Budgets, I get it. Ryan works seasonally, so during the winter months, we have to stick to a tight budget. One thing that helps our budget is meal planning. Now, I have tried to meal plan previously but it ended up costing me more than just winging it. I couldn’t figure out what I was doing wrong. Until now.
Here are a few tips on meal planning on a tight budget.
Shop from your pantry
Before you meal plan, go through your pantry, fridge and freezer and write every single thing down that can be used to make a meal. Once you do this and defrost your hands, start making meals with what you already own, on paper. Try to make as many dinners as you can, and then re-write a list with what you have left over.
Make themed nights
Meatless Monday, Taco Tuesday, Leftover Thursday. Pick themes for each day so that you know exactly what kind of meals you need to plan for. Always have one leftover night for each week. In the case of no leftovers, have a quick and easy dinner option on hand like cans of tomato soup and fixings for grilled cheese.
My biggest tip is to price match. If your Walmart price matches then you’re set. Grab an app like Flipp for your phone and plan your meals according to your local sales. Find the protein that’s the best sale and plan your week around it. Whether that be ground beef, chicken or otherwise. During the holiday season, get an extra turkey or two if you have the freezer space. At .90 cents per pound or less, you will never find another protein so cheap. Keep them for months when the budget is extra tight or you’d like to save some grocery money.
Cook with cheaper foods
Cook with foods that are generally cheaper to stretch your budget.
- Tomato sauce
- Frozen corn/peas/mixed medley
- Chicken legs
- Peanut butter
- Chicken drumsticks
Also, it’s a good idea to scout your grocery stores marked down meat. If you’re not going to eat it that day or the next day, I suggest you freeze it.
Another cheap food that you can use to elevate a recipe is bacon. You can find it on sale for around $2.00 for a pound, but you can cut it so your pound makes 6-7 smaller packages of bacon squares. Use this to add to soups, pasta, baked potatoes, vegetable casseroles. It’s a great way to use meat as a seasoning rather than a main dish.
Keep things simple
Making an extravagant dish is going to cost significantly more money to make than spaghetti and garlic bread. Keep your dishes as simple as they can get, with as few ingredients as possible.
I cannot stress this enough. Once day a week plan for your family to ransack the fridge and eat whats leftover from previous meals. It doesn’t matter if everyone eats a different meal; as long as the food is getting eaten. To save on dishes, plan for the things that are microwavable friendly to be microwaved. That way each person can fill their plate, heat up their food and eat.
Watch your sides
Not your waistline, no, but the side dishes. I never exceed one starch and one vegetable. I have friends who make 3-4 side dishes each and every dinner, and that will definitely blow your budget.
Don’t say no
During the summer months and the holidays, a lot of people have potlucks. If you’re invited and asked to bring a simple dish don’t say no. Potlucks are a great way to have dinner (and socialize!) for little money. If you’re friends with the host, you can probably take some leftovers home, too! I like to plan one dish (either a side or dessert) for every 2 adults or 2 adults + 2 kids. If you have more family members going, please be considerate and bring an extra dish. This goes for baby showers, birthday parties and game nights.
I hope these ideas help you in your meal planning journey. If you have any other ideas, comment them below!