Bonus: your FREE meal planning template
Have you wandered around the supermarket without any clue what you’ll be cooking? Eventually, you end up buying a bunch of products you may or may not use for dinner.
Note: This post may contain affiliate links, which means if you buy from my link I might make a small commission. This does not affect the price you pay. See the full affiliate disclosure here.
As a result, such trips to the grocery store usually reflect heavily on the family budget.
Recently, I’ve decided that we need to be more responsible with our own budget so we can create an emergency fund and start saving for the kids. As part of reducing our expenses, I thought about trying meal planning on a budget.
Can you save money by meal planning?
While I researched my meal planning strategy I read about many people that started to meal plan to reduce their expenses but ended up increasing them.
Because they were not consistent enough. In essence, you need to figure out why are you doing it and remember your goal.
There are two main reasons to start planning your meals:
- Reducing your expenses by stop buying unnecessary stuff.
- Avoid the annoying dilemma of “What are we having for dinner tonight?” day after day.
If #1 is your main goal, remember it, stick to your list, and you should see the result in the very first month!
Step by step guide to meal planning on a budget
Meal planning does require some discipline to achieve your desired goal. But it could be a piece of cake if you follow these few simple steps.
- Get a meal planning sheet for the week. You can grab one of mine for free by subscribing below.
- Schedule meal planning. Choose a day when you’ll have an hour to plan your meal for the week and prepare the meal plan.
- Add any plans you have to the sheet. If you’re planning a dinner with friends or working late, you need to include this in your schedule.
- Start with the basics. Start planning just for dinner. When you get into the habit add breakfast and lunch to the sheet.
Meal planning on a budget pro tip: Prepare a few extra servings for dinner and use them as lunch on the following day. You will save a great amount of time and some extra cash.
- Indicate the recipe source. If you have found the recipe online, note where you found it because the same recipe could have variations with different ingredients.
- Add a leftovers day. Dedicate one day of the week to eat all leftovers from the last few days.
- Create a shopping list. While setting the menu for the week, add all ingredients you’ll need to a shopping list. Don’t leave it for later or you may neglect it altogether.
- Arrange the meals. Plan all meals that require fresh ingredients to the beginning of the week. This way you can shop for the whole week with a single trip to the grocery store.
- Refer to it daily. Keep it in plain sight on the fridge or a kitchen board or in your daily journal.
- Write down your favourite recipes. Include the ingredients, the time required for preparation and cooking, the number of servings, and instructions. This will provide quick inspiration when you need it.
If you’re keeping a journal, you could also add your meal plan in there instead of on a separate sheet.
Meal planning on a budget pro tip: Check next week’s deals on the grocery stores you are frequent at. This will help you save something extra by preparing your menu according to the discounted products.
5 Beginner’s mistakes and how to avoid them
If you’ve decided to start meal planning on a budget then you’re about to save some serious money. However, there are a few common mistakes that you need to avoid. Especially if you’re a beginner like me.
- Keep eating out. There is absolutely no way to save on meals if you keep eating out regularly. No, this doesn’t mean that you can’t go out at all. However, limiting eating out as much as possible will have an amazing effect on your family budget.
- Deviating from your shopping list. I used to go shopping with a list and then buy a bunch of stuff on the side. Don’t make my mistake! If your goal is saving money then you really need to STICK TO YOUR LIST.
- Choosing new and fancy recipes. Did you know that there are about 10 to 15 recipes that are commonly prepared from one household? Include them in your meal plan because most of them are probably cheap and easy enough.
- Choosing recipes with too many ingredients. Recipes that require a lot of products usually cost more and take more time to prepare. Thus, try to go for more simple options at least for the majority of dinners.
- Not comparing groceries. You can save a huge amount of money by going for generic and/or discounted products and by buying in bulk.
Meal planning on a budget pro tip: Check out the products located on the lowest and highest shelves for the best price to value ratio. Products on eye level are usually the more expensive top brands.
- Not keeping your goal in mind. The only way to succeed is to remember why you’re doing it. Otherwise, you’re just saving the hustle of wondering what to cook for dinner.
Need some recipe inspiration? Check these out!
To be honest, I’m not very creative at cooking. So, unfortunately, I don’t have 10 favorite budget-friendly recipes to share with you.
What I am good at, however, is research. And here are some great places you can find inspiration for meal planning on a budget.
- Money-saving recipes by Jamie Oliver
- 5 Ingredients or Less by Tasty
- 27 Embarrassingly Easy Dinners You Can Make in 15 Minutes by Food Network
- Free Weekly Meal Plans by Tastes Better From Scratch
- Delicious Recipes Designed for Small Budgets by Budget Bytes
- 100 Easy Italian Dinners by Taste of Home
- 101+ Cheap Meals for When Money Is Tight by Families for Financial Freedom
- 10 Meals in an Hour™ by Living Well Spending Less
- Budget Cooking: Feed 4 for $10 by Cooking Light
- 100 Cheap & Easy 15 Minute Meals by Prudent Penny Pincher
- Top 50 budget meals by Taste
I’ve wanted to try meal planning for quite a while now. Unfortunately, it was never the right time.
Luckily, I’m finally out of excuses. Plus, to motivate me further, I’ve created a meal planning printable template to help me get into the habit and carry this out. And I would be happy to share it with you.
So if you’re not sure where to start, sign up below and grab my free meal planning template.