Budget Meal Planning
Save Money on Food with Frugal Menus
Are you running out of ideas for budget meal planning? Do you have trouble finding cheap recipes to make frugal meals?
Planning meals on a budget can be challenging, especially when your time is limited and the cost of food keeps rising.
However, a good plan for frugal eating is essential to saving money on groceries.
Frugal Meal Planning Benefits
There are many good reasons to spend some time planning out your meals.
- You will probably eat more cheap, healthy food. Busy people who are rushed to provide a meal for the family often choose convenience foods that are easy to prepare but high in sodium, fat, preservatives or sugar. When meals are well thought out, there is more opportunity to make use of healthy ingredients.
- When you plan your meals in advance, you can take the time needed to plan frugal menus. You can save money because you can concentrate on using food that is less processed and usually less expensive.
- By spending more time in planning, you will be less stressed. If you know ahead of time which meals you are having and when, you won’t have to constantly worry about how you are going to get the next meal on the table.
How to Plan Budget Meals
- If you have a family to feed, it is essential to involve them in the budget meal planning process. Even if you spend a lot of time planning budget meals in detail, your efforts will be unsuccessful if your family doesn’t like the food you prepare. Have a brainstorming session where each member of the family submits ideas for meals that the family would enjoy. Spend some time talking about how preparing meals using cheap, healthy food will help the family’s budget and health.
- After developing a list of meals with the family's help, start planning meals for three days at a time. This will give you a feel for what is involved. Then work your way up to a week or two. You can even try it for a month.
- When budget meal planning, center your meals around less expensive foods like beans, rice, pasta, and potatoes and supplement with smaller amounts of expensive food like meat. If you are used to eating meat-centered meals, you may have to make a gradual shift in this direction.
- Buy food in bulk when it is on sale, if your budget will allow. Read the label to make sure that it will not expire or spoil before you plan to use it. It is especially helpful to stock up on ingredients that you use often in cooking.
- Cook in large batches and freeze some for another time by doubling or tripling the recipe.
- Think creatively when fixing large batches. We make a huge batch of spaghetti sauce at one time. We use some on spaghetti that night, freeze some for later, and use the rest to make a pan of lasagna to freeze.
- Make sure not to waste anything. Think of creative ways to use leftovers in another meal. For instance, use leftover turkey in casseroles and the bones to make soup. The More-With-Less Cookbook, by Doris Janzen Longacre, has many great ideas for leftovers.
- Make your own frozen dinners to have when you don’t have time to make something else. Just freeze some leftovers in individual portions. When you are on the go, just pull one out and reheat it.
Budget Meal Planning Resource
The U. S. Department of Agriculture has some great resources for budget meal planning. One helpful resource is the brochure,
Recipes and Tips for Healthy, Thrifty Meals.
Not only does it give helpful tips on buying and preparing food, it also gives menus for two weeks of meals! It also provides 40 recipes that are used in those menus and a list of all the foods needed for the two weeks. That will provide you with enough information for a great start.
Budget meal planning does take a little effort to get started. But once you start doing it regularly, you will find that you will reduce your food bill without sacrificing quality or convenience.
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