Eating good food, both nutritious and tasty, shouldn’t preclude staying under budget. They aren’t mutually exclusive, but they do take a little work and planning.
Our recent pantry challenge was so successful, in part, thanks to meal planning. I took a survey of what we had, planned meals around our supply, and supplemented with what were the priorities. This is one surefire to meal plan on a budget.
Check out these tips so that you, too, can eat well, act your wage, and enjoy life, just a little bit more.
1. Inventory what you have.
All too often, we think we need to go shopping, when really all we need to do is shop our own kitchens. Using what you already have saves you the money you’d spend if you went shopping.
Take a real close look at what you have in the cupboards, fridge, and freezer. I bet you’ll be surprised that there’s more there than you think. That’s usually the case. Most of us tend to overbuy.
Save some money this week by planning meals around what you already have. If you don’t have a great way to keep track of your supplies, download this inventory sheet to make it easy.
Know what you have to work with.
2. Plan from your inventory.
Or you can search the Good Cheap Eats recipe archives as well.
Plan meals based on what you have.
3. Check the loss leaders this week.
Once you’ve checked what you already have, it’s time to shop for what you need to fill in the blanks. That means, checking what loss leaders are available at your local grocers.
A loss leader is an item that the store offers at a rock bottom price, one that they will probably take a loss on, but it’s worth it to them to have you come through the door.
A great example of this is the boneless, skinless chicken breast I bought at Sprouts this weekend for $1.69/pound. It doesn’t really get lower than that. I bought enough to eat this week as well as extra to freeze for future dates.
Plan meals around cheap ingredients.
4. Prioritize your spending.
When your grocery budget is fixed, then you need to prioritize. You might not be able to buy everything you want this week. Keep a running list of “must haves” and “would likes”. The “must haves” will be your priorities. Buy the “would likes” only as you have funds available.
You’d be surprised what you can do without. Once I started making recipes without every ingredient called for, I realized that we didn’t really miss those black olives or chopped green chiles.
Buy the things that pack the biggest punch.
5. Practice stockpiling.
If there are available after purchasing your “must haves”, think about those loss leaders that you know you will use in the coming weeks. You’re much better off buying that chicken at $1.69/lb than paying the full pop of $5 or more.
Buy as much as you can store and afford of the things you know you will use. This will help you stretch your funds just a little farther.
How do you make budget meal planning work for you?
This is part of the Meal Planning 101 series. Check the archives for more tips on how to make meal planning work for you.