How to start meal planning on a budget

Meal planning can be overwhelming and meal planning on a budget might sound impossible. Just the sound of it used to make me cringe. 

Maybe you are thinking about how you can save money while planning your meals. Having a plan will save you time and money and remove the CHAOS out of your evenings. Find out some great tips on how to stock your pantry on a budget here.

Reasons to start meal planning?

  • To Save Money
  • To Save Time
  • To Be Organized
  • To Eat Healthier

Once you know why you want to start meal planning you can begin.

Make A Grocery Budget

Start by tracking how much you’re spending on groceries for a few weeks. From there, come up with a weekly or monthly budget.

Next, try cutting back your budget by $20 per month or what number you feel comfortable with. Keep going and see how low you can go. The remaining tips will help you do that without feeling like you’re depriving yourself.

Once you have your budget then break that out into how many times you will shop.

Tips to Start Your Menu Planning

  1. Clean Out Your Pantry and then write down what you have on your pantry sheet or label your pantry for better organization. (included in menu planner in our shop)
  2. Clean Out Your Fridge. Then write down what you have on your refrigerator sheet. (included in menu planner in the shop)
  3. Use the calendar to write out your family’s favorite meals. Get your kids to help with planning. Make it a family activity. (included in the menu planner in the shop)
  4. Come up with a monthly budget for your groceries. I keep a list on my phone of the things I buy each week and the price next to it. Then I see what is left in the budget and come up with ingredients for my meals for the week. (included in the Budget Maker in the shop)
  5. If you have an extra freezer, buy your meat in bulk and separate it for the different meals. Especially when your ingredients are on sale. (included in the menu planner in the shop)
  6. I like to pick one or two days a week, that we eat something inexpensive. It might be on a really busy day, or when some of my kids are working at night. Maybe soup from the pantry or a quick quesadilla, or a recipe from quick and easy meals that are budget-friendly.

Keep a list or price book of your favorite items for a month.

Start with a list of all your family’s favorite meals. Then when shopping start a list of ingredients you love.

Who doesn’t love a bargain or a good deal? I know you do! They are all over the store, but do you know if what they advertise as a good deal is actually saving you money?

Keep a little notebook in your purse or keep a text document on your phone with the regular prices of the items you buy most often. Not only can you see if that “deal” really is a deal, you can also determine what kitchen staple is cheapest where and adjust your shopping accordingly.

Your price book will also come in handy when you browse through weekly grocery flyers. You can decide if a loss leader deal is worth driving to the store long before you ever set a foot out the door. You will also start to notice sizing and pricing matters.

If you have a small or large family, you will have to determine if the price of the item fits your family’s lifestyle. Also, don’t buy something just because it’s a good deal, but you don’t really like the flavor or the time it takes to use it in a recipe.

Save time with meal planning.

The first time you meal plan it will take longer. The more you do it the faster it becomes and you start to get into a rhythm.  You will also learn the cost of each meal and you can really work your budget.

For me, saving time is the best part of meal planning. Shopping online has saved me so much time. It cuts my weekly shopping time in half.

I suggest you get an extra freezer or refrigerator if you have a large family. That way you can store food or freeze it until you need it.

While you are doing your grocery list for the week, you can use some of the grocery apps to see if you can save money on the ingredients.

Need more recipe ideas for weekly meal plans?

Stay organized with meal planning

Meal planning will help with the organization. By using up what is in your pantry and refrigerator each week will help keep these areas organized and move the food in and out while also saving money by purchasing only what you will be using and using up what you already have in your stock.

Eat healthier when you meal plan

Meal planning lets you choose what you want to eat. Healthy or not. It is just as easy to plan healthy meals when you are meal planning. You can google healthy recipes on a budget or 5 ingredients or fewer meals.

Once you have a few recipes on hand, you can try to change them up a bit and add them to your meal plan calendar.

Here is a list of some healthier ingredients when you are on a budget.

Choose a Shopping Day of the Week.

Once you choose your day to shop whether in person or online stick to the day and have all your recipes and calendar in front of you. In the full menu planning kit, you will get everything you need to get organized on paper you can order and download this today.

Tips for Saving Money on Meals

  • Choose some vegetarian recipes to cut out the cost of meat.
  • Try changing up your food styles and add in Gluten-Free Recipes, Vegan or Dairy Free, to change it up.
  • Make some recipes that will have leftovers that you can add to another meal.
  • Use some leftover fruit from meals in smoothies for breakfast
  • Make extra rice or beans for a side dish and then also in a skillet meal another evening.
  • You can print recipes here or if you order the Menu planner, it comes with 7 recipe cards.

Use your Calendar

Go through your calendar and mark off days that you will not be home or have special plans. Create recipe ideas for the remaining days. You can do this for one week or for all 30 days.

I prefer to write in pencil in case something changes. You might prefer just a week at a time. As you know things change pretty quickly.

Desk with Meal Planning worksheet on it.
Meal Planning on a Budget

Now Let’s Get Our Menus Planned.

Stop by my Amazon Shop for more meal planning products.

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