A Guide to Meal Planning on a Budget

Meal planning is an effective way to save money on your food budget. It may require some intentional thought upfront, but meal planning on a budget can prevent last-minute splurges that break your food budget and any food restrictions you might have. 

Plan and write down your meals for the week or month ahead. Suppose you have family members with dietary restrictions like diabetes or any medical condition or simply have budgetary constraints. In that case, meal planning can be an effective and worry-free way to easily stay within these restrictions.

We’ve talked about all the great benefits of meal planning in our previous post, A Beginner’s Guide to Meal Planning. Another use it can have is impacting your health and your budget. You know what your meals will look like and what ingredients you need to buy with meal planning. With a grocery list, it will be easier to resist impulse purchases. It can lead to more control over your budget and your food intake.

Meal Planning on a Budget or on a Dietary Restriction

Suppose you struggle with feeding your well-balanced family meals because of budgetary constraints. In that case, meal planning will be good practice for you and your family.

Remember that you do not need to have the same exact dinner. For example, you can make a whole chicken and have veggies as a side and a rice or bean side. Kids in the family can get a slice of chicken and rice. Suppose you have someone on a dietary restriction. He can perhaps have a more considerable portion of the chicken and the veggies in that case.

This may be easier said than done, but it can be possible with meal planning. Save one to two hours once a week and think of what your family enjoys eating; list everything, including the groceries you need to get. You can save time at the grocery store and save some money because you already know what to get with this process.

With the recent inflation, prices of groceries just keep getting higher and higher. Here are some more tips you can use for your meal planning:

  • Buy in bulk. For example, you can buy 5lbs of ground beef at Costco, then you can portion and freeze them in meal sizes. Or a bag of chicken breasts at Kroger, you can make multiple meals using 1 or 2 breasts per dinner.
  • Buy frozen veggies or store canned veggies.
  • For kids’ meals, try not to mix foods together and avoid seasoning. For kids, the less complex the flavor, the better.
  • For cheaper dinners, you can try these affordable alternatives: eggs, fish, whole chicken, sausage, and tofu.
  • Watch for flyers and coupons. If you can get any kind of points program somewhere, take it!
  • You can also buy meat on sale and vegetables in season and plan your meal around that.
  • Plan to use leftovers.
  • Invest in a freezer to keep these items in bulk. Look out for deals or neighbors who are willing to part with it. e.g., retired, empty nesters, spring cleaning.

For dietary restrictions, consult your doctor as needed. And remember that portion is the key. You can also choose an affordable alternative to your meat or whatever restriction you have. There is also no shame in going to your local food pantry or seeing what assistance is available for you and your family.

Remember that meal planning allows you to build more control over your diet and budget. Take a minute to think about how meal planning could change your life. If you need more motivation to get started, check our article A Beginner’s Guide to Meal Planning.