It's true... food costs are through the roof! And while everyone is feeling the economy's current inflation, there isn't much one can do about the rising food costs. Yet, there's always a solution. You can begin budget meal planning to help curb some of the cost of the price increases at the store.
CBS News reports, "Americans are paying 10% more for food they buy at the grocery store than a year ago, with beef prices rising 16%."
Therefore, if you have a large family to feed, it's more challenging to shop for whatever you're craving.
Instead, you can practice budget meal planning by simply planning your meals for the week using an intentional budget – and a little strategy.
The saying goes, "Failing to plan is planning to fail."
Use these 15 tips for budget meal planning to save money and eat abundantly – even when
grocery costs are soaring.
1. Shop Your Pantry.
Before you plan out your meals for the week, look in your pantry (and refrigerator and freezer).
What food do you already have? Are there items nearing their expiration date?
Start by planning meals around the items you already have.
2. Create a "To Use" List.
Take those items in your pantry and fridge, create a "To Use" list, and use it as your guide for meal planning.
For example, if you have spaghetti noodles, add them to the "To Use" list and then find a meal that uses those noodles. Then add the meal to your meal plan for the upcoming week.
3. Don't Recreate the Wheel.
When it comes to budget meal planning, there are a ton of helpful apps and websites already available to assist you.
There is no reason to recreate the wheel, so follow the lead of those who have already practiced budget meal planning. On some of these sites, you can find complete weekly meal plans, budget-friendly recipes, and grocery lists.
4. Build Recipes Off One Another.
To save money when meal planning involves thinking creatively. The goal is for nothing to go to waste.
One way to avoid wasting food is to build recipes off one another during your planning.
If one meal calls for ½ a head of cabbage, look for a second meal that can use the other ½.
If you cook a rotisserie chicken for one dinner, use the remaining chicken to make chicken salad the next day.
5. Plan for Leftovers.
Dedicate one meal every week to leftovers. In our home, we leave Fridays for leftovers, so no one must cook after a long work week. It's an easy and enjoyable way to start the weekend.
6. Make Double and Freeze.
You can stretch budget meal planning as far out as you want it to go. Some people plan for a week while others meal plan for a month.
No matter how far in advance you plan, it would be best if you still planned to make double on occasion. Doubling a dish tends to be more cost-effective, and you can freeze most meals for later use. Plus, it's always wise to have backup meals in the freezer.
7. Buy Produce in Season.
Budget meal planning means shopping wisely. For example, buying produce out of season is significantly higher.
If you have to purchase produce that's not in season, look for it in the frozen or canned goods sections of the grocery store.
8. Shop the Sales.
Before you head to the store, do your research.
Are any of the ingredients you need on sale at a different grocery store than you usually visit? Make the switch.
Additionally, look for discounts as you shop. If items you use regularly are on sale, such as meat, buy it while discounted and freeze it.
9. Include One Meatless Meal a Week.
A quick and easy way to lower your grocery bill when budget meal planning is to plan for one meatless meal each week (such as Meatless Monday).
According to Cook Smarts, "A vegetarian spends at least $750 less on food than a meat-eater does yearly."
Consider adding meals like eggplant parmesan or vegetarian chili to your rotation.
10. Stretch Meals with Grains.
Grains are inexpensive and useful for stretching meals. If you serve something like chili over rice or an entree with bread as a side dish, you won't eat as much of the main course.
11. Identify Your Cheap and Easy Go-To Meals.
When practicing budget meal planning, you must have a few tricks up your sleeve.
Go-to inexpensive, easy meals are necessary. These are meals that everyone in your family loves, so you don't have to worry about kids wasting food.
Add at least one go-to meal, such as spaghetti, grilled cheese, soup, and pizza, to your weekly meal plan.
12. Embrace the Store Brand.
Say goodbye to name-brand products if you want to shave costs for budget meal planning.
According to Acorns, "You can save anywhere from 10% to 30% on price if you're buying generic."
The name-brand manufacturers often make these generic products – the only difference is the label.
Bonus Tip: Save even more money at the grocery store with Ibotta! Ibotta gives you cash back on grocery store purchases by paying through the app, using the browser extension, or submitting a receipt.
13. Choose Meals with Fewer Ingredients.
The more ingredients a recipe calls for, the more expensive it will be.
Stick to recipes with fewer ingredients.
Along the same lines, avoid adding meals with fancy, expensive one-time-use ingredients, such as vanilla bean extract, to your weekly plan.
14. Always Shop with a List.
You've heard it said that you should never go grocery shopping on an empty stomach.
Let's add never shop without a list when budget meal planning.
If you have successfully planned a week's (or month's) worth of meals, you should also have created a grocery list of all the items you need to make these meals.
If you shop without the list, you will get food you don't need and overspend.
[Related Read: How Much is Too Much: Saving Money on Groceries]
15. Plan Your Meals Realistically.
Budget meal planning requires being realistic. If you aren't honest with yourself, you might as well throw your meal plan away.
If you plan a meal that requires a good bit of time to cook for a night you have to take the kids to and from soccer practice, you'll end up in the drive-thru, and the ingredients will go in the trash.
You've wasted money if you plan a meal your family won't eat.
If you plan a meal that needs a lot of prep time that you don't have, you'll wind up cooking something else.
So when you plan your budget meal, keep your calendar and family's likes/dislikes in mind.
All of these tips go hand in hand with creating an overall money management plan to allow you the freedom to live life without money stresses. If you're having difficulty understanding how to create a budget for your household overall, schedule a free 30-minute Breakthrough call or join the Girlfriend's Budget Money Membership and discover the next best steps to succeed on your financial freedom journey!
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