than it should have been by the way!) There came a time when Patrick and I agreed that we were not going to raise our grocery budget anymore. Looking back now, I’m so glad that we made that decision because it forced me to sit down and evaluate how I was actually meal planning.
I had to come up with a method for meal planning and shopping for groceries that would allow me to get the best of both worlds… a solid plan for the week, without overspending on groceries. The good news is I was able to make this happen. I realized that it was possible to meal plan and still stay within budget, if I did it in a strategic way.
The truth is meal planning is really a great thing, but it can be a budget buster if we are not careful. It can quickly go from something that is supposed to make life easier for us to something that is causing us to spend more on groceries than we normally would. If you are trying to get into meal planning and looking to do it in a budget-friendly way, I wanted to share some tips that I’ve learned that help me to meal plan strategically and stay on budget. It is possible to meal plan on a budget. Let me show you how!
How To Meal Plan On A Budget
Tip #1: Take Inventory
Before sitting down to meal plan, take inventory of everything that you have in your pantry, cabinets, freezer, and refrigerator. Patrick and I learned to keep a written inventory of all of the food that we have in our house.
To meal plan strategically the first thing you should always do is take inventory of what you have on hand and plan meals around those things. I truly believe that it is a bad idea to meal plan without first taking inventory of what you already have at home. When you do not take inventory before meal planning, you not only spend more money over time, but you will more than likely have more food waste.
Tip #2: Check Ads
I used to be a Sunday newspaper type of girl, when it came to checking store ads, but I learned that there was a much simpler way to do it. These days I check store ads online. I highly recommend this before meal planning. All you need to do is take a couple of minutes and look online at the weekly ads for the stores you will be shopping at for groceries. Take a look to see what’s on sale and what you can use for your upcoming meal plan.
Tip #3: Consider Your Family’s Schedule and Habits
It’s important to consider your family’s schedule and habits. If you don’t you will most likely spend more money than you have to, simply because you planned for too many meals. You should consider things like: Do you have any events going on where your family will be eating outside the home? Does your family always eat out on certain nights of the week?
Tip #4: Plan To Cook Meals With Similar Ingredients
I found that it does help to cut down on the grocery bill if we make meals with similar ingredients. Have you ever been in a scenario where you need 1/2 of a pepper or 1/4 of an onion? Typically what happens is we use what we need of that pepper and onion, and have no plans of what to do with the rest. This typically leads to food waste.
Planning meals with similar ingredients, not only saves money on the front end because you don’t have to buy as many ingredients, but also helps you to avoid wasting money because you will be utilizing all of the ingredients that you buy.
Tip #5: Limit Recipes That Call For Too Many Ingredients
I know how tempting it can be to want to add lots of extravagant, Pinterest worthy meals to the meal plan. This is something that I used to do all the time and it’s one of the quickest ways to go overbudget.
It can be fun to throw in a recipe, from time to time, that does require quite a few ingredients, but it is a mistake to have these types of recipes listed all throughout your meal plan. Not only do recipes like this cost a lot, generally speaking, because of all of the individual ingredients required, but they usually take a long time to cook. I always suggest that you limit recipes that call for a laundry list of ingredients.
Tip #6: Plan A Buffer Meal Into Your Meal Plan
We find it helpful to plan a buffer meal into our meal plan. On the day of our buffer meal, we plan to eat whatever leftovers we have in the fridge. As a backup buffer meal, in the case that we don’t have any leftovers, we plan to have breakfast for dinner. That way if we don’t actually end up having any leftovers we still know what we will be having. By doing this, it really helps to avoid food waste and saves money because we aren’t spending more money than needed.
These are the tips that helped me develop the very method of meal planning that I use every week. This method allows me to meal plan and stay within budget. If you are looking to start meal planning and you want to do so in a budget-friendly way, try out these tips! They REALLY do work!