So you want to cut your grocery budget by a significant amount? First step: Meal Planning.
Meal planning is the best way to save money and eat healthier because it means you will skip fast food runs and processed, packaged (expensive) foods. You know what is even better? It means that you only have to ask that annoying question “What’s for dinner?” ONCE A MONTH! If you hate figuring out what to make as much as I do, you can surely appreciate that.
So, how can you plan your meals for the entire month?
Step 1: Figure out your busy days.
These may be the same days every week or they may change with scheduled activities. Pull out the calendar (or the smartphone) and figure out what days you just won’t feel like cooking dinner. We all have days that are hectic. For me, they are Tuesdays and Thursdays. I KNOW that I don’t feel like cooking on those days, so what do I do? I plan simple meals that are easy to fix or made in advance. I just want to throw stuff together and heat stuff up in the microwave on these days because I know that anything else is just not going to happen.
Step 2: Make a list of meals (or skip this step and use my plan).
I made a list of 22 meals that I knew we would enjoy. I tried to stick to meals that use chicken or ground turkey because they are the cheapest meats I can find, although I did include a couple of meals that would use meat we already had in our freezer. My list only included 22 meals because I knew that we would be having Leftover Day and Salad Day once a week. These are my easy meals that I plug in on Tuesdays and Thursdays. If you don’t want to have a leftover day (I highly recommend it) or a salad day, you will need to repeat or come up with other meals to fill in your list.
Pro Tip: I made Chicken Noodle Soup which is a personal favorite, but takes quite a bit of work. Since I had to boil the chicken thighs anyway and really wanted to make a nice rich stock, I just boiled all the chicken thighs in my stock pot. Then I shredded it all, added some back to the stock for the soup, and divided and froze the rest. I used this chicken to make Chicken Enchiladas and Quinoa Chicken Chili, both of which also use chicken thighs. By pre-cooking the meat, I cut down on prep time for both of those meals.
Pro Tip: I also cooked a robust spaghetti sauce when we had spaghetti and froze half of the sauce for spaghetti squash later in the month. Save yourself time. Cook things in advance when you can.
Pro Tip: You’ll see a lot of grains in this meal plan. Quinoa is SUPER healthy for you (and I honestly like the taste more than brown rice). Not only does it bring with it the fiber and nutrients of a whole grain, but it is also a complete protein. Since saving money on groceries mostly means cutting down on your meat spending, quinoa can help fill in the gaps. Other grains like barley and rice will keep you full longer and make dinner feel satisfying. Because grains can be purchased in bulk for really cheap, they make great options for making dinner stretch further.
Here’s my list of meals:
- Barley Soup
- Chicken Breasts, Asparagus, & Quinoa
- Chicken Noodle Soup (Cook Chicken Thighs, Shred, and Freeze Unused)
- Brown Rice & Teriyaki Chicken with Peppers & Pineapple
- Homemade Pizza
- Baked Potatoes, Cheese Sauce, Bacon, & Broccoli
- Spaghetti (Make Double Sauce & Freeze)
- Chicken Enchiladas (Use Frozen Shredded Chicken)
- Hawaiian Chicken & Coconut Rice
- Steaks, Brussel Sprouts, & Baked Potatoes
- Curry Quinoa and Chicken
- Vegetable Soup
- Wheat Stroganoff
- BBQ Chicken, Corn & Sweet Potatoes
- Spaghetti Squash (Use Frozen Sauce)
- Quinoa Chicken Chili (Using Frozen Shredded Chicken)
- Chicken Broccoli Alfredo
- Meat Loaf, Mashed Potatoes, & Corn
- Chicken Stir Fry
Step 3: Create month-long meal plan.
Click here to download my monthly meal plan templates. The first one is blank and can be used to create your meal plan each month. Either print out multiple copies (one for each month) or laminate one copy and dry erase each month. The other one is a copy of our meal plan for March (complete with 31 days). Meal Planning can be tricky business. I started by writing down all of our favorite meals that I knew were cheap. For the most part, we only really eat chicken and ground turkey (sometimes ground hamburger if it is on sale) to save money. We never eat more than 4 oz per person, so I always have to divide out my meat in advance, but it is so worth it! Once you’ve finished your monthly meal plan, it is important to keep it accessible. For me, that means sticking it to the refrigerator.
You finished your meal plan. Continue with the next step by planning your shopping trip, and you will be well on your way to a $125 monthly grocery budget for two.
Don’t forget to follow me on Pinterest. Bobbie Gross
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