A common theme of a lot of my posts is living on a budget, sticking to a budget, and living the thrifty life, and when it comes to dinners that’s no exception. We fell off the band wagon for a little bit and had a lot of nights of take out and drive through, but now that summer is upon us and my work schedule has changed, we’re making a more conscious effort to eat at home and start saving money again! All that being said, this post is all about planning your dinners for the week in the most easy and cost efficient way possible and even comes with a free weekly menu PDF printable to print and stick on your fridge!
The Shopping List
The biggest part of meal planning for me is thinking of what we can make with the least amount of ingredients, that means taking a look in the pantry, fridge, and freezer before even attempting a shopping list. Once I’ve done an inventory on what we have, then I start my list on what we need, and try to decide on meals from there.
Once I decide on meals, then I hit the pantry and try and group together my pantry items so I can visually see what we have. Once that’s all set I take a look at the sales flyers and tweak where I can to get the most bang for my buck. Meal planning on a budget means sales flyers and pantry shopping are a definite must! You’d be surprised how many packages of pasta you have when you actually look!
We tend to shop at Price Chopper for the gas points and sales and that’s super helpful in keeping costs low, plus they give you five cents pack per reusable bag used, which is a win win for me!
Multipurpose Meal Planning
Following suit of using the least amount of ingredients for meals, I like to think of meals that use similar ingredients, ground beef is always something that we can stretch between multiple meals, as is pasta. One night we can have taco salads and the left over taco meat can be eaten for lunches, tossed into an omelet, or used in mac and cheese for an extra protein punch. Finding meals that your family will eat, and also can be re-purposed into something else entirely is crucial. Frozen broccoli also seems to be a key shopping staple for our budget meal planning as it guarantees we have a vegetable readily available that Little Man will actually eat.
Another great thing about meal planning on a budget and in general is that it helps make lunch a breeze, having a husband who stays home with Little Dude, left overs are keys for a quick and easy lunch! I also always pack a lunch for work and left overs make it easy to throw some food in my lunch box and roll out the door.
Once you figure out what your family likes, food staples seem to really hold it all together. As long as we have, bread, milk, eggs, and some fresh produce I can make meals work for a few days without having to stop back at the store. Being flexible and creative with meals has really helped stretch the grocery shopping out and eased the sense of constantly having to cook something new.
I mentioned how much I love the website Canva in an earlier post, and I can’t rave about it enough for creating easy to make and ready to use graphics for all sorts of different reasons. Thanks to Canva we now have a weekly menu board on our fridge to act as a guideline for cooking dinner and keeping up with leftovers!
As you can see all I did was print out my menu, put it in a sheet protector from the dollar tree, and use dry erase marker to create a reusable menu plan that is super cute and wicked easy to change!
If you’re looking for something to help you plan meals you can download the free weekly menu PDF printable!
It’s so helpful when I get home from work to know what’s going to be cooking for dinner, and a great reference when I want to know what’s left in the fridge!
Make ahead meals
For nights when I know I’m going to be late, make ahead meals are great because they allow the husband to start eating whenever he and little man are hungry, whether that be with me or not, I know they’re fed!
The best part of make ahead meals is also the double down effect, if I make a crock pot chili it can be eaten for a late lunch and then again for an even later dinner. Mac and Cheese casserole is also a great pop in the oven and eat meal, all I have to do is make it ahead of time and have my husband pop it in the oven when they get hungry, and they have a home cooked meal that I can then eat as leftovers later.
Meal planning on a budget simplified
The moral of the story when it comes to meal planning on a budget is that with proper planning and a little bit of creativity a little bit can go a long way! I’ve broken down the key points into a handy list down below!
- Always see what you have before you shop.
- Plan with what you have then add to create substantial meals.
- Check your sales flyers and don’t forgot the reusable bags!
- Pick meals that can be re-purposed as left overs or ingredients with more than one use.
- Leftovers are key for lunches and snacks.
- Don’t be afraid of frozen produce.
Hopefully with these tips and the handy free weekly menu PDF printable, you’ll be on your way to meal planning on a budget and eating your way to some financial wiggle room!