When you are trying to save money, one of the first places you will look at is how much you spend on food.
I don’t know about you, but I often get up to check out and am surprised at how high my bill is. This is because I entered that grocery store without a plan.
You need to start meal planning to really make your budget work for you and your family.
Here is a guide to help you get started on making a meal plan on a budget that is realistic and easy to follow.
Make sure to have a plan
In order to meal plan, you actually have to have a plan. That seems like it goes without saying, but it’s vital you have a realistic plan in place.
Decide how you are going to meal plan. Are you going week by week, month by month, or day by day? Once you have your schedule down, get a calendar that with fit your plans time frame to keep track of your meals.
Next, come up with 20 different meals that you know how to make and that are simple. This is going to be your recipe bank. You can always add in new exciting meals, but when trying to meal plan, having a recipe bank is going to save you tons of time searching for meals.
Fill in your meal planner. This can be just dinner or can be all your emails for the day.
Stick to your meal plan
In order for your budget to work, you have to stick to your meal plan.
You are going to buy the groceries at the start of the week for your meals. If you switch it up midway, not only are you going to have to buy new ingredients for the meal, but you will also be wasting the ingredients you bought for your canceled meal.
Sticking to your meal plan is going to keep you on budget and save the stress of making a meal off plan.
Be prepared to switch up ingredients
You already have meals planned for the week, but discover that one ingredient that is needed is way out of the budget.
This is when you substitute that expensive ingredient for something cheaper. There is always something available that will work in place of another item.
Say your recipe calls for quinoa, but there is no sale at the store. Substitute in brown rice instead. You aren’t going to be changing up the recipe to the point where it doesn’t taste right anymore.
Try being versatile when you are cooking. It’s going to leave more room in the budget plus keep your meals interesting.
Stick to whole foods and avoid processed
When you meal plan on a budget, you should be using more whole foods and less processed foods.
Processed foods tend to cost more money and contain a lot of filler that you just don’t need. Don’t waste your money on food that isn’t going to give you the nutrition you need. You will end up spending more in the long run.
Whole foods tend to go further when cooking. You can get a whole head of broccoli for $1.00 and that can last you a couple of meals. The same for food staples like rice, beans, and vegetables. These items go further on the amount of money you are spending.
Buy ingredients in the bulk area
Shopping in the bulk food area is something I don’t see a lot of. It’s a great resource for whole, clean food, and it’s cheaper than buying the prepackaged foods.
What I like most about shopping in the bulk section is that I can buy as much or little of an ingredient as I want. We have all tried out new recipes that call for an ingredient we don’t have on hand and probably won’t use much in the future.
Why not get it in the bulk food area and get just what you need. You aren’t wasting money on a size larger than you will ever need.
Prepare simple recipes
When you meal plan on a budget, you want to avoid buying tons of ingredients for each meal that you prepare.
Instead, create simple meals that don’t call for a ton of ingredients. This is going to save you money at the grocery store. The last thing you want is to have a shopping cart overflowing with ingredients for each meal.
Try to use the same ingredient in multiple meals. If you are going to buy a head of cauliflower for just one meal, chances are the rest of it is going to go to waste. Look for recipes that use the same ingredients.
You don’t need to make every meal the same all week, but try to overlap ingredients when you can.
Prepare vegan recipes
Vegan meals tend to be cheaper. You don’t have to pay for meat, which is the biggest stress on a budget.
Another big expense that you can avoid on a vegan meal plan is dairy. Cheese is rather expensive if you want quality. Make a meal without it and see how great food tastes again. We add too much dairy to our meals and mask the true flavors of our foods.
Plan out a least a couple of meals vegan. Even better, make those plant-based vegan meals. You are only going to be using whole foods which can be stretched farther.
Buy in season
When at all possible, buy in season produce.
In season produce is much cheaper just because there is an abundance. Stores can afford to charge much lower prices than normal because farmers have so much they need to sell it off.
If you can’t buy in season, try using frozen instead. This is a great trick in keeping your grocery bills down. Frozen tends to be cheaper because it is frozen when there is an abundance.
Meal plan around seasons to get the most out of your budget.
You don’t need to dedicate a ton of time to meal planning. It is quite simple and it makes sticking to a budget so much easier.
Give it a shot to see how well you can do creating a meal plan that sticks within a budget.