Let me start out by saying, I am in no way a master budgeter. I have a ton to learn and greatly admire people who manage their money well. I am still a work in progress! But one thing I have learned is that if I want to save money, I need to meal plan, and stick to it!
Saturdays are usually my day to plan out the entire week, meals and otherwise. Andrew always jokes with me that I “plan out our life” on the weekends – but seriously, it helps! Plus it gives friends with busy schedules and families a chance to plan for dinner or a night out. Also, I’m a habitual planner. I like knowing what’s ahead…which is both a strength and a downfall. 🙂
I start off by pulling out a few of my go-to cookbooks and my Pinterest account where I’ve created a board of recipes that I’ve already tried and enjoyed & some that I’ve yet to try. Right now, the cookbooks I tend to pull from my shelf frequently are The Giant $7 a Meal Cookbook, Crock-pot Comfort Food Diet Cookbook (because crockpots are amazing), and The Pioneer Woman Cooks: Dinnertime (because Ree knows what she’s talking about).
Next, I take inventory of the pantry & the fridge. Seriously, don’t go to the grocery store without doing this! You will save a ton of money by checking out what you already have. One thing I like figuring out is what I can make using the ingredients I have at home. For instance, I’m using up the rest of my lentils this week and making lentil quesadillas. I also bought a bag of potatoes last week and potatoes seem to multiply, so I’m making vegetarian tacos with them. (Are you noticing a theme? I would eat Mexican food every night but I think my husband might get tired of it!)
Next, I think about what our week looks like. Does Andrew have band practice? What night am I mentoring? Are we hanging out with friends any nights during the week? What church activities do we have going on? I try to plan something simple on nights that I know we won’t have a lot of time, and I also try to integrate the same ingredients in multiple recipes. I might buy pepperjack cheese at the store and use it for omelets and quesadillas, or sweet potatoes and use them in a soup one night and tacos another. One of the things I hate most is wasting food, so I try to utilize it well and freeze what I can, if I know I’m not going to use it right away. When cooking dinner, I make sure that I make enough for both of us for lunch the next day too.
Here are a few of my go-to recipes that don’t require weird ingredients (you know, the ones that you use once and never use again) and can use similar ingredients:
Last, I make a grocery list of what we don’t have. Eggs, milk, bananas, black beans, and yogurt are on our list almost every week, but a lot of times I can stretch our “staple” items like onions, sweet potatoes, vegetable broth, and apples for a couple weeks. Our budget for the grocery store for the two of us is $50 a week. We try to stick to eating out about once a week because eating out is so, so expensive! I love trying new restaurants, so when we do go out, it’s more of a treat than a regular occurrence.
What are some of your tips & tricks for meal planning, saving money, and grocery shopping?