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.
This is my third round of bi-weekly dinner meal planning! However, this time it comes with a twist! Why? A fellow frugal friend needed help. She had to find a way to feed herself and her husband for two weeks, but the kicker was she only had $35 for food. Realizing the need for low-cost meal planning, my “$40 Meal Planning Your Family Will Love” was born.
Inspired by her situation, I wondered how many others out there could use low-cost meal planning. So my challenge for this round is to keep your grocery bill around $40. Hopefully, you have some items on hand and you will spend even less, but if you do not, you will come out right around $41.
This list is a dinner meal plan so let’s see how well we can do. Be sure to read until the end and click the printable grocery list to save you time and money! My shopping for this meal plan was mostly done at Kroger.
Keep in mind, if you are saving money on your groceries, you will be able to put money away for other important areas of your budget such as an emergency fund, savings account, or retirement fund.
Cutting your food costs is one of the easiest ways to put extra money in your pocket. Not to mention, my $40 meal plan will save your sanity because you will not be rushing around your kitchen, like a crazy person, trying to throw something together when your kids are hungry. This is not a fun situation for anyone!
Did you read Budget-Friendly Meal Planning? If not then click the link, but if you have followed me (hint, hint subscribe to new posts on below) then you may be getting tired of the first two weeks of meal planning and want some other options.
Just a quick recap! Meal planning is an awesome way to save on your grocery bill and save your sanity. By planning out what you will make for dinner each night and by knowing you have the right ingredients on hand, dinner will be stress-free and you will be less inclined to order take-out. I’ve even included an easy homemade pizza to boot!
One of the best ways to save money is to eat at home. In my first meal-planning option I included one budget-friendly meal out, as a treat! In this version, we will eat at home every night.
If you are only eating out once a month (if you use my first meal plan and then add this one), imagine how much money you will save! (Do the math: Average cost per dinner out = $12.17 per person at Red Robin x’s 4 = $48.68 x’s 4 (if you go out once a week four times a month) = $194.72. You will be saving almost $200 by eating in. (Source for the average cost per meal at a chain restaurant: Business Insider)
Before you go on…If you want to save even more money on food, check out my favorite cash-back apps. These apps help me earn money back on my groceries each week. All I have to do is submit my grocery receipt. Check them out below:
Ibotta is my favorite, but I also love Check Out 51 and Fetch Rewards. The best part is you can use all of them with the same grocery receipt and each offers a sign-up bonus. Check them out here:
Your food bill doesn’t have to break your budget. Cooking is easy, fun and budget-friendly.
So with you in mind, I devised another two-week round of meals! Listed under the meal planning is a grocery list with prices (mostly exact but a few are estimated) of where I usually shop, Target! You will notice our bi-weekly dinners will total under $75!! That is two weeks of dinner meals for under $75! Yes, you read that right!
Note: Add some bread, lunch meat, cereal or oats, and milk, and you will have an entire two weeks of meals for around $100.
Note: If you are really low on cash this month, check out my $40 meal plan for two weeks worth of dinners.
Take my advice and only visit the store twice a month. Stock up on all of your grocery needs and you won’t be tempted to head back to the store, where the advertisers will be working their magic to test your impulses and lure you into a spending splurge.
Have you heard of Meal Plan Magic? They take the “guesswork” out of meal planning and make it easier for you to learn how to meal plan. If you don’t have time for meal planning, why not check them out?
Monday: Smothered Pork – This slow cooker recipe is so easy and yummy! Serve on top of rice. This will be updated in few days to include a link to the recipe. Check it out. Here is the recipe: Smother Pork (updated 1/24)
Tuesday: Cheap and Yummy Bean Burritos – Use one can of Market Pantry refried beans. Next heat up the beans on the stovetop and add them to your wrap. Then add shredded cheddar cheese and your favorite toppings! We like salsa and light sour cream. Optional: Make a rice packet and add it as a filling!
Wednesday: Grilled Chicken and Veggies – Thaw overnight and season up your chicken with salt and pepper and/or Italian dressing. Next pan-fry it on your stovetop for around 8 minutes on medium-high heat. (Always check your meat is cooked to an internal temperature of 165 degrees Fahrenheit). I usually buy frozen vegetables and steam them, because they are cheaper than fresh and they still hold a lot of nutrients.
Thursday: Sloppy Joe’s– Use Ground Beef and Manwich Sloppy Joe Mix! Brown up your meat and add the mix! Serve on a bun with a side of veggies. Yummy!
Friday: Freezer Friday – We like fish sticks (Gorton’s is a good option) or spinach ravioli and veggies but feel free to cook up anything you have meant to eat in the back of your freezer.
Saturday: Homemade Cheap and Yummy Pizza – Make a basic pizza dough (Here is one from The Food Network that I like. Also you can freeze the extra) and add pizza sauce and your favorite toppings. We like black olives and onions. Another easy option for pizza crust is the Market Pantry thin crust, which sells for only $1.49.
