Healthy, delicious food is important. Yet, I don’t have a unlimited funds to buy whatever I want. Budget meal planning works for me, and I want to share my ideas with you.
Food can be one of the most expensive items in your budget, but there are ways to spend less. These strategies for budget meal planning reduce costs without sacrificing flavor or quality…or enjoyment. You can eat well without spending a fortune.
BUDGET MEAL PLANNING IDEAS
Start With Your Grocery Bill
Saving money on your food bill each month requires some planning.
Use cheap meals as staples. Spaghetti, tacos, fried rice, egg or tuna salad, breakfast for dinner, the list goes on. Which meals are family favorites – and affordable? Work those into your weekly or monthly meal plans.
Use coupons and look for deals. Many stores offer sales on items you need each week, like milk or bread. Check your area’s newspapers and the websites of major retailers for grocery specials. Some stores even have reward programs that award you discounts after spending a certain amount each month.
Buy herbs in bulk. Fresh herbs can be expensive at the grocery store. Buy these items by the bundle instead of buying them individually to keep costs down. Better yet, grow your own herbs!
Buy spices in bulk. Spices don’t last forever and tend to be pricey at the store. Buy in bulk when possible or invest in a spice rack so that you can use up what is already on hand, before purchasing more!
Eat out less often. Eating out adds up quickly, especially if you have a large family. Even at McDonald’s, which used to be super cheap, you can easily spend $40 for a meal. And let’s be honest, the food isn’t that healthy. Eating out is an occasional treat or a chance to celebrate – not for every meal.
Buy generic brands when possible. While you can choose brand names, generic brands are less expensive and can offer the same quality. For a few things, you might prefer a recognized, but most you can buy generic and the quality is fine.
Buy what’s on sale. Take the circular from the store each week and plan meals around it. This can drastically reduce your grocery bill!
Plan ahead for groceries. When you do your shopping, it’s best to create a list so that you limit the impulse buys. Better yet, order your groceries online… that gets rid of last-minute impulse buys, completely!
Budget Meal Planning Tips
Plant a garden. It takes some work, but growing your own food is a great way to save money – and is rewarding in so many ways. Gardening can even be therapeutic.
Buy gadgets that make sense. A breadmaking machine is one example. You can package up baggies of all the dry ingredients needed to make various types of bread, then label them for storage in a container on your pantry shelves. A pressure cooker is another example of a useful appliance that fits on the countertop.
Use ice cube trays. Whether you’re saving herbs and spices, homemade bone broth, or frozen coffee, ice cube trays have so many uses. Freezing ingredients in cubes will save you time and money.
Fill the trays with desired ingredient and set in the freezer. Place a label on each tray, so you’ll know what’s in the ice cubes, when you’re ready to use them. I freeze my herbs, broth, and other liquid ingredients. Then I remove the frozen cubes and put them into a freezer bag for future use.
Spice it up. When you’re cooking staples like mashed potatoes, they can get boring, if you don’t mix it up a bit. Add crushed red pepper, garlic, or even a little lemon. Changing the flavors of everyday dishes makes them more exciting. You don’t have to purchase an expensive boxed version.
Budget Meal Planning While Traveling
Traveling on a budget is possible! If you camp in your vehicle or can handle tent camping, you’ll save a fortune on lodging. If you stay in hotels, be sure to find ones that have free breakfast. But always compare prices, so you know you aren’t really paying for that meal with expensive room fees. At breakfast, you can grab extra bagels, bread, muffins, fruit, cereal, and other breakfast items to eat as snacks throughout the day.
Use a rewards credit card. If you can get approved for a credit card with rewards, I highly recommend it. Some cards even have a sign-up bonus of 100,000 points. That could be as much as $1,000 when spent the same as cash.
Shop at club stores. Stock up on snacks and easy meals at Sam’s Club or Costco. There are more than 100 Costco stores in California alone, as well as more than 30 in Mexico. No matter where you’re traveling by vehicle, you should be able to locate one. These club stores are economical places to buy gas.
Keep a pantry and a cooler. Use a tote (or two) to keep food on hand during your travels. I make sure that have one tote for non-perishables, snacks, and such. I also carry a cooler for items that require refrigeration. And buying a case of water, instead of buying individual waters at the gas station, will save you a fortune.
More Budget Meal Planning Ideas
Become a fan of soup. Whether you’re making your own or eating a bowl in a restaurant, soup is usually a cheap option. Add potatoes or beans, or an inexpensive protein like chicken, to stay full longer.
Allow for splurges. If you can afford it, allow for occasional splurges. If you love visiting coffee shops, try this. Make your own coffee most mornings. But once a week or so, check out a new coffee spot. If your family absolutely loves Italian food, save $100 or so for that once-a-month treat. Each option depends on your budget, but don’t scrimp so much that you and your family miss out on special treats.
Printable Planner for Budget Meal Planning
If you’re looking for ways to reduce your grocery bill, it’s time to start menu planning, buying and cooking in bulk, and getting familiar with inexpensive staples you can work into your family’s mealtimes.