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Meal planning is often overlooked when trying to lower your budget. It’s very simple to create a weekly meal plan before you hit the grocery store. I am here to show you how. I meal plan every week and have lowered our weekly grocery budget to less than $90. This includes food for 3, household and personal care, and diapers for a 2 year old.
Meal planning can seem scary since it isn’t as easy as throwing together 7 different dishes and shopping. This can actually increase your grocery bill if you’re not paying attention to what you’re buying and when. You want to place together a weekly meal plan where you can save money on your grocery bill.
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Here are some things to think about when meal planning to help you lower that number on your receipt.
Meal plan around sales
If your store has a weekly flyer, look through it. Take a look at the sale items and circle anything you would like to buy. I love to shop at ALDI’s for my produce because of their weekly sales. If I see a 3 pack of peppers is on sale, I circle it and then find dishes to incorporate them in.
If your store doesn’t have a flyer, it’s not a lost cause. Wegmans is a local store that doesn’t offer any sales flyers. In order to save money there, I use their app to search prices and buy family size (bulk items) to save more.
Use coupons and cash back apps to save even more money on top of sales. Stay tuned for a post on how using coupons has changed the way I shop!
Stock up During the Sales
Did you find an item on sale you love? Stock up on it. No, you can’t stock up on things like produce, but meat is a great option because you can freeze the rest for later. Each package should have a best by and freeze by date. The same goes for any packaged foods on sale. I stock up on taco shells every time Target has a sale. I buy enough for 6 months! Follow freeze by and expiration dates accordingly and you will save money in your wallet.
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Shop in Season Produce
Buying in season produce can save you more than you expect. Since the fruit or vegetable is in abundance, it typically costs less. Some stores will have in season produce right at the front of the store, others will be more discrete. Here is a great list of produce and what months they are in season.
Meal Plan a Clear out Your Pantry Week
Every 4-5 weeks my family has a clear out your pantry week. I search through the fridge, freezer, pantry, and my stockpile to find dishes I can make without buying much. We can usually find 3 or 4 meals we can make with just buying 2 ingredients from the store. It’s amazing the meals you can come up with. Last week I spent $65 on groceries for the week using this tactic. Imagine how much money you can save!
Make a List and Stick with it… Mostly
It is crucial to have a meal plan before getting to the store. This way you can buy all the ingredients you need in one trip. It also decreases impulse buys. If you already have 7 days of dinners planned, there is no reason to buy that new kind of Chicken Parm your store is offering in the prepared section. Sticking to your list is a must, but not always. If you see something unexpected on clearance or a great sale, buy it and stock up! That helps you meal plan for less money down the road!
Use the Same Ingredient in Multiple Dishes
This is the key to a successful weekly meal plan. If you buy a 3 pack of peppers, you can make a stir fry using 2 peppers and use the last pepper for some homemade black bean burgers. These are 2 completely different types of dishes, but it uses the same one ingredient. Overlapping ingredients means you don’t have to worry about buying all the ingredients needed. That means saving you more money.
I have put together a useful meal planning guide using this strategy. Sign up to my newsletter below to get this free printable!
Eating leftovers not only helps your budget, but saves a lot of time. I love cooking new meals at home, but it can get exhausting cooking a meal that take 45 minutes every night. Why not take one dish that takes 45 minutes and make double of it? You can either freeze the leftovers for another week or eat it later in the week. Eating leftovers doesn’t mean eating the same thing the next night either. We will alternate our meals and side dishes to mix and match. Think pasta on Monday and Wednesday and Tacos on Tuesday and Thursday.
If you’re like me and hate the taste of soggy leftovers, reheat them in an air fryer. My post 5 Mistakes You’re Making with your Air Fryer explains how to use an air fryer to make the best out of your investment.
Make it from Scratch
Now I am not talking about making your pasta, but boil your own spaghetti and buy fresh ingredients. Skip the prepared meals in the store and find recipes to make them at home. Use the other tips on this post to keep costs down on your fresh ingredients.
Be prepared for your Schedule
Do you live a pretty crazy life with football and dance classes 3 times a week? It doesn’t make sense to choose a 45 minute dish for a night you are running around. Plan around your schedule. Grilled cheese and tomato soup or pasta primavera are quick dishes you can get on the table within 15 minutes and are easy meals on your wallet. Leftover nights are also great for these busy nights!
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Mallory | Mom of W.A.R.
Monday 13th of May 2019
Great tips! I especially love the meal plan to clean out week. This is something I often forget to do! I hate having to throw away expired food. It just makes me feel bad.
Thanks for the great tips!
Wednesday 15th of May 2019
Of course Mallory! Cleaning out your freezer and pantry is definitely a nice change-up to your budget. Just last week we spent $48 on groceries with it!
Monday 2nd of April 2018
I started meal planning recently and it has saved me time and stress. Thank you for the awesome tips.
Saturday 31st of March 2018
Love the idea to meal plan around sales! Sometimes I base meals off of what's on the Cartwheel app haha! Meal planning is so helpful!
Friday 30th of March 2018
Definitely something I need to start doing with two kids!
Friday 30th of March 2018
Great tips! Meal Planning is definitely a game changer! It's amazing what can change when you set your mind to it and make it a habit.