You don’t have to be a math person to budget. And you don’t have to be a great cook to meal plan. I know this because I am both a bad-at-math person and a below-average cook. But, even for someone like me, meal planning on a budget has been life changing. And all it takes is being a smart shopper and taking the time to plan ahead.
You might think that meal planning is only for people with cash to spare. It’s easy to get that idea when you take a look in some cook books with recipes so detailed you’d have to sell both kidneys to afford all the obscure ingredients. But, meal planning doesn’t have to hurl you into bankruptcy. Here are 5 tips for meal planning on a budget.
Meal Planning on a Budget: Type in “5 Ingredients or Less”
When you’re trying to cook meals on a budget, you don’t want to pay for 50+ ingredients. That adds up. My favorite recipes have simple, limited ingredients and easy recipes! Olive oil, butter, salt, and pepper can go a long way. The Internet is a beautiful thing and you can easily go to Pinterest or AllRecipes.com and type in the ingredients you have, or type in “Dinner 5 ingredients or less” and find recipes that won’t break the bank.
Meal Planning on a Budget: Watch These New Recipe Videos!
This new trend is watching recipes on Facebook. Have you discovered this? Pages like Tasty and BuzzFeed Food? These pages are fantastic. Where were these videos 10 years ago when I’d find myself spending 10 hours in the grocery store looking for “turmeric”? Also, what is turmeric? These videos are short and simple and SHOW you how to do everything. And here’s why they are budget-friendly – almost all of them are made with simple, basic ingredients that you probably already have in your kitchen.
Meal Planning on a Budget: Shop at Discount Stores
Harris Teeter? No. Publix? Probably no, unless you’re up to speed on all their BOGO deals of the week. Unless you have time to fully research each grocery store’s discounts of the day/week, meal planning on a budget works best if you shop at places where you can stretch your dollar.
My family shops at Aldi. It’s a discount grocery store. You put a quarter in to get a cart, and you get your quarter back when you return your cart. There aren’t workers eager to help you to your car, like you find at Publix. You have to bring your own bags, or buy them there. It’s no frills, and its inventory is much tinier than what you might find at Publix or Kroger, but man oh man, it’s cheap. While your raspberry yogurt might be over a dollar at Publix, you can get a yogurt at Aldi for $0.35 consistently. Maybe you have 200 children who eat like football players, so Costco might be a good option for you! Maybe you buy a little here and a little there. Figure out what works for you. Once you have your recipes for the week, shop smart by getting your items at inexpensive stores. You pay for the smiles, free cookies and bag boys at Publix.
Meal Planning on a Budget: Eat All Your Food
Before my husband and I got smart about our budget, we were so wasteful. I’d go to the store, buy whatever looked good without any planning, and we’d eat out whenever we felt like it. We threw away so much food and wasted so much money. We lived in debt. Now, we have a plan. We shop on Saturdays. I have my list and my recipes of what I want to make for that week. We buy food that is healthy and versatile. Fruits and veggies. Meat. Bread. Yogurt. Sometimes, our Friday meals are “creative” because we have run out of a lot. But, we still eat out – just sparingly. And, we still buy good food, but we don’t waste.
Planning is difficult for more “free spirited” (nice way of saying unorganized) people like me, but it’s so worth it to be free of that feeling of constant financial panic.
Meal Planning on a Budget: Always Freeze Leftovers!
My sweet, pregnant sister-in-law stayed with me a week ago. She’s in that horrid stage where most all food is yucky. And I’m not a great cook. So, she much preferred ginger snaps and ginger ale to my sub-par chili and lemon chicken. My husband was out of town and said, “Freeze me the leftovers for work!” So, he wound up with a week or two of lunches from the meals I made that week. Freeze your leftovers!
I’m naturally unorganized, so anything with the word “planning” in it makes me cringe a little. But, if you take just a little extra time each week to plan your meals and shop wisely, you will be so happy you did. Not only will that uneasy feeling that comes from being careless with your finances disappear, you’ll also have extra money to save or put toward that weekend getaway you’ve been craving!