Meal planning has many benefits, such as helping you stick to a healthier diet and saving time, but that doesn’t mean it has to be expensive. On the contrary, meal planning is much cheaper than going out to restaurants or ordering take-out. Here we outline tips to make sure your meal planning experience is as budget friendly as possible:
- Plan Your Menu and Stick to It
This is perhaps the most important step in sticking to your meal plan. Having a plan helps to steer you away from the temptation of reaching for quick, unhealthy foods. Having a plan also helps you stick to a budget. Simply write out a weekly plan and a grocery list and adhere to it. Once your plan and grocery list are in place, it does not take much discipline to carry it out.
- Buy in Bulk
To ensure savings on your grocery bill, buy as many foods with a long shelf life at wholesale clubs. If you do not want to pay a membership fee, there are plenty of grocery stores with bulk offerings. Shop around for the best deals. You can buy canned beans, corn, and tuna, as well as packages of pasta in bulk for a lower price. Buying in bulk means extra savings, and it has the added benefit of reducing waste on the packaging.
- Stick to Simple Recipes
You don’t have to whip up fancy meals in order to meal plan. In fact, simple recipes work best. A salad with chopped chicken breast, tomato, onion, avocado, and boiled egg is a hearty and healthy choice and won’t break the bank. You can stick to a foundation of your favorite proteins grains, and veggies and change each week according to what is on sale at your local grocery store (make sure to season well-bland food will definitely tempt you to want to deviate from your meal plan).
- Use Leftovers
While having a plan every week is ideal, don’t be afraid to change it up according to your leftovers. If the ingredients you are using to make your dinner are on sale, why not make extra to use in the week’s meal planning? Use up every bit of food to eliminate any waste as well as keep the extra dollars in your pocket.
- Incorporate More Affordable Proteins
Protein is vital in every meal. There are many healthy and budget friendly proteins you can use as the centerpiece of your meals. You don’t have to use chicken or fish every day. You can get creative with your foods and add lentils, eggs, beans, and Greek yogurt. Ground turkey is another excellent source of protein that is versatile enough to go with many different foods.
When planning meals, a handy tool is your grocery store’s weekly ad circulars. Write out your meals in your weekly planner according to what is one sale that week. There are many resources online to help, such as printable menus and grocery lists. Meal planning on a budget is easy with enough preparation.