There is so much to think about when menu planning for a family and even more to consider if you’re planning your menu and meals on a budget.
I think that there is a common misconception that in order to plan budget friendly meals one must sacrifice great taste or healthy foods or both. While it is certainly more difficult to buy healthy foods on a budget, it isn’t impossible. There are many ways to stretch the dollars and still eat well.
- The biggest factor in planning a menu on a budget is cutting costs on the foods you want and need. This might mean buying what’s on sale or buying in bulk amounts, which might include buying a large roast for example and cutting it into smaller portions or steaks for freezing. It’s important to watch sale ads as well as to keep track of any available coupons.
- It’s also important to check out what all the local stores have to offer at any given time rather than doing all your grocery shopping at only one store.
- Another option to consider for great prices on grocery items is discount stores. Some brands of bread have retail stores where the product that is close to expiration might be sold. There are often stores in rural communities that offer discounted groceries as well. These items may include products close to expiration, products with damaged packaging, or off the wall name brands. Shopping at these stores can offer substantial savings! The problem, however, is that these stores are usually hit or miss and do not publish any kind of store ads. It’s hard to tell what they will have from day to day.
- It’s important to watch sale ads as well as to keep track of any available coupons. It’s also important to check out what all the local stores have to offer at any given time rather than doing all your grocery shopping at only one store.
Here is one way to plan a menu for a family on a budget.
- Begin your grocery shopping planning by checking out the published ads for your local stores.
- Compare prices from store to store and make a list of foods that you typically like to cook with and that your family likes eating – meats, produce, canned goods, and so on. Do not meal plan at this point.
- Determine which stores have the best pricing on those foods and make a list of foods you plan to purchase from each store. Do NOT purchase something just because it is on sale or seems like a good deal. If you won’t cook with it or your family will not eat it then it is money down the drain.
- Once you’ve made lists for each store, check any coupons you may have against the published pricing to determine a final cost for items.
- After you’ve completed your lists, start paring items to create possible meal combinations. For instance, pasta sauce may be on sale at one store and you find a great deal on ground beef at another but the ground beef special is for bulk packaging. Make a note to plan spaghetti for one meal and burgers for another. Proceed to do this with all the items on your various lists.
- Now that you’ve evaluated your list and come up with some ideas for meals, make a stop at the discount grocers on your way to your regular stores. Walk the isles and see if there are any items available at a better price than those you planned to purchase based on the sale ads.
- Also look for items that might be a nice side or add on to the items on your list. Sometimes this is a great place to pick up a splurge type item even. Remember that deal on pasta sauce and burger, maybe you find hamburger buns for a fraction of the normal cost but they are best used right away? Grab them and make burger night sooner than later. Or maybe they have garlic bread on sale and though you wouldn’t normally purchase it, it becomes a nice little treat to add to the spaghetti you are planning for one night.
- Make sure to separate and package bulk portions of meats and other items that should be sent to the freezer. Do this right away rather than putting it off. This is a place where there is a potential for a lot of waste. If you don’t have one, consider a vacuum sealer for packaging. They can make a significant difference in how well things keep in the freezer or even refrigerator.
- One more thing to consider is finding a good menu planning app for your smart phone or tablet if you have one or both. There are many free options available and they can save a lot of the work for you when it comes to finding the best deals at chain stores. Some apps to consider are Love Food Hate Waste, Food on the Table, and Ziplist to name a few. Since many of these apps are free, download them and try them out. See which one seems to fit your area and your needs best.
Anything you can do to make the menu planning and grocery shopping easier will make you more likely to stick to a plan!
Printable Menu Planners and Grocery Shopping Lists:
Organized Home -Menu Planner
Free Homeschool Deals – Weekly/Monthly Menu Printable
Great Peace Academy – Weekly Menu Planner
Fab N’ Free – Menu Planner/Shopping List
The Time-Warp Wife – Shopping List
Just a Girl and her Blog – Shopping List
Do you have any tips for Meal Planning you would like to share?