I strongly believe in creating a meal plan for the week. Not only does it mean you know exactly what you are eating that week it also keeps the budget in check when you hit the supermarket. In this post I share my top tips on how to meal plan for a family on a budget.
Why Meal Plan?
As a stay a home mum I’m in charge of the budget and making sure we are not spending crazy amounts. The food shopping bill can soon mount up if you are nipping to the shop everyday because you don’t know what to do for dinner.
Also no one wants to be scrambling around the fridge trying to scrape together a meal with a hangry toddler demanding food. Meal planning means you know exactly what you are cooking and meal times can run smoothly, well as smoothing as possible with little people!
My Top Tips For How To Meal Plan For A Family On A Budget
Before you get started
- First off get your self a meal planner or you can use an ordinary notebook/notepad. I use this to plan our meals for the week and write my shopping lists. Plus as it will contain your previous weeks meal plans, you will have plenty of inspiration for those weeks when you struggle to decide what to make.
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- Write out the days of the week then make a note of how many of you will be eating that night or if you have plans to eat out. It’s very rare these days that we will get to eat together as a family every night, Jack (my teenager) goes to his Nan’s for dinner some days or is out with friends. I make a note of these days and can then plan to make less meals on that day or make something that can be reheated when he gets home.
- Check your freezer and cupboards first. How many times have you bought something only to find you had a tin lurking at the back of the cupboard already or worse, vice versa finding you are lacking an ingredient just as you are about to start cooking is not the one! Plus what you already have in the cupboard or freezer could be the basis of a meal, I often have sauces, rice, pasta etc or frozen leftovers that can be used as part of a meal, meaning if you incorporate these into your meal plan you will spend less.
Let’s get planning
- Plan some meals that you can make in bulk, which can then be used to make a meal the next day, be froze or used for lunches. Things like stews, chilli’s, roasts and pies are great for this.
- Plan a few meat free meals a week, this will really help keep costs down. Jacket Potatoes, pasta or rice dishes are great midweek meals.
- Plan meals that the whole family like or that can at least be adapted to fussier members of the family. For example, when we have fajita’s they are often too spicy for my little girl so I just make sure I put some chicken aside to cook up separately for her. The same goes for those with allergy sufferers in the family, you can still eat the same meal (within reason) just make them their own mini portion using their food substitutes. Cooking completely separate meals for different family members is a sure-fire way to send your food bill through the roof, plus its extra work for you.
- Consider having set nights of the week for certain meals, so for example, Monday – pasta, Tuesday fajita’s, Wednesday – slow cooker meal etc. This will make meal planning quicker and easier if you know roughly what type of meal you are having on each day.
- Be flexible and buy well dated produce, just because you have planned to have a certain meal on a certain day doesn’t mean you will fancy it on the day. If you buy well dated or have factored in some meat free days you will have some wiggle room to swap your meals around for that day.
- Check online for any offers on cooking sauces, frozen goods etc. that you can make a meal out of.
- Don’t be afraid to shop around to find the best deals, bargain shops often have store cupboard essentials at a fraction of the price.
- Supermarkets such as Aldi and Lidl often offer great value for money, don’t be scared to give them a try. We have found items in Aldi that we prefer over branded goods. Beware of the special buys though, you go in for cereal and come out with a bed, true story!
- And lastly, don’t forget your shopping list! I am guilty of doing this all.the.damn.time.
If you would be interested in seeing meal plans, grocery hauls and other budget related videos, let me know.
If you have any of your own meal planning tips you would like to share, please leave them in the comments.