Is meal planning the bane of your existence?
I have to admit for the longest time, I didn’t even know what a meal plan was… I’d go to the store with a few random dinnertime options floating around in my head.
I’d end up buying a large amount of food, most of which would just sit in my pantry, never to be cooked. It was an exhausting process and a waste of my money and time!
I finally decided to give meal planning a try, and as it turns out, meal planning can be an amazing tool to cut down your food expenses.
That’s a huge WIN in my book!
Meal planning on a budget, if done right, not only cuts down your time at the grocery store but also keeps more money in your pocket. Did I mention it also helps you stick to healthier food habits too?
What Is Meal Planning?
What is meal planning? It’s the way you organize yourself to get a meal on your table. If not done properly, most mealtimes can be a big STRUGGLE.
Believe me, I still have days where I’d rather live off of instant oatmeal than cook another meal!
And some days I do.
There are several common ways in which meal planning can be done. I use an assortment of them, and I tend to change things up
Remember what might work for me might not work for you! Make sure to check out these grocery store hacks that will save you even more money on food.
Benefits Of Meal Planning
There are a ton of benefits to meal planning on a budget. The one that sticks to my mind the most is always knowing what’s for dinner.
I love knowing ahead of time what we are making for dinner. This cuts down the amount of time aimlessly standing staring into an empty fridge.
Meal planning also eliminates the amount of trips you make to the grocery store. When you have a meal plan you are able to get every ingredient in that one grocery store trip.
Here are some of the amazing meal planning on a budget “tips” we live by!
Recommend meal planning posts:
+ 85 Frugal Meals You Can Make Even On A Small Budget
+ Grocery Store Hacks That Will Help You Save Money On Food
+ Extreme Couponing Tips- From a Money Saving Guru
+ 50 Genius Frugal Living Tips You Should Adopt To Save Money
The Best Tips For Meal Planning On A Budget
1| Prepare Your Budget and List
Do you have a set budget for the amount you allow yourself to spend on groceries each month? If you don’t, you should. Having a set budget for food each month is a necessity. As a family of 4, we keep our budget under $500 each month.
This means I will not spend more than $125 on food in one week. Some weeks I spend less. When I do spend less I save the extra money for a different week when I spend more than my budgeted $125.
This method really works well when you are trying to stay on budget. Everything evens itself out.
Also, always walk into the store with your list of meals in hand. If you don’t have a list, you’ll always go over budget.
2| Plan Meals Based On Sales
Plan your meals and shopping list around sales at different stores. This is a great way to score some awesome deals. Yes, this does take more effort, but it pays off because it saves you money!
For example, I’m a huge fan of smoked honey ham off the bone. So for dinner, we’re going to make our version of sub sandwiches. Instead of getting my lunch meat at a local grocery store I’ll head to Target… Why might you ask?
They have a deal where if you buy a pound and a half of lunch meat you get a pound of sliced cheese for FREE! This means I’ll not only have enough lunch meat and cheese for dinner but I’ll also have leftovers for a week’s worth of lunches (this deal varies by store, so make sure to ask).
I also highly recommend taking a look at those grocery ads you get in the mail during the week before tossing them. During the summer months, produce sales are huge. Glancing through ads you’ll notice that different stores sell their produce at a wide variety of prices. Use these to make sure you are getting the best food for the best price.
If you are a Target shopping freak like me check out this article on how to receive more bang for your buck!
3| Purchase The Best Meal Plan Online
If you are completely lost with meal planning or just don’t know where to start,
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4| Find Alternative Discounts For Meal Planning On A Budget
Yes, there are so many additional ways to save money on meal planning that you probably haven’t even realized.
I’m a huge fan of using the Ibotta app, have you tried it? It saves me money at all my favorite grocery stores such as Target, Walmart, Dollar Tree, Cub Foods and more. It literally takes 5 seconds to sign up!!
Here is a screenshot of my Ibotta account on my phone. I’ve made over $300 just by taking pictures of my receipts!
This app is so easy to use, even my mom uses it =D
After your grocery trip, glance through the app for any items you just purchased. Click on the items you bought. Then scan your receipt and the cash back savings gets sent to your Ibotta account by the following day.
How easy is that! This app not only saves you money,
Meal planning on a budget tip– If you grocery shop or even buy a bottle of water at Target, every time you buy a “grocery item” Ibotta gives you $.10 per receipt. So look for it on their app.
CLICK HERE to get started with Ibotta and get a $10 welcome bonus for FREE!
5| Overlapping Ingredients And Cook Multiple Meals At Once
I can’t express how important it is to make similar meals with similar ingredients every week. This will save you money and time!
Let’s say you’re meal planning for a week. Buy foods with similar ingredients, such as chicken tacos, chicken Caesar salad, quesadillas, or chicken enchiladas. These all have similar ingredients which in turns makes your grocery list shorter… because are you really going to eat 16 taco shells on chicken taco night?
A majority of those meals list chicken as one of their main ingredients, pick one night and cook all of your chicken for the week and then use it throughout the week in different meals.
You won’t believe how much time this will save you! Once you start, you’ll be shocked that you’ve never tried this before.
6| Make-Ahead Freezer Meals
Depending on your household, freezer meals can be a lifesaver!! Dinner time around our house is crazy. There is always so much going on and somehow our youngest always needs to be held right when it’s time to start preparing dinner.
