5 Tips for Frugal Meal Planning
Feeding everybody. . .It’s a full-time job! We are a family of 6 and as food costs continue to rise, I am constantly striving to stretch our food budget and remember all the tricks and tips I’ve implemented in my 13 years as a mom. Here are my top tips for being frugal with feeding your family:
1. Keep track of your spending.
Keeping a budget and knowing where your money is going provides accountability. We use a free budgeting program on our computer to categorize our spending. It helps in all areas. Groceries and toiletries have their own category. If you’re new to this, start by keeping track of how much you spend for an entire month. At the end of the month, you can decide if you’re doing well or need to cut back.
2. Meal plan.
It can feel overwhelming to get started, but the week before every new month I sit down with an empty monthly calendar, and I map out our dinners for the month. Sometimes I’ll pull out a cookbook or open up a recipe blog online, and other months I mostly repeat what we ate the month before. I take into account what’s already in my pantry, any food allergies, and any scheduled evening activities we have coming up. I create a grocery list while I plan. Sometimes I have to plan a dinner that can be portable to be eaten at a baseball game. This saves us a tremendous amount of money, because it streamlines grocery shopping and avoids last minute trips to the store. I get groceries weekly and I know that I’ll have what I need for homemade dinners every night.
3. Keep it simple.
You don’t have to make gourmet meals or have something brand new every night of the month. It’s OK to have simple meals. It’s OK to switch meals around on your calendar. I’m all about simplifying things to make life easier and streamline the weight of running a household. One way I simplify things on my meal calendar is by having themed nights. For example, we do Crockpot Night every Monday, Pasta Night every Tuesday, Homemade Pizza Night every Friday, Taco Night every Saturday, etc. This reduces stress by having your base meal planned out but also leaves plenty of room for creativity. There are many ways to make pasta and many ways to do tacos.
4. Buy less processed and packaged foods.
You don’t have to make everything from scratch, but by learning to make even a few things homemade you will save a large amount of money. For example…. instead of buying beans in a can or rice in a box, buy bulk beans and bulk rice. They are both easy to make homemade once you learn how! Start with small changes. All kinds of beans can be made from scratch: pintos, black, garbanzo, navy, etc. Add in things like bulk lentils, quinoa, potatoes, and pasta. You’ll find that these are both healthier and less expensive.
5. Avoid or reduce eating out.
As a general rule, we do not eat out. It’s just not a financially efficient way to use our money when we have a family of 6. I know that I can feed my family for much less at home. It does require planning and organization, but it is possible to reduce your eating out expenditures. I know we get tired making so many meals from scratch, so when possible I try to have some convenience foods from the store that make meals a little easier and boost morale. For example, we have a monthly “Fast Food Night” on our calendar where I bake frozen fries and chicken nuggets and throw together a salad. You can make ice cream sundaes or yogurt dipped frozen bananas for fun treats that are much more economical.
Whether you want to try one or all five of these tips, cheers to feeding your family intentionally and frugally. ☺
About Gaby. . .
I am Mom to four children ranging from 3-12 years old. I love to exercise. I live in the beautiful Pacific Northwest and am happiest when I'm outside playing with my family.
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Want more ways to save money on healthy food for your family? wichealth.org has a free online lesson called Maximizing Food Dollars. Find it in Planning Simple Meals And Snacks category!