Learn how to start meal planning and save time and money!
Are you afraid to start meal planning because of certain assumptions you have? Do you think meal planning is boring and a waste of time? This post will walk you through the benefits of meal planning and give you a clear idea on how to save money on your food bill using meal planning.
I’ve been meal planning most of my adult life without even realizing it. You see, back at Central Michigan University times were tough. I was paying for my tuition with student loans and being the frugalista that I am, I took out the minimal amount to cover tuition only.
I then worked full-time to make ends meet at a daycare making around $4-5 an hour. Needless to say, that money did not go far when it came to buying needs like food and most wants were left as gifts from my parents and grandparents (thanks, guys)!
So after leaving the dorms where I had a cafeteria meal plan allowing me to eat whatever I wanted twice a day, I started meal planning on my own for two main reasons:
I only went to the store once a week because I rode a bike (until it was stolen – hard times!).
I was on a very fixed income. This meant I needed my food to last the entire week until I could pump those pedals to the store again.
So after this struggling college experience, I was conditioned to continue meal planning.
After I started living off a teacher’s salary and was making more money, I also had more bills – like paying back those yucky student loans! So with that, I continued my frugal meal planning ways.
When I was in college, I was on an extreme budget. I was taking out student loans and worked forty hours a week at a daycare making $5.15 an hour to make ends meet. I was especially excited when I received my first – drumroll please – $.05 raise. Making an extra $.40 a day really helped out with the bills. (haha)
After one year I left the dorms and the “meal plan” I had grown accustomed to was left back in Trout Hall. For the first time in my life, I had to start buying groceries on my own. The budget for my weekly groceries was a little less than $20 a week and that included everything. How did I make it work? At the time, I shopped at Wal-Mart and bought the same thing every week. Occasionally, my cousin would go shopping with me. I knew what the exact total would be when we arrived at the checkout and my cousin found this hilarious.
This was my first experience with meal planning. I wasn’t as organized as I am now, but I pretty much ate the same thing from week to week and stuck to a budget.
The college years were rough but I am now an adult and have experienced what it is like to make a decent salary. Nonetheless, I continued to use my frugal ways to budget for groceries and other areas of my life. However, since I made more my budget was higher than $20 a week for groceries. Funny enough, I still had a good idea of what my grocery bill would be when I passed through the checkout because I allocated myself a certain amount of money for food and household items and used meal planning.
Crisp air, pumpkin patches, cider and donuts, football games, beautiful colored leafs-These these are just a few favorite things that are reminiscent of fall!! One other favorite, and maybe one of the best, is my budget-friendly chili recipe. This is a fall go-to recipe my entire family of four loves.
Every year around this time, I incorporate my quick easy, budget-friendly chili into my meal planning rotation. For those of you that do not cook, this recipe is so easy, you can’t go wrong! In my next post I’ll give you an example of my two-week meal planning, but for now, here is my favorite chili recipe!
Since Chili is a go-to recipe I try to stock up on diced tomatoes, tomato paste, kidney beans, and ground beef when it is on sale. I freeze my ground beef and stockpile the canned goods. You will need to make a trip to the store for the fresh produce, but that is part of the reason this chili tastes so good! Fresh onion and green pepper! Not to mention, it makes your house smell amazing! What are you waiting for? Give this chili recipe a try this fall!
If you are really ready to save on groceries, check out my favorite cashback app Ibotta. I have literally earned hundreds back on food and groceries in the past few years and the app is easy to use, so why not get money back on the cheap meals you are about to make?
The best part about Ibotta is you do not need to clip coupons, which most of us dislike. Everything is organized on the app and it is easy to add your stores to your account or upload your receipt for some extra cashback when you finish your grocery shopping.
1 lb. of ground beef (season with salt & pepper) – paid 2.99 on sale-stock up
1 large can 30 oz. diced tomato – paid 1.39
1/2 an onion – paid . 99(save other half & make again next week)
1 green pepper – paid .62
1 can kidney beans 15 oz. – paid .89 (rinse)
1/2 can tomato sauce 15 oz. – paid .99 (save other half & make again next week)
1/2 tablespoons chili powder paid 1.99 for an entire bottle (estimate .20 per use)
*optional*Dried red pepper-I don’t use because I make mine kid friendly, but some like it spicy.
(Most ingredients were purchased at Target using my REDcard to get an extra 5% off my purchase, the green pepper was purchased at Walmart.)
Fall Chili Recipe Directions:
1. In a large skillet, brown ground beef & drain grease
2. Add green pepper & onion to the meat and cook on medium heat until soft
3. Dump the rest of the ingredients in and stir-See, I told you.. easy, peasy
4. Simmer and stir on low for 30 minutes or longer
*I’ve made this ahead of time and left on the stove top for up to two hours.
Optional: Sprinkle with shredded cheese & dollop with sour cream
Enjoy Your Chili Fall Budget Meal!
Serve with crackers or garlic toast and ENJOY!!!!
For a family of four, this makes two meals. I have leftovers the following evening, cutting the meal cost in half and the mess! I love serving chili nachos the following day! Just top your chili over tortilla chips and add cheese and sour cream and you have another meal you don’t have to cook! The total cost was $7.67 (this includes my target red card 5% discount) or 3.83 per a meal. This chili is sure to be a winner and it is cheap and filling!