I don’t know how meltdown central and dinner prep always manage to align so perfectly, but it does.
If your meal times are as crazy as ours, give freezer meals a try. Pick one day of the week and prep multiple meals at once. Once you have all the meals cooked, freeze some of them!
Freezer meals are great because you can cook in bulk and make multiple meals with similar ingredients, which again will save you money.
The kitchen also stays cleaner during your freezer meal nights because you’ll only have one dish to wash. Give freezer meals a try, buy bulk, and make multiple meals when you have some spare time.
This will save you so much heartache during the week when you are too busy to cook or clean.
7| Create A Special Place To Save Recipes
Yes, recipe cards might be a thing of the past but they don’t have to be! If handwriting out recipes isn’t your thing, find a different way to keep track of all of your awesome meals.
I love when I make an awesome meal that not only tastes amazing but my whole family actually eats.. What I don’t love is when I forget the name of the dish and I can’t find the recipe.
It’s the worst!
I love using Pinterest as my “go-to” place to save all of my favorite recipes! If you don’t currently use Pinterest you must start. It’s an amazing place to store recipes and I think it’s the best place to find NEW recipes.
Make sure to CHECK US OUT on Pinterest while you’re at it!
8| Slow Cooker Meals On A Budget
You guys I can’t tell you how many times my slow cooker has saved my life and my sanity. There are so many pros to this type of meal planning. The biggest being its such a time saver.
You can throw your ingredients into the cooker the night before and set it in the fridge. In the morning you just put the dish in the slow cooker and it’s perfectly cooked by dinner time.
Slow cooker meals usually only consist of a few ingredients, saving you money! It’s also very easy to make healthy meals in a slow cooker.
Clean up is also so easy!
Some nights I feel like I spend an hour just cleaning up after a meal. If you are currently a slow cooker fan or about to give one a go you have to try these slow cooker liners. They are the best of the best!
You will literally never have to clean your slow cooker again! Happy dance!! We all know what a pain the butt some slow cookers are to clean.
9| Have Awesome Theme Nights
Have you tried theme night? This is a fun easy way to plan meals. Every Tuesday in our home is usually taco Tuesday or we cook some sort of Mexican dish.
We also love having breakfast for dinner because well breakfast food is delicious and filling.
Theme nights eliminate the pain of having to come up with meal ideas or at least narrow down your choices.
This also helps with adding new meals to your list which you normally wouldn’t eat or wouldn’t have even thought of.
If you’re stuck in a rut check out our free printable filled with meal planning theme night ideas.
Drop your email below to get our FREE PRINTABLE MEAL PLANNING THEME NIGHT IDEAS!
Get Your FREE Meal Theme Night Ideas
10| Plan For Leftovers A Few Nights A Week
Do you have those favorite meals that taste even better the second day? Or a meal that is just plain old easy to make and your whole family enjoys? Enjoy those meals by making twice as much.
I know that there are people that think leftovers are gross, am I right? WRONG!
Leftovers can easily be spiced up to taste better than the night before.
We love using leftovers for lunch throughout the week. We always talk about how you should never buy lunch at work, always bring it from home.
This single tip will save you a lot of money throughout the year. Not to mention home-cooked meals are generally a lot healthier.
So cook up a nice summer hotdish or your favorite chicken dish and MAKE LEFTOVERS!
Get creative and start saving money with this simple tip.
11| Change Up The Menu For Dinner
Are you tired of planning out your meals every single week? This process can be exhausting and you’re not even to the grocery store yet!
What you need to do is sit down when you have some time and write down meal ideas for a whole month! Yes, a whole month! You can do it! Then hang up your list in your pantry.
I don’t know about you but I really don’t cook 30 different meals in a month but if you can get close to that number that’s great! Every week, before you head to the grocery store, pick your meals off that list. It takes away so much time from having to sit down and come up with meals.
I try and plan similar meals with similar ingredients in the same week to save money!
12| Meal Prep Your Food As Soon As You Get Home From The Store
Let’s face it, grocery shopping is a lot of work! Even more so if you have young kids you have to haul around with you. By the time you get home from your shopping endeavor you’re exhausted, and then you still have to empty your vehicle and put away your groceries.
By the time you make it into my kitchen you just shove everything in the refrigerator and freezer.
Sound familiar? If so, its time to make a change.
For example, my family LOVES grapes but if I don’t pick the grapes off the stems, wash and set them in a bowl, do you think they will get eaten???
No!! They will go bad before anybody even touches them.
This scenario plays over and over for a variety of items in our fridge. Your family needs to be able to see what’s available as soon as they open the fridge. You’ve seen first hand the consequences if they don’t. The food goes bad and fast.
This also happens when you overstuff your refrigerator! These storage bins are AMAZING for organizing your fridge. You can stick all of the kid’s snacks in one container so they can see what is available as soon as they open the fridge.
Rearrange your food so you can see it! These organization bins will help you do just that!
How do you get dinner on the table every night? Make sure to share your meal planning on a budget “secrets” below!
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Great tips for ensuring you stick to a budget and are always in control of what you eat and how much you eat. I am a big fan of batch cooking and planning your meals in advance! 🙂
Thanks for checking out the post!! We find planning meals in advance ends up saving us a lot of money on food each month.