Sunday: Crock-Pot Chicken Tacos – This is such an easy meal. Just add 1/2 cup water, 1/2 onion, and three thawed chicken breast to your crock-pot. Add 1/2 a packet of taco seasoning and 1 cup of salsa. Next, cook on high for around four hours (depending on your crock-pot) and shred the chicken. Then mix well and drain if it seems too runny. Lastly, serve on wraps with your favorite toppings.
Want to save even more on groceries and earn $10? Sign up for Ibotta andCheckout 51and get cash back for your groceries. I use these EVERY time I shop!
Meal Planning Week Two
Monday: Leftovers – Use the leftover chicken from last night’s meal to make more yummy tacos or serve on tortilla chips with cheese for chicken nachos.
Tuesday: Pancakes and Eggs – Breakfast for dinner! Why not? You will get your protein from the eggs and carbohydrates from the pancakes. Best of all, my kids will eat it! They usually refuse to eat and get up fifteen times, but that is beside the point! With pancakes, they lick their plates clean.
Wednesday: Cheddar Turkey Burgers – Mix one package of ground turkey with 1 cup of cheddar cheese. Next season with salt and pepper and a few splashes of Worcestershire sauce. Lastly, cook your patties and serve them on a bun with veggies as a side dish.
Thursday: Mozzarella Grilled Cheese and Tomato Bisque – I use sliced mozzarella for the grilled cheese and a side of Campbell’s Tomato Bisque. The grilled cheese is great for dipping.
Friday: Freezer Friday – Pull something out that will expire soon! If you are extremely good at using everything in your freezer, try Market Pantry Frozen Ravioli! They have a few varieties!
Saturday: Pulled Chicken Sandwiches and Veggies – Another simple crock-pot recipe! This recipe will be added soon and is a very simple way to make your pulled chicken in a slow cooker. Updated 1/26 Pulled Chicken Recipe
Sunday: BBQ Chicken Pizza – Make a basic pizza dough (should have some in the freezer if you made the recipe above) and add leftover chicken from last night, plus red onions and mozzarella cheese. Bake for around 20 minutes! YUM!
1 lb. Pack of Pork chops $4.99, 1 2.5 lb. package of Market Pantry Frozen Chicken $7.99, 1 lb.pack of Jennie-o Ground Turkey $4.99, 1 lb. Market Pantry 80/20 Ground Beef $2.99, 1 lb. pack of fresh chicken $4.99: $25.95 (If you are lucky, Target often has a sale of $5 off $20 meat purchase. Be on the lookout! You will need a coupon from the flyer. They offer this sale about once every two months)
1 white onion $1, 1 red onion Total: $2
MP = Market Pantry brand (Target changed some of the brand name items to Good and Gather)
Market Pantry Cream of Mushroom Soup 10 oz $.99, MP white rice package 14 oz. $1.69, MP Chicken broth 14.5 oz. $.79, MP refried beans 16 oz $1.17, MP Wraps (8 10 Inch) $2.14, Pizza Sauce $1.50, MP Taco Seasoning $.69, MP Chunky Salsa 24 oz. $2.27, Simply Balanced Tortilla Chips $2.99, Bread $2, Campbell’s Tomato Bisque 11 oz. $1.59, Yeast pack of three $1, Manwich Sloppy Joe Sauce $1, Market Pantry Pancake Mix 32 oz. $1.99, Optional MP pizza crust $1.49 Total: $21.81
How I save more on groceries and bring my price under $70:
But wait…I have a Target REDcard and I receive 5% off all of my purchases at the register. This brings my total down to $69.93
Want even more savings? Look up your items on the Target Cartwheel app. Target Brands such as Market Pantry and Good an Gather are always in the app. Furthermore, I never leave home without my Cartwheel app! To learn more check out my Target saving secrets here. Don’t forget you can stack Target coupons on top of the app savings! Just check the Target website before you shop and print any relevant coupons. They often have a $3/15 Market Pantry or Simply balanced brand coupon. This is where the real deal savings come in at Target.
You may also stack Target coupons with manufacturer coupons. Print coupons easily at coupons.com, one of my favorite coupon sites!
I hope you enjoy your meals and the time you saved is spent doing something else you love without stressing about food!! I’ll be spending my free time playing trains with my boys! Leave me a comment and let me know if you received any extra savings! I would love to hear from you!
The question of the day: If you had an extra half an hour of free time today, what would you do with it?
Have a great weekend my friends! Until next time – Sarah
Have you ever had one of those days, where the kids are screaming, starving, and on the verge of a meltdown, yet you have no idea what you are going to make for dinner? Trust me, we’ve all been there.
Dinner time can be one of the most stressful times of the day. Well, stress no more! One great way to save money and eliminate mealtime chaos is to use meal planning!! Using these simple tricks takes the guess-work out of a busy mom’s dinner schedule (or dad’s, depending on who is the chef in your home) and eliminates the chance of having multiple hangry-I mean hungry ;-)- kiddos. Furthermore, meal-planning helps you save food, money, and time. It is a great way to use your recipes and use up frozen food lurking in the back of your freezer.
I like to pay serious attention to the days my four-year-old has preschool and needs mommy right around meal-time. I save the simple, kid-friendly meals or crock-pot meals, I can make in advance, for these evenings. So play around with my sample and do what works for your schedule!