Meal Planning Tips for Saving Money
With the cost of everything going up and so many people losing income, the food budget is one area that most look at when they need to save money. Do you know where you fit on the national food budget?
According to the 2013 USDA Food Publication, the average family of four (2 adults with 2 children under 11) are spending $ 637.00 to $ 1,260.00 per month for food when eating at home. The report breaks the costs into four types of meal plans: Thrifty, Low-cost, Moderate, and Liberal. Let’s take a look at the Moderate Meal Plan at $ 873 a month for 4 people. That works out to just a little over $ 7.25 a day for each person. Does this sound reasonable???
Moderate Daily Food Budget = $ 7.25 a day per person / $ 10.30 per meal for entire family / $ 218.00 per week
Reviewing this plan, they are of course assuming that these families always eat at home. There are no stops at McD’s or BK and forget Starbucks! Think about it, just one meal out can clear out the food budget for the entire family. I budget for “dining out” or “date nights” in our entertainment budget.
Based on my family food budget, I know this budget can be done..and without eating hot dogs and mac n cheese every day. However, it does take planning and wise purchasing.
Planning your meals is the first way to start to make a difference in your food expense. Start by using the sale flyers for this week and create a meal plan for the week (sample menu here). Plan each breakfast, lunch, dinner and snack for the entire week. Look at your dinners as possible lunches the next day by stretching or adding just a few extra ingredients. Example: If you have chicken with rice on Monday night; make extra rice and shred the chicken. This would allow for leftovers which can then be eaten on Tuesday for lunch. The cost of the lunch on Tuesdays is only pennies and the budget for lunch can then be rolled over into another meal later in the week.
Make a shopping list based on your meal plan. Using this list, find coupons for as many items as you possibly can by clipping from the paper or printing from an online database. Prepare your list and head to store to shop. Put on blinders and only purchase the items on the list. Yes, you will see things you want or the kids claim they need…but stick to your list.
Within a couple of weeks you will start to see a couple of things happen. First, you will be spending less on food. Secondly, you will begin to build a stock pile of products that can be used in the following weeks which will help stretch your dollar even more. For example: When you purchased the rice for the chicken and rice meal mentioned above, you should still have over half the rice left in the package. Plan on using this in the next couple of weeks so it isn’t wasted and consider it as a freebie when calculating the meal cost.
If you are tracking your meal costs, this method will show you where you can splurge on perhaps a better cut of meat or an extra treat like ice cream or chips.
There are other ways to save with coupons, buying in bulk and scratch cooking. These are in my opinion things you work your way into doing. If you are just starting to learn how to plan your meals and get a handle on your food budget, I would limit those things until you are on a solid position with meal planning and shopping.
Do you have a meal planning tip? I would love to see how you save money. Share your plans with everyone below the post.
I purchase boneless chicken breast when they are on sale and cut them up ready for meals. Small chunks and strips can go from freezer to skillet for a quick week night meal. I use them for chicken tacos, burritos, stir-fry, fried rice, spaghetti sauce, alfredo, and more. They can be dipped in egg mixture and flour mixture frozen and then fried.
I have found that often there are unannounced sales at Kroger on meat. So lately I have been shopping just for sale items and then menu planning after the fact. I am now cooking most all our meals, fast food and restaurants are now planned meals. I only shop the outside of the store, except for baking goods and pasta/rice. Since I have cut out cereal I save a bunch of money too. The grocery bill keeps going up tho, so I will try to look at the sales fliers and plan more intentionally.
You can still plan on shop on most of the staple items because you can use them with almost any protein. Buying on sale with coupons will save you more than just buying what is on sale.
Check with your local butcher and ask when they mark down the meat. At our local store, they start marking things down everyday at 3PM…there is always a rush at meat aisle!
Like most people I use coupons and shop sales. I can’t believe the price of ground meat is almost five dollars a pound. And that’s the gross what’s actually ground up in there stuff! They can keep it! I’d rather pay a bit more and get a steak or chicken breast.
Susan Smith says
We plan our dinners for the week at the same time we make our grocery list Then we match when is on our list to the sale ads and what coupons we have. I saw we because my husband does the coupon cutting and grocery shopping. We also buy store brands for a lot of items which saves money.
Kohila Ganesan says
This is a best money-saving frugal tips…. Will surely tell my mom about this.!!
Kohila Ganesan says
My mom loves this frugal money-saving diet. Very helpful!!
Thank you so much
sally guenterberg says
I cannot believe how much I spend at the grocery store. I buy what is on sale. But using coupons, I tend to buy things I would not have otherwise bought. But then again if I quit buying junk food I would have a rebellion on my hands. I agree with a previous commenter, when you are eating healthy you really don’t need a lot of food. You get filled up a veggies and lean protein. But as my kids tell me “not everyone is like you mom”.
Eileen Richter says
We have always had a LARGE family to shop for. But even with that, I know we spend WAY too much money on food. We don’t plan ahead and forget to use coupons. We get so busy with events that we WASTE food when we forget it is in the fridge, or sometimes make double recipes in order to have leftovers for the busy nights. It is a shame how much we could save and don’t…probably enough to take a small vacation a year or buy a major appliance. I am going to try your plan better. But for us, we’d look at our store circular first and plan our meals around the SALES. And THEN look for coupons to use with those. We are never set on certain meals unless it is someones birthday, etc. So we can easily use whatever meat is on sale and plan around that. COUPONS would help us so much!
From what i understand, many people no longer cook. If that truly is the case, then I would imagine the monthly amount spent on food goes much higher. I think sometimes, too, it is cheaper to make things from scratch, vs buying a packaged item, but for some there is no beating the convenience a packaged item offers. These days I need to have a relatively simple diet, however, I am trying to use as much organic as possible. That certainly raises the price, too. I have a tendency to freeze as much as possible, much to the surprise of a friend of mine. However freezing things is great. I can make a pizza crust from scratch, cut it into pieces, roll, and then freeze to have individual pizzas later which are so much better than any packaged ones I could buy – in terms of taste and quality of ingredients. And, in the end, probably a lot less expensive, too.
Growing up my parents always had a dinner menu planned out for the week. Usually breakfast was always cereal and lunch was from scratch.
There was never any wasted food. Now that I live on my own, I tend to just cook for myself and I got away for the dinner planning. You share some great suggestions and it makes me want to get back to planning! 🙂
Susan Broughton says
These are some good tips. But it is so hard to eat healthy and stay on a good budget. I recently have had some medical problems and need to eat more healthy, eat produce and watch my sugars. My grocery bills have went out of sight! It costs less to eat bad! I wish I could find some tips to buy healthy of a usual budget!
It can be more challenging but it can be done. I am amazed at how little real food we need to eat healthy. Portion control and the use of vegs, beans, pastas can make a real difference in the total food expense.
judy gardner says
right now i am doing south beach diet so i dont have any tips to share -sorry! – as it is very expensive for me to diet. i am having to cut out in other ways to be able to afford to do this. it is sad that it cost more to eat healthier!