A monthly meal planner can be an effective way to save money on your food budget. Although it will require some intentional thought upfront, meal planning on a budget can prevent last-minute food splurges that break your food budget.
If you want to cut your food costs, then let’s dive into the details of learning to meal prep on a budget.
What is Budget Meal Planning?
When you hear the words “budget meal planning,” you might envision days of eating peanut butter sandwiches and pasta. Although you could save a lot of money by living off of rice and beans, that is not an enjoyable way to live life.
With that, a budget meal plan is not meant to deprive you of the food that you love. Instead, it is meant to help you use your resources more effectively.
If you choose to stick to a carefully crafted meal plan, then you’ll be able to save money while enjoying the foods you love.
How to start meal planning on a budget
- Take inventory of what you already have
Before you make your start planning our meals, take a look at what you already have in the pantry. If you are like most people, then you likely already have a pantry full of odds and ends.
After all, it is more affordable to stock up on some items when they are on sale. You might not always need everything in your grocery cart to feed your family for the week. But you know that it will get used at some point.
Take stock of your canned goods and dry goods to see what you have available. You may be able to make a few meals out of what you already have in the pantry. If not, you can use the food in the pantry in recipes in your meal plan.
- Consider your food budget
If you want to use meal planning to control your food budget, then you should determine what your food budget is and how much you plan to spend at the grocery store. The answer doesn’t have to be exact, but you should have an estimate of how much you want to spend on food.
Remember, there is no right or wrong answer. Consider the costs of feeding your household and your financial goals when creating a goal food budget. One factor that will affect your cost is the type of food that you want to eat.
If you plan to eat exclusively organic food or stick to a specific diet, then you might need to spend more on your food to maintain those goals. No matter what budget you choose to set for your food needs, meal planning can help to keep your costs reasonable.
Being realistic about your food spending can allow you to enjoy your meal planning and build your savings.
- Browse grocery sales
A big part of budget meal prep is shopping sales. So before you head to the store, take some time to browse the sales in your area. Most grocery stores either send out a weekly sales flier or post one online.
Once you find the flyers from your preferred grocery stores, flip through the deals. You’ll often notice a tempting sale on several different items. Make a note of the best deals of the week and build your meal plan around that.
For example, if there is a great deal on chicken, then you might include chicken pasta in your meal plans. But if ground beef was on sale, then you might avoid meals that require chicken and stick to your favorite recipes that incorporate ground beef.
The goal is to take advantage of the sales available. You can choose to shop at multiple stores to maximize your savings through different sales. If that seems too extreme, then consider rotating the stores you choose to shop at on a weekly basis. This will allow you to score the best deals without adding an extra errand to your to-do list.