Meal Planning On A Budget – The Best Money Saving Tool Around!
You’ve probably seen and heard about meal planning previously and wondered what all the fuss was about.
Well let me tell you – meal planning is the best tool you have to cut your grocery budget. THE BEST.
Maybe you aren’t sure why so many advocate having a meal plan and worry that actually you will end up spending more every week.
When you become an expert at meal planning on a budget (and you will) then honestly, you will cut your grocery bill and spend less money each week.
If you are struggling with money right now then your meal planning prep will help.
It can be a tad more difficult to achieve the great savings straight away but I promise you’ll make savings from week one.
You may also like:
Come and follow me on Pinterest for more money saving hints and frugal tips!
(This post contains affiliate links. If you click on a link and make a purchase, I may make a small commission at no extra cost to you. You can read more here)
Cheat Sheet Shortcut To Meal Planning
Let me be clear you do not need a meal plan subscription. It is totally doable to create your own meal plan, ingredients list and grocery list.
But if right now, you know you will fail to keep meal planning going for anything longer than a week then I urge you to consider the $5 meal plan.
For just $5 a month you not only get a weekly meal plan, you get a grocery list of all the ingredients you will need to make those meals.
That’s less than $1.25 a week to ensure you have home cooked food and the right ingredients (but no more) every night.
Given we can waste up to 30% of all the food you buy, $5 a month for recipes and a grocery list emailed to you every week will definitely save you a ton of money over the next few months.
There is also a 14 day FREE trial to kick start your money saving if you use this service.
Oh, and if you are in the UK you can definitely use this!
So What Are The Basics for Meal Planning On A Budget That You Need To Be Successful?
1.Take The Emotion Out Of Your Meal Planning Prep
I don’t know about you but I can quite easily think about meals in terms of “what do I feel like having?”
When you are meal planning on a budget, what you feel like having is not part of the equation.
Your meal plan will be based on ingredients and cost. You can of course switch around your meals within the week if you “feel” like it.
Top Tip – Subscribe to my FREE Resource Library and get access to free printables including a weekly meal planner.
2.Check Out Your Cupboards
Before you start thinking up a bunch of delicious recipes and writing your shopping list, you need to check out what food you already have in your cupboards.
Knowing what you have in your cupboards will stop you from buying what you already have.
There’s nothing worse than spending a couple of pounds on an ingredient only to get home and realize you already have one (or more!).
You may also like: 18 Things We Cut From Our Food Shopping List To Save Money
3.Write A Cupboard Inventory
Writing down every ingredient that you have in your store cupboard is the best way to plan what you can use from that inventory.
You can then use this list as part of your meal planning prep with what meals you are going to make and what ingredients you are going to use from the list.
It will also help you identify what ingredients you will need to buy this week in order to complete your menu plan.
4.Check Out The Sales
I am of course not advocating that you go sales shopping! More that you know what items are on a deep discount this week. Always buy the loss leader of the week and plan your meals around it.
So if chicken is deeply discounted you will want your meal planning recipes to include chicken to make use of the cheap product. You don’t want to plan a menu based on beef when chicken is cheap.
Once you know what is on sale you can choose your recipes.
5.Meal Planning Recipes
You know what ingredients you already have. You know what products are on a deep discount sale. Now plan your recipes using as many of your existing ingredients and the discounted products as possible.
If you are going to meal plan on a budget there is an emphasis on the budget.
Choosing recipes that use what you already have means you will spend less that week.
Top Tip – Subscribe to my FREE Resource Library and get access to free printables including a weekly meal planner and recipes cards.
You can use meal planning apps and websites like:
Supercook – App or web based. Select the ingredients you have in your cupboard and Supercook will suggests recipes. You can then refine your results by meal type.
Quick & Easy, Slow Cooker and Kid Friendly are some of my favorites. But you could choose Dinner, Dips or Desserts to name but a few more.
Allrecipes – App or web based. You can search by ingredients to make use of what you already have.
On the app you can also input ingredients you don’t have to ensure you don’t get shown any recipes with that ingredient in.
You can also search by cooking technique. Ideal if you want a slow cooker recipe or want to BBQ your dinner.
Bigoven – App based, you can sort by ingredients using the Grocery List section. There is also a Use Up Those Leftovers category which has recipes to make reusing ingredients already cooked.
Remember to meal plan all your meals, that’s breakfast, lunch and dinner and possibly snacks as well!
6.Your Meal Planning Shopping List
Your grocery list is a list of all the ingredients you need to make all the meals you plan on making that you don’t already have the ingredients for.
Remember to add your basic items that might not be part of a specific recipe e.g. tea bags, milk and fruit. Key to being successful at meal planning on a budget, is sticking to this list.
You’ve done your home work, you know exactly what you will be eating and what ingredients you need to make your meals.
Your grocery list is everything you need. Therefore stick to the list and avoid impulse buys.
7.Grab A Coupon
Now you know exactly what you need to buy to feed everyone for the week/month, try and see if you can get these items cheaper.
Is there an online or paper coupon you can use? Do you have a loyalty card that offers coupons?
There are apps you can use to get cashback when you buy specific items. If your grocery list includes these items then you can earn a little money by taking a picture.
Ibotta.com is apparently good – I can’t confirm this for you as Ibotta have blocked everyone from Europe since GDPR!
Swagbucks is a universally recommended app. You can earn cashback and gift cards.
8.Plan Your Shopping
Checking prices, coupons and sales will potentially have identified that you can get your groceries for less by shopping in more than one store.
Your planning may also include timing your shopping run.
If you are intending to buy a deeply discounted product there is little point getting to the store 30 minutes before closing.
There is unlikely to be any left! Lidl sometimes have super weekend offers.
If those offers include meat or cheese I know there are likely to be empty shelves after 11am on a Saturday so I plan accordingly.
Meal Planning On A Budget Is Your Best Money Saving Tool All Round
Meal planning on a budget isn’t hard. Your first time might take a little longer as you get used to the process but once you have your cupboard inventory (and keep it updated) then every meal planning session will become easier and quicker.
And remember, if your meal planning doesn’t go according to plan then do not give up, invest instead just $5 a month of your food budget in the $5 meal plan. Using this plan will stop you from reaching out for takeout or eating out.
Use the 14 day FREE trial to make the most of saving money and see how it works for you.
The key thing is, whichever meal planning route you take you will be saving money!
Come and follow me on Pinterest for more money saving hints and frugal tips!