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Cheap Eats {Tips for Meal Planning on a Budget}

30 Day Meal Planning ChallengeBefore I get started on this, I want to know…how is meal planning going for you? Did you create a meal plan and shopping list and work up a simple meal plan? Are you sticking to it? Jump in the conversation, let me know how you’re doing, and find inspiration and ideas in our Facebook group.

Today I want to talk about meal planning on a budget, and how a little planning can help you save in a big way.

For me, the #1 thing I do to save money on food is meal plan. That’s it. Just having a grocery list – and sticking to it – saves us probably $50 (maybe even a lot more!) every time we grocery shop. Shopping with a list cuts down on impulse buying – and saves us a ton.

But there are other ways to save, too.

Here are a few simple tweaks you can make to your planning and shopping that will result in big savings.

Use coupons. Most grocery stores have apps that let you store coupons on your phone. You can easily search the coupons, store them, and then just show your phone to the checker when you check out. Some grocery stores let you save these to your account and you don’t even need your phone – all you need to do is swipe your card or enter your phone number at checkout, and they’ll be automatically applied. How awesome is that?!

Stock your pantry and freezer with items that you find on sale. I am totally NOT a stockpiler. But if we find a great deal on the Mac & Cheese we always buy for the kids, we buy several boxes. The same goes for frozen veggies, pasta, pasta sauce, and canned soup that we use in certain recipes. If I know I’m going to use it before it expires, I’ll buy extra if they’re on sale.

Not only does this mean I won’t need to buy the Mac & Cheese at the more expensive price a couple weeks down the road, but it also means we have stuff in our pantry that we can fall back on if our meal plan goes awry (for example – if we forget to throw everything in the crock pot one morning, we can grab some spaghetti from the pantry and make that instead…and avoid having to eat out).

Here are some inexpensive and versatile foods to stock up on and keep in your pantry:

  • spaghetti
  • spaghetti sauce
  • frozen veggies
  • canned soup
  • brown rice
  • quinoa
  • canned beans
  • oatmeal
  • peanut butter

Check out the sales before you meal plan. Grab your grocery store’s weekly flyer (or find it online) and plan your meals around what’s on sale.

Buy meat on sale and freeze it. We are huge Costco fans. When I meal plan for a month at a time, I figure out how much meat we’ll need for the month. Then we go to Costco and buy meat for the entire month. We prep and freeze everything we won’t be using right away.

A super savvy shopper would check out the sales beforehand, but I just leave some wiggle room in the menu. For example, if you’re having steak twice in the next month, plan for that – and then choose whichever cut is on sale.

Stick to your meal plan. Guys. This is the biggest thing you can do for yourself if you want to keep your food budget down. Just stick to the menu you plan. Eating out will kill a budget, especially if you haven’t planned for it.

Look for budget meals online. Check out these websites for inexpensive dinner ideas!

Here’s your homework:

Keep collecting recipes. These can be new recipes you want to try, or tried-and-true. Store them somewhere easily accessible. 

Also, start thinking about which food items you could add to your pantry and freezer to have on-hand. Create a list, and when you see these items go on sale, start picking them up. You don’t need to stockpile like crazy. Just having these foods will be a huge help when you find yourself in a bind and need a quick and easy back-up plan for dinner one night!

One more thing! Be sure to save any weekly meal plans that you liked. Tuck these somewhere safe so you can always refer to them when you need to meal plan but don’t have a lot of time.

Don’t forget to join us in the 30 Day Meal Plan Challenge Facebook group – we have lots of fun discussions and recipe talk going on in there!

Tomato Soup and Grilled Cheese Croutons

Join the Facebook group here.

Here by accident? Hi! You’ve stumbled upon my 30 Day Meal Planning Challenge. You can learn more here.


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