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6 Tips to Put Together a Family Meal Planner on a Budget

Posted by MoneyKey on September 5, 2019
dinner from a family meal planner

Do you ever feel like you just spent a small fortune on groceries and STILL have no food at home? Maybe your grocery bill is high at the end of each month, but it seems like you’re heading back to the grocery store every few days to restock your kitchen for you and your family. Groceries can be tough to manage when you’re buying food for the whole family, and it’s even tougher when you’re living on a tight budget. But if you plan and organize things carefully, you may be able to put together a family meal planner that helps you save money on groceries, save some of your precious time, and reduce some of the stress around making sure your family gets fed.   

The process of budget meal planning involves putting together a grocery list that revolves around meals you’ve planned out in advance. If you can manage to put together a well-organized family meal planner, not only can you potentially save some time and money, you may also be able to reduce those quick stops at the drive-thru on your way home from work, or settling for a processed microwave meal on those nights you don’t feel like cooking.

So, to help you with the process of putting together some weekly meal plans on a budget, we’ve put together six tips to help you do it!

1. Put together a list of meals

A list for your family meal planner

Start your family meal planner by asking your friends and family for their favorite recipes. Go through this list and make note of the recipes that you think would be easy to prepare, don’t need a lot of ingredients, and suit your family’s tastes. Organize these recipes into categories like, vegetarian, chicken, fish, beef, side dishes, and whatever else makes sense for your list.

Once you’ve organized this list on your computer or in a notebook, you’ll want to refer back to it when you’re putting together your shopping list for the week.

2. Plan meals around what you already have

Before you start listing out the ingredients you want for the week on your family meal planner, take a thorough look through your fridge, freezer, and pantry. Start cataloguing everything you have into different groups, like canned items, starches like pasta and rice, produce, and more. Once you’ve organized the food in your kitchen and cleared out anything that’s gone bad, you should have a good idea of what you have on hand. Now that you’re armed with this information, you can plan your meals around the food you already have. This is a great way to reduce waste, avoid buying things you already have, and save some money on groceries!

3. Plan out your cheap meal plans for the week

Now it’s time to start planning out your meals for the week! Either use a blank calendar, a spreadsheet on your computer, or sketch out a schedule in your notebook. List out the days of the week and list out the ingredients you need under each day for the meals you want to make. You can then use this schedule to put together your grocery list.

Plan as far ahead as you’re comfortable with. If you’re new to putting together healthy meal plans on a budget, start by planning a single week out. Once you get more comfortable with the process, you can start planning things out further ahead and have an even smoother running family meal planner!

4. Plan for every meal of the day

Plan for breakfast on your family meal planner

When it comes to breakfast and lunch, you may be tempted to leave them out of your family meal planner because of the relative simplicity of putting these things together. If you’re just going to have some oatmeal and berries for breakfast everyday or throw together a sandwich for lunch the next day, why put it on your calendar?

Well, if you don’t explicitly plan these things out, you may be more likely forget about getting them ready in the first place! For example, overnight oats may be simple enough to make, but if you forget to get them ready the night before, you might be stuck having to stop off for something on your way to work. The more you can plan things out ahead of time, the more likely you are to remember to get things ready in advance.

5. Stick to what’s in season

Have you ever noticed that some of your favorite fruits and vegetables are pricier at certain times of year? This is because when things are out of season, the cost of shipping this food to your neck of the woods may go up, and as the customer, you pay the price.

When you’re looking to save money on produce, one of the best ways to do it is to shop for what’s in season. A great place to start is at your local farmers’ market. Speak to the farmers and vendors at the market to get an idea of what’s in season.

If you’re looking for more ways to save money at the farmers’ market, here are a couple tips to help you out:

  • Know when to get there. Vendors want to offload as much of their product as possible, so you may see huge discounts near the end of the day.
  • Buy things in bulk. It’s usually in the best interest of vendors to sell their products in bulk. They might not make a lot selling a single container of berries, but selling an entire flat can go a long way. Because of this, you may be able to get a discount if you buy things in bulk.

Whatever time of year it is, leave some wiggle room in your family meal planner to swap certain ingredients in and out based on what’s in season.

6. Make extra servings when you’re making dinner

Leftover broccoli, chicken, and rice in a pan

When you’re already in the midst of making dinner for the family, it might not take that much extra effort to double up on the volume of ingredients. The more food you make and freeze, the less you may stress later on in the week when you’re trying to put together dinner. Keep in mind that some things keep in the freezer better than others, so it helps to know in advance what keeps well in the freezer. Things like casseroles, soups, and stews are usually a safe bet, so try to include some of these dishes on your family meal planner.

Use these tips to help you put together a family meal planner

The amount you spend on groceries can take a big bite out of your monthly budget, but when you plan your meals in advance, stay organized, and put together a family meal planner, you may be able to save yourself some money, time, work, and reduce the stress that comes along with feeding your family.

By taking the time to take stock of what food you already have lying around the house, coming up with a list of meals that are easy to put together, creating a calendar, and sticking to your grocery list, you may be able to cut back on your grocery bill.

Meal planning can improve the quality of your family’s diet, put a stop to the frequent back and forth trips to the grocery store, and reduce some of the stress that comes when dinner time approaches. We hope these tips help you out!


Disclaimer: This article provides general information only and does not constitute financial, legal or other professional advice. For full details, see MoneyKey's Terms of Use.

Posted in: Lifestyle

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