Budget Meals: How To Plan Realistic And Cheap Meals For Your Family
Budget meals, cheap meals, affordable meals, inexpensive meals, frugal meals – whatever you want to call it, they all mean the same thing: How can I save money feeding my family?
Do you often find yourself struggling to make it to payday? Do you wish you could buy healthier food, to feed you family, for less? Feeding your entire family can cost a ton, especially if you don’t know how to create budget meals.
Believe it or not, Americans eat through their income. A lot of families spend more than they can afford on dining out and even groceries. The best way to make every cent count is not only to cook at home, but, also plan every meal smartly.
Planning your meals involves creating a grocery list to successfully cook every meal in your plan. Learn more about how to plan delicious, realistic, and cheap meals on a budget for your family with these tips!
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Why Do You Need To Plan Ahead?
Planning your meals ahead of time will help you in many ways.
Saves You Money.
Creating a meal plan saves you time and money. Since you only need to make one trip to the store each week, it eliminates the chances of impulsive purchases. You also save money by taking advantage of sales. It also helps you avoid duplicate purchases and reduces your urges of ordering takeaways.
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Saves You Time.
You only need to spend about 30 minutes to plan your meals for the week. Once you plan your meals, you can efficiently shop for groceries with your list and you only need to shop once.
Since you already have the meals in mind, all you need to do is spend time preparing your meals and enjoying your food instead of standing in front of your fridge and waiting for an idea to magically pop into your head.
Lets You Eat Healthier.
Planning ahead also lets you and your family eat healthier and better foods. By planning your meals for the entire week, you are eliminating the frequent visit to drive-thru and fast food chains. You can now enjoy more home-cooked meals.
Reduces Your Stress.
No more worries about what you’ll eat for lunch or dinner since you already have a plan. You can also use this time to bond with your family — ask your kids and your partner which meals they want for the week.
Tips On How To Plan Realistic And Cheap, Budget Meals
Make A Master List
Ask your family members about their favorite foods. Prioritize the list that you have but highlight the ones that you can quickly prepare and those which don’t require too many ingredients.
Organize your list by categories: Beef, chicken, fish, vegetables, side dishes, soups crock-pot dishes. Keep your list in a notebook or store them on your computer for easy access.
Write It Down
In days gone by, many people would keep a blank space in their calendar for to write their meals. But, now, there’s technology, you can take advantage of your smartphone and use it to write down your meals and the ingredients needed before going to the grocery store.
Try to plan at least one week in advance, but, you could also plan two to three weeks in advance. Post your plan on your fridge for the family to see.
Plan For All The Meals
If you don’t plan for breakfast, lunch or dinner, you are increasing the likelihood of ordering delivery or visiting the drive-thru.
You can make quick and easy breakfast foods that you can easily whip before heading out the door: Prepare pancakes, sandwiches, fruits, or cereals. You can also make overnight oats or sandwich spreads the night before and just grab it as you go.
I used to keep tortilla wraps in the freezer – my kids loved being able to grab one from the freezer and throw it in the microwave for a minute and they had a snack or meal. I out whatever leftovers I had in them… chili? yep, taco meat? yep, spaghetti? yep, beans, cheese, rice? yep, yep, yep! You can make scrambled eggs, sausage, and potatoes and wrap them in a tortilla and then in plastic wrap and you’ve got a meal waiting for someone.
Instead of storing the leftovers the kids REFUSED to eat, I would just pop them in a tortilla and they ate them EVERY TIME. (I’m talking 7 years old to teens – every. time.)
Check Your Calendar
Are you planning to visit your in-laws this coming weekend or are you working overtime? Are the kids going to a sleepover or a soccer game?
Always take your family member’s schedule in consideration when planning your meals. If you’re planning to work late at night, you can eat leftovers. If you’re visiting your in-laws on Saturday or Sunday, you may take a night off from cooking and not plan anything that day.
Plan Your Meals Around What You Already Have
Before getting started, organize your refrigerator, pantry or freezer first. Group your food and perishables by categories: Canned goods, condiments, baking ingredients, fruits, vegetables, pasta, rice, sauces, snacks, and meat.
Once you’re done organizing what you have, take inventory of what you have on hand and throw away anything that’s already expired. Plan your meals around the food that you already have to reduce your grocery bills and make your budget meals. This will also eliminate any duplicate purchases.
Simplicity Makes Things Easy
If you are planning on budget meals, you need to remind yourself to think about simple meals.
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If the food you’re planning is complicated, you may not want to cook it when it comes time. Plus, the ingredients might cost a few dollars more.
Come up with some basic meals that don’t require fancy ingredients and complicated steps. The simpler the ingredients are, the cheaper it will be.
Make Use Of The Sales
A lot of grocery stores run a weekly sales circular on Sundays and Wednesdays. Plan your menus around these sales.
If your local grocery store is promoting a price cut on three-pound packs of boneless and skinless chicken breast, take advantage of it. Update your menu plan and add chicken stir-fry, chicken burrito, or grilled chicken salad. You may also purchase additional packs and place them in the freezer for your other meals.
The Sunday newspaper also has coupons. Combine these coupons with rebate apps to maximize your savings.
Be A Vegetarian Once A Week
You don’t need to give up eating meat — but, you can give it up a few times a week.
Plan a “Vegetarian” Day. Eating plant-based meals from time to time is not only cheap, but, it’s also healthier for you than drive thru food or delivery, too.
Plan In Season
You will find the best prices on fresh produce during the harvest season. Plan your meals depending if it’s summer, winter, or fall.
During colder months, prepare meals that use fall or winter squashes, kale, or sweet potatoes. In warmer months, you may grill meat and vegetables twice or three times a week and include salads with ingredients freshly picked from your garden or from a farmer’s stand. Not only will it help with your budget meals, but, grilling out keeps the house cooler, and means less to clean up!
Refer To Your Meal Plan Daily
Always check your meal plan to see what you need to defrost, or if you need to make any adjustments or last minute changes.
Multiply The Ingredients
While doing your grocery shopping, you don’t need to buy different things. It will not only make you easily forget the ingredients from your list, but, it can also be very expensive!
Look for ways to use the same ingredients over and over again. This way, you are more likely to have what you need when cooking, your meals will remain inexpensive too.
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Clean Out Your Fridge Regularly
If you always find yourself throwing away leftover or expired food, incorporate a “Cleaning the Fridge” schedule where you will only eat leftovers.
Check out your pantry for any canned goods that are nearing expiration and add these ingredients to your menu. This will not only reduce food waste, but, it also gives you time off from cooking.
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Groceries may take a huge chunk out of your budget, but, if you plan your budget meals ahead, you can control the money you’re allocating to your food spending.
Spend at least 30 minutes of your time, sit down with your family, and list out the food you will eat the entire week. Meal planning will not only save you money, it will also improve the quality of food that you are eating.
Do you create a budget meals plan? What are the best strategies that work for your family?