How to Plan Meals When Money is Tight – with printables

SchneiderPeeps - How to meal plan when money is tight

There are many, many ways to plan meals.  Some people like to do a once a week plan, some like to do a once a month plan, some plan based on what they want to eat, others plan based on what is on sale, some just keep a stocked pantry and don’t plan at all. But when money is tight, meal planning is especially important.

Here’s the deal, if money is really tight you need to figure out what works for you as far as meal planning goes.  I’ve found that what works for me is to keep it simple.  I try to keep my pantry stocked with staples – by the way, potato chips are NOT a staple. I will also glance through the weekly sales ad of our grocery store (we really just have one chain here) to see if there is anything that is a really good buy for me to stock up on, but I don’t have time to really study it and then compare with the Super Walmart or Target or the little ethnic grocery store. I also plan for the week and have a basic meal plan that I follow each week…

Chocolate Chip Pancakes Breakfasts are usually pretty easy and don’t require much forethought.  We have eggs, pancakes, fruit crisp or oatmeal most mornings.  On Thursdays we leave the house early so we have homemade granola or boxed cereal that morning. tuna salad on pita Lunches require a little more thought as Gabriel has a 1pm class at the college this semester and on Tuesdays we leave right after lunch for drama.  We usually have bean burritos two or three times a week, lentils and rice, pita sandwiches or, sometimes we actually have leftovers from the night before.

homemade pizza Dinners will make or break a meal plan.  If you don’t do anything else, you can simplify your life so much and save tons of money just by making a dinner meal plan.

I keep it simple by having a similar thing each night week after week.

Monday – Canned stew or venison, or venison link sauage with potatoes and salad

Tuesday – Pasta

Wednesday – Bean Burritos

Thursday – Chicken

Friday – Pizza Night

Saturday – Grill out or whatever (this is when I’m more likely to try a new recipe)

Sunday – lunch, baked potato and salad bar – dinner, potluck with friends

boring, I know, but it works for me and the meals are nutritious and frugal.

Here is step by step how I plan for each week.

1. Check the calendar. I need to know what we are going to be doing for the next week in order to know what kind of meals our family needs. If we have a busy evening with family members eating at different times, I need to cook something that can stay on the stove or in the oven on warm for several hours. If we’re going to be gone all afternoon (like Tuesday) I need plan something that I can but together in under 30 minutes.   For our potluck on Sunday, I need to have something planned that is good for a potluck.

2.Check the refrigerator, pantry and garden. Make a list of any perishable foods that need to be eaten. Those take priority. The average American family throws away 25% of the food they purchase, and that is a lot of money! Also, find that random can of condensed milk or box of quinoa and find a way to use it.

3. Get the weekly sales flyers from the newspaper (or look online) and match up what is on sale with what I already have on hand. Rarely do I just decide we’re going to have XYZ this week, if we don’t have any of the ingredients.  I think about what I can make with what I have on hand and what is on sale.

4.Put the meal plan on the refrigerator and then STICK TO IT. This is really the hardest part of a meal plan. It’s also the most important part. Check it every morning.

5. Have a “Plan B”. Sometimes life happens, and you just cannot cook dinner; maybe your doctor’s appointment took much longer than expected or the baby needs to be held every-single-moment!  When this happens to us, we either have popcorn and smoothies, eggs or pancakes, or we’ll pick up a rotisserie chicken and bagged salad from the store for dinner. The last option is not as inexpensive as cooking at home but it is WAY cheaper and healthier than buying fast food.

So there you have it, a simple way to plan your meals.  No spending hours looking through cookbooks or perusing Pinterest, just a short time checking out what you have and what is on sale and making a plan. oh, and then sticking to it.

Meal planning download - SchneiderPeeps

I’d love for you to share with us some of your meal planning tips in the comments so we can all learn.

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