Saving Money by Simplifying Meal Planning

Guest post from Carrie of Wholesome Womanhood

Menu planning and figuring out the best grocery deal scenarios has always been one of my favorite things to do. On Tuesdays, my grocery ads come in the mail and my husband always comes in, holding the ads, with a smile on his face, knowing that I’m about to do one of my favorite weekly activities: peruse the ads looking for good deals.

Last October, I posted one of my weekly meal plans on our blog and a friend commented asking some questions, including how much I spent on groceries. We emailed back and forth a couple of times and during the conversation, something she said sparked an idea in my mind.

Why did I have to plan so much variety in my menus?

We already had weekly pizza night. Sunday mornings we make pancakes and Fridays are waffle mornings. My family loved knowing they would be eating their favorite meals every week. I realized that the variety wasn’t for my family–it was for me. And when I really stopped to think about it, I realized that making a different meal every single night was actually adding a lot of stress in my life. So in November I decided to try an experiment.

We spend $250 a month on groceries, but in the month of November, I focused on planning meals that were meatless or used chicken, since chicken is regularly on sale for $0.99/pound or less. I planned one week’s worth of meals and repeated those same seven meals throughout the month.

My goal? Spend $100 on our monthly meal plan. That left me $150 for our Thanksgiving meal and some wiggle room to stock up on any good deals that might come up during the month.

November was a tough month! My family isn’t big on meatless meals and they do like an occasional dinner with ground beef; but we stuck with it. I kept our monthly expenses around $100, spent $75 on our Thanksgiving dinner and stocked up on good deals with the rest. I was able to stock up on ground beef when it was $1.99 a pound, alfredo sauce when it was $1a jar, and canned beans.

In December I decided to do it again, only this time I was able to actually plan meals I knew my family would enjoy, using the items I had stocked up on in November. Ground beef and pasta. Chili, Pork Loin and Chicken Alfredo. I was able to once again keep the cost of our monthly meals down and pay for our Christmas dinner and stock up on items for our January meals all while staying within our $250 budget.

It worked out so well, that I decided to do it again in January, although at the beginning of the month I realized my freezer and pantry were full! So I’m planning simple meals using what I have in the cupboard.

A weekly rotating menu simplifies my life and allows me to buy good deals each week, which will in turn give us some variety in next’s month rotating meal plan.

Carrie is a stay at home wife and mother. She loves to learn new ways to take care of her family while spending less money. She blogs with her twin sister at Wholesome Womanhood.

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  1. says

    What an amazingly low food budget! I hope that as soon as I finish Dukan (20 pounds down, 26 to go!) we will be able to make some progress on lowering the food budget.

    What works for us on the meal planning is to center the week around several family favorites (we have 4 kids under 6, so I try to focus on nutritional meals that don’t instigate whining), and usually 1-2 new recipes a week. We are kind of foodies (I even did a bit of cooking school), so doing the same 7 dinners week after week would eliminate one of my favorite activities–trying out new recipes!

  2. says

    These are great comments and a great post. Thanks to all who posted links. I think one thing to keep in mind is that the Plan lives for you, not.the other way around. I used to stress so much abou planning out all our meals and then stress over the shopping, the cost, and then if my family.would even like it. I soon gave up on that plan but have recently found a better way. I came up with a list of 14-15 dinner ecipes my family loves and greatly reduced complexity by adding simple sides, one starch and one vegetable or fruit. I am also completely okay with using canned or.frozen stuff. We rotate between a few simple breakfats (oatmeal, toast and eggs) and lunches too, which simplifies even more and are made ingredients we *always* have in our pantry/fridge. We always keep bananas and apples on hand for snacks. Also,.we know thay the nature of his job, (cop-school resource officer) that my husband will *have* late 2-3 times a week. When this happens, he can usually let me know about 4 pm, so I can just heat up some leftovers and scratch that night’s plan and save it for another night. But planning out at least 1 week’s worth dinners has reduced so much stress for me and it allows me to use.up what we already have on hand. I love my new plan – but I’m not married to it! :)

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