Who doesn’t love the idea of saving money? The monthly grocery budget is usually the easiest area to trim. And no, I am not going to show you how to extreme coupon! What I am going to show you: Super easy step by step instructions on how to create a budget friendly meal plan week after week.
Mom, what are we having for dinner? The age old question. How many times have we heard it? If I had a nickel…
Each week, I would venture off to the grocery store, sometimes with a small list and sometimes with no list at all. I would pick out everything that looked good, lots of meat and produce, but with no plan in mind. At the end of the month, BOOM! We spent over $1,000 on groceries! What?! We certainly didn’t eat like Kings, so where was all of our money going? Now, for some families, $1,000 spent on groceries may be in your budget, but it was not in ours.
So I decided to start planning out our dinner meals.
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Why should we meal plan?
- to save time
- take the guess work out of “what’s for dinner?”
- to save money
- never get bored of the same old dinner
How do I start?
First, sign up to receive my meal planning printable worksheet bundle. The bundle includes a weekly meal planning worksheet, a family favorites worksheet, a recipe organization worksheet and a food inventory worksheet. So be sure to sign up below to receive these worksheets delivered right to your inbox and then print them out. Hole-punch them and keep them in a binder for future reference. You’ll end up with a binder full of meal plans and meal planning will be so much easier! You will never forget again about that amazing meal you had 3 weeks ago last Tuesday, you will know what it was and using the Recipe Organization worksheet, you will know exactly where to find it.
I keep a running inventory of the meat in our two freezers. We are a family of hunters and fishermen, so we often provide a lot of the meat and fish for ourselves, or have it given to us in trade. I also stock up on chicken, ground chuck, and any other meats that are on sale. When I bag them up (make sure to write the date on the bag), I add it to our inventory list. You can also keep an inventory list of everything that is in your pantry. This will enable you to base your purchases on sales during the year. Be sure to use the Food Inventory worksheet included in the bundle to make it easier to keep track of everything in your freezer and pantry.
A list of your family’s favorite meals is invaluable. You can rotate these favorites throughout the month. As you add in new recipes to try, you may find some new family favorites! Use the Family Favorites worksheet to jot down all of your family favorite meals. Want to see some of my family’s favorite meals? Check out my post on Budget Friendly Shredded Chicken Recipes here and My 5 Favorite Slow Cooker recipes here.
You will first want to check your schedule to see when that soccer game is this week, or when you have an appointment after work. Put a little XX in the corner of that day on the Weekly Meal Planning Worksheet, that way you know that you have something going on that day. On those days, you might want to schedule a meal using your crock pot or instant pot. If you have not used an instant pot yet, you NEED to get one! You can cook fall off the bone ribs in less than 30 minutes!! It is a huge time saver and every meal is delicious!
You can theme your week out if you are stuck for ideas:
- Meatless Mondays
- Taco Tuesdays
- Burgers and Hot Dogs
- Crock Pot
- Instant Pot
- Freezer Meals
The list can go on and on. You can create a theme for every day of the month once you really get your meal plan rolling. Don’t over think this. You have a budget you are sticking to and adding macaroni and cheese or soup and sandwiches to one day is perfectly fine! Every meal does not have to be a gourmet meal that you have to spend hours on. One tip – if you are buying fresh produce for a meal or two, be sure to schedule those meals in the beginning of the week so your produce stays fresh.
Every month, the USDA puts out a report detailing the cost of groceries per person grocery costs (see the report from April 2017 here). The average American family (family of 4) spends between $150 and $282 a week on groceries, according to this report. Even the thrifty plan sounds high to me!
Go slow in the beginning
If you have not planned out a week’s worth of meals before, this may seem like a daunting task to you. Go slow, take it easy on yourself! You may be used to grabbing fast food a few times a week for dinner. You need to ease into a new routine. Give it a go for 30 days, we know what “they” say about 30 days and a new routine or habit. After those first 30 days, it will get easier and you will have a whole month’s worth of meals planned! It will become a normal part of your weekly schedule and you will start to see your grocery budget dip down. Imagine what you can do with that savings!