I’ve put together my best tips for meal planning for when you need to keep the budget as low as possible.
Meal Planning Tips
Have your favorite recipes available
Gone are the days when all of our recipes were stacked neatly on a shelf of recipe books.
That’s okay! Just know where to find your favorites.
I use a combination of Pinterest, Facebook, emails, recipe books, and my own recipes.
Consider the ingredients you have on hand
So often we buy food before eating what we actually have in the pantry.
Consider what you have, get creative, and see what you can make using the ingredients you already have on hand.
Keep meals and snacks simple
Decide on your “meal template,” and let that help you plan out your meals. For dinner, I tend to stick to meat + veggie + starch with fruit for dessert.
When trying to keep the grocery bill down, try having sandwiches for lunch instead of eating out.
Try snacking on fruits and nuts instead of buying several different bags and boxes of “convenience foods.”
Your meals do not have to be complicated, nor do they have to be brand new recipes full of tons of ingredients.
Keep it simple.
Plan your meals
Figure out what you want to cook and on which day.
Create a list of the exact ingredients you’ll need. Try to use ingredients that you already have on hand.
Take your calendar into consideration. Plan your easiest, quickest meals for your busiest days, and more involved meals on the days you know you’ll have the time.
I tend to cook bigger meals or try new recipes on Saturdays or Sundays when my husband is home to help with the kiddos.
Designate days to make meal planning easier
Create a list of designated days to spark ideas for you while meal planning.
Here’s a list of ideas:
Picnic Night (Easy finger foods)
Sheet Pan Dinner
Meat & Veggies
Freezer Meal (For if you have a stock of freezer meals saved up.)
Stir Fry Night
Soup or Stew
New Recipe Night
Treat Yo’ Self (Family favorite meal)
Popcorn and Ice Cream (This is a favorite for Friday nights during the summer!)
Create your grocery list throughout the week
In addition to the necessary ingredients that you’ll need for recipes, keep a running list of odds and ends items that you need. This can include toiletries, home maintenance items, beauty items, or kitchen staples such as olive oil or flour.
Be deliberate about what you add to the list. Buy only those items that you’ll need for the next week or two.
Buy in bulk
Consider buying items that you use often in bulk, such as paper plates, paper towels, frozen chicken breast, rice, etc.
You’ll tend to save a bit of money when you buy in bulk and you won’t have to purchase it every week or so.
Use a grocery pick up service
This keeps impulse shopping to a minimum, as well as saving you some time and effort! Win-win! It’s definitely a must if you have kids!
Cook meals that give you leftovers
Leftovers can be used for lunches, or are great for dinners on nights that you know you won’t have time to cook.
Or you can freeze the leftovers for a quick and easy meal for another night!
Keep a “back up meal” on hand
A “back up meal” is something you can keep in the pantry for a few months without it going bad, and is great for the days that you forget to thaw the meat or accidentally burn dinner.
Your “back up meal” will help keep you from eating out or ordering pizza if something doesn’t go according to plan.
We love keeping ingredients for taco bowls, waffles, and noodles with marinara on hand for our back ups!
Keep your menu visible
Your menu should be kept in a place that’s easy to see when you step into your kitchen.
Check in with it daily to make sure you allow yourself enough time to get dinner on the table by dinner time.
Your menu doesn’t have to be anything fancy. I use a plain notepad that I keep on my countertop.
Keep your on-going grocery list accessible
If you have to jump through hoops to make a list, you won’t make it.
Keep your list somewhere easy to access. This may be on your phone or on a notepad, but either way, it’ll make your shopping so much easier to have one on hand.
Establish a routine and stick to your menu
Pick a day that you’ll plan your meals and get your grocery list together, and the day that you’ll do your grocery pick up.
Try to stick to your menu as much as possible.
If something keeps you from sticking to your menu, use a back up meal instead of eating out.
Remember to just keep it simple…
Do we stick to this every week? Nope. But it gives me a guideline when I’m feeling stumped about what to serve my family for dinner, saves us money, and takes the stress out of prepping dinner.
What are some of your favorite meal planning tips and tricks? I’d love to hear about them in the comments below!