Meal Planning….the dreaded two words that my husband told me over and over that I needed to do. And I was all like,
“But I am busy.”
“I don’t have time to put into it.”
“Get off my case, dude.”
When we really got serious about making our budget work for our family and cutting down on things we didn’t need to pay off debt, I realized how much we were spending on groceries each month. For a family of 3….$400-$500 a month, ya’ll! That’s $6,000 a year in food for three people and that did not include eating out!
We had to bring that budget down and quick! That’s when I decided to hunker down and make a meal plan!
Now, I am happy to say we spend $200 at the MOST a month for our family of 3 and we only go out to eat 1-2 times a month (which is not included in that amount). In fact, last week I bought groceries for our family for 3 weeks for just $125.00. It’s do-able, friends, and here are some tips on how!
1. Make a Meal Plan
I do this on paper and GUESS WHAT?! I have a FREE printable for you and your family to use with meal plans for a week and a grocery list so you can add what you need to buy for those meals that you are planning. Scroll down to the bottom of this post to download it! I started writing our meals down for each day and planning out what I needed to buy and that stopped all the last minute grocery store runs. This really helps bring your budget down!
2. STICK TO THE MEAL PLAN!
If you wrote down that you are having grilled chicken on Wednesday for dinner- you are having grilled chicken on Wednesday for dinner! I know sometimes we get in the mood for things or we get “un” in the mood for things, but I am telling you that this will throw off your whole meal plan! You NEED to stick to your original plan. The only way to not stick to your plan is by switching meals around that are already planned out. Switch Thursday and Wednesday’s meals up- but don’t have something that is not written on your meal plan because then you may use ingredients or food that was planned for another day – causing you to spend money to eat out or make a run to the grocery store.
3. Clip the Coupons
You don’t have to be one of those “Extreme Couponers” to do this. 25 cents here and there actually does help! Just go through the Sunday ad and if there is something you are buying that week anyways, clip the coupon!
4. Eat Left-Overs
If you don’t like left-overs then you are missing out on saving money. Some nights we actually have written out as a meal “Left-over night.” Trust me, it saves you money!
5. Once a Week Free for All
Sunday nights are generally our “Free for All” nights where we just eat popcorn or cereal. We tend to eat a big lunch after church, so we aren’t as hungry for dinner. This frees up spending money on chicken or meat and it is not going to kill you to eat lighter one night a week- promise!
6. Being on a Budget means EATING on a Budget
Don’t send me hate mail for saying the dreaded word….Ramon noodles! I know, I know….it’s terrible! It’s something broke college kids eat. I get it. If you want to save money, sometimes you have to choose wisely what you eat! Some nights we have chicken and even steak… and other nights we have hot dogs and Ramon noodles. We don’t have to eat like kings every single night of the week- that adds to the budget. I am not telling you to be completely unhealthy, but if you are trying to bring your cost of groceries down, you may have to make a few sacrifices once or twice a week.
7. Stop eating out!
Eating out costs money! What I can cook for our family of three for one night and then eat it for left-overs is the cost of just one of our meals and sometimes even just an appetizer when we go out to eat. If you start adding up how much you are eating out you will be amazed at how much money you are spending! Cut that cost and only eat out on special occasions.
8. Make a Grocery List and Stick to It!
Hi, my name is Ali and I am an impulse buyer……”Hi, Ali!” Sometimes I go to the store without a list and I end up buying things I don’t need, forgetting things I do need, and it ends up being a wasted trip with wasted money. Make a shopping list and the key is to stick to it. Yes, the Lucky Charms look so tasty- but if they aren’t on your list DO NOT buy them! This one is super hard for me but I am definitely getting better at it!
9. Eat Things You Already Have
On my last shopping trip I didn’t have to buy chicken (and we had chicken for 2 different meals that week) because I already had a bag of it in the freezer. That helped keep the cost of my grocery budget down. I noticed that we had a bunch of TV dinners in the freezer that I must have stocked up on with coupons and then forgot about so I planned for us to eat a couple of those for one of the meals. This eliminated a meal that I had to shop for. Go through your freezer and pantry when making a meal plan- you will be amazed at some of the things you didn’t even realize you had.
10. Stop how often you Grocery Shop
This is probably the most crucial thing that helped cut our grocery bill. I now make 2 big shopping trips a month (if the deals are located at two different stores I run from one store to the next and do it all at once). I realized I was stopping at the store for little things- waffles, butter, etc. and then while I was there I would pick up things that I didn’t need so I was wasting money. With only going to the grocery store every once in awhile, we have really cut our impulse buying down! Now, I am not saying that if you run out of milk you can’t go until your next big shopping trip is planned- but when you go to pick up milk or eggs or whatever- ONLY buy that item- don’t impulse buy!
So, because I think you are the best readers ever…..I made you a Meal Plan and Grocery Budget sheet just for you!! You can easily print it out and use it to help you meal plan and make your grocery list. I hope this helps you….
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