Meal Planning On A Budget
There’s no need to sacrifice healthy and tasty meals while staying within your food budget. In fact, Meal Planning on a Budget is actually key to eating nutritious food while saving time and money. Along with not having to worry about what to make for dinner on any given day, meal planning also helps you avoid food waste.
How many times have you had to throw out food that you’ve either forgotten about or that has expired because you didn’t use it before it spoiled? With a little planning ahead for your meals and prepping the ingredients for the coming week, you can avoid that scenario.Inventory_Meal_Plan_Printables
Staying on budget is possible with sensible meal planning.
The simple practice of planning meals around existing food items and only purchasing what’s needed to round out those meals will help you stay within budget. The extra effort you put in now will be a huge time and money saver down the road.
Here are Six tips to help you Meal Plan effectively on a budget.
1. Take Stock
The first step is to look at your existing inventory of food; fresh, frozen and pantry items. Start with what you have because some items may need to be used quickly before their expiration date is up. This will help you purchase only items that will supplement what you already have on hand.
Take note, literally, of what you find in your pantry, fridge and freezer. You’ll probably find some items in there that you forgot about! Use an inventory tracking sheet so that you’ll know what you have as well as its expiration date. This way, you’ll be able to plan your meals around your existing inventory.
2. Plan And Prep From Your Inventory List
Here’s the fun part: get creative and plan meals from what you already have on hand. You may find that you don’t need to purchase many additional items in order to have a week’s worth of meals already planned. If you need dinner inspiration take download the Pick and Choose Cheat Sheet we used in our last 3o Day Meal Planning Challenge for some new ideas to get your juices flowing.
Using your inventory list, plan and prep meals around those items that need to be used before they expire. You probably bought those items with a specific meal in mind, but never got around to making it. Now is the time to make that delicious meal and put it on your weekly menu chart.
Out of ideas? Here are some amazing meals that are easy to prep.
3. Check Store Sales
A big part of meal prepping on a budget is to make sure that you’re purchasing nutritious items at the lowest price. You can download your favorite grocery store apps which will keep you informed of sales for the week. Take note of these and shop accordingly.
Only purchase fresh ingredients that are on sale and that you will use within the next week or two, depending on their shelf life.
If meat is on sale and can be frozen, make sure that you label and date it. If frozen vegetables are on sale and you have room to store your frozen purchases, this will also help you have items on hand so that you can plan several weeks or even months in advance based on your current inventory.
4. Prioritize Your Spending
When planning your meals for the week, certain items may not be within your budget for a given week or month. Make sure you’re prioritizing items that you would like to have versus items that are essentials. If one type of meat, seafood, vegetable or other ingredient is out of your budget, try substituting a less expensive ingredient. Keep a list of those “wish list” items and when you see them on sale, purchase them and make that coveted recipe! Another tip is to not use every ingredient that’s listed in a recipe. For example, if a recipe calls for olives or peppers and it won’t impact the overall taste of the recipe, consider leaving it out.
It’s always a great idea to keep a collection of shelf stable goods on hand, such as canned and pantry items that tend to have a longer shelf life. You would be amazed at the wonderful meals you can make just from pantry items. When you see these items on sale and you have money left in your budget, consider buying some of these items in bulk, especially if they are items that you frequently use. Warning, I may or may not have ended up with NINE cans of olives because, well, I definitely stock pile and don’t always keep an inventory – don’t be like me!!
6. Filling your freezer
You can also stockpile freezer goods, but only if you can comfortably store them in your freezer. If your budget allows, consider getting a stand alone freezer; this will allow you to keep more frozen foods on hand. It will also give you room to store any pre-made meals that need to be frozen for later use.
Once you start keeping an up-to-date inventory of the food that you have on hand and planning weekly or monthly you’ll be a more savvy shopper. You’ll see your budget stretch further while still enjoying nutritious food and recipes that you and your family love. You’ll also appreciate the time-saving effort of having your meals prepped in advance.