Tips for Meal Planning on a Budget

If you find that you are spending more and more money every month on groceries for you and your family, but yet no one in the house can seem to find anything to eat, meal planning may be able to help make every meal in your home a success. You will also spend less on unnecessary items. By carefully planning and organizing meals ahead of time, you will have the ingredients that you need for every meal.

The process of meal planning involves simply creating a selection of meals for a certain number of days a week and then creating a grocery plan that corresponds with the meals. For example, if you want to prepare a meal plan for five days a week, with weekends optional, the grocery list should only contain enough food for those five days.

Meal planning can be used for one or more reasons:

  • To reduce food expenses
  • To reduce the consumption of processed foods
  • To eat meals made with whole foods
  • To lose weight

Investing 30 minutes of your time during the week to write out a meal plan and grocery list can help you save time, money and your sanity.

Save More Money

When you are armed with your meal plan and your grocery list, you should only need to make one trip to the grocery store every week. This will help you eliminate the need to make impulse purchases.

You will also save money if you take advantage of sales and coupons found in weekly store flyers, and you will not make duplicate purchases. By having food in the home, you will also be less likely to eat out.

You Will Get Healthier

When you plan three meals a day and possibly a few healthy snacks into your day, you will not have to go through the drive-thru in the morning, go to the vending machine during lunch or order expensive take out for your dinner. With summer quickly approaching, that affordable and cute tankini swimsuit you have had your eye on may be the incentive you need to start meal planning.

Eliminate Food Waste

If you fail to meal plan, you may open your pantry and refrigerator to only find some bread, a jar of mayonnaise and some garlic. Since you probably cannot not come up with a tasty creation from these ingredients, they will either be tossed away or left to spoil.

When you create a meal plan, you begin by shopping in your kitchen. Take inventory of the items you already have at home and devise meals around them. Purchase enough of the other essential ingredients and you will see that you no longer have pantries with forgotten food.

Save Time

It will probably take you around 30 minutes to an hour to create your meal list. When you go to shop for your groceries, you will not have to return until next week. This means that during meal times, you can enjoy spending time with the family cooking the meals instead of standing in front of a cupboard wondering what your family is going to have for dinner.

Now that you understand the advantages of meal planning, it is important to have some strategies in place to make the process easier.

Create a List of 10-20 ‘Master’ Meals

This will require input from the entire family. Ask everyone to tell you their favorite breakfast, lunch and dinner meals. Prioritize this list and make a note of the meals that you can create easily with few ingredients. You can categorize the list into the following sections:

  • Beef
  • Chicken
  • Vegetarian
  • Crock-pot dishes/One pot meals
  • Soups
  • Side dishes

Keep the recipes in a notebook that you can easily access and leave the notebook in the kitchen.

Write Down Your Meal Plan

This can be done electronically on the computer or written with pen and paper. Some people choose to use a blank calendar. Place the days of the week down the left side. The right side of the paper can be used for the grocery list.

You can plan your weeks one at a time, or you can plan two or three weeks’ worth of meals in advance. Be sure to place the meal plan somewhere in the kitchen where every member of the household can see it.

Plan All Meals at the Same Time

When you do not plan a meal, you are more likely to either skip it or choose an unhealthy option. There are some quick breakfast ideas that you choose that you can prepare and still leave on time. Leftovers from the previous night’s dinner can be eaten for lunch. Always make a few extra servings of dinner so they can be added to brown bag lunches the next day.

Do you create meal plans for your family? Are there strategies that work for you?

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