Simple Meal Planning Tips for a Family
Have you ever found yourself at the grocery store staring at the meat and asking yourself why it has to be so dang expensive?
Do you try and plan meals while shopping but they get lost or forgotten between the time you check out and your next grocery trip?
If this is you, you are not alone, and I have a few tips that have helped us over the past couple years to save money and plan meals.
I’ve shared some helpful tips for planning meals on a budget down below, and also created a printable menu to aide you in your planning.
— — > You can keep reading or Skip to the Free Printable Here
Why We Budget
We are trying to teach our kids that having a budget isn’t a bad thing. It’s actually a great way to make sure you have enough money to spend on the things you really need in life. It’s a helpful tool.
Saying “no” to some things means we can say “yes” to others.
One way we have helped our grocery bill is the way we shop. We have shopped at Aldi for years. Both my husband and I grew up shopping at Aldi and that’s where we started shopping after we got married.
After a few years of marriage and a few kids later we have learned a couple new strategies in meal planning and saving money.
It wasn’t until the past couple years that we have been able to learn these lessons. When the kids were little, those first few years were all a blur.
I don’t know how we even ate for a couple of those years. Hamburger Helper made a great meal. So did frozen pizza.
There was no planning meals and I think we used to grab cheap fast food more often than not, which resulted in spending even more money and getting sick after eating the food!
I will never forget the day my husband brought home marked down meat for the first time. He had a couple packs of chicken that he’d bought for about a dollar each. I just stared and asked him, “How did you do that?”
It made me happy and it helped our wallet. It was then that we changed the way we plan meals.
3 tips for Menu Planning on a Budget
1. Shop early in the morning for the best deals on meat
We have learned that by being at our local grocery store, Jewel, around 8:15 or 8:30 in the morning we have more opportunities to get some really great deals on meat.
We look forward to marked down chicken breasts, chicken thighs/legs, ground beef, ribs, ground turkey, and sausage. There isn’t marked down food every single day, but if we catch it a couple times a week we can usually get what we are hoping for.
Some of my favorite deals are $9 organic beef marked down to $1. Lean ground turkey, usually $6 at Jewel and a little less at Aldi, marked down to $1. We almost always grab the ground turkey.
Chicken breasts are a little rare but still welcomed. One day, I got a couple of huge roasts for a couple dollars a piece! These prices are much cheaper than Aldi.
This meat usually has a sell-by date that is a day or two away, but so far has been perfectly fine for us to use that day or put in the freezer.
2. Plan your weekly meals based on the marked down meat
When we get discounted meat, I take it home and get to work prepping. It works well to make two or three of the same meal and put them in the freezer.
- Meatballs out of ground beef or ground turkey and freeze them
- Turkey burgers and hamburgers and put them in freezer bags so they are ready to grill
- Meatloaf with ground turkey and ground beef
- Taco meat (I usually have at least 2 or 3 prepared packages of cooked and seasoned taco meat on hand)
- Chicken sometimes gets frozen as-is or cut up and put in bags for fajitas or stir fry
- Use sausage and have breakfast for supper with scrambled eggs and fruit
Yesterday I got two packs of organic chicken for $0.95 a piece. I had some frozen broccoli at home, onion, peppers from the garden, and made two different kinds of stir fry. We ate one for supper and the other went in the freezer for next week’s menu.
I would love for us to eat organic and hormone-free all day everyday, but it’s just not possible. We get what we can with the money we have and that’s ok.
One day they had whole chickens for $1. No joke. They were perfectly fine, just had to be cooked or frozen. If I have time, I prepare the whole chicken in a gallon freezer bag right after I get it and toss in some of my favorite things (coconut vinegar from Thrive Market, garlic powder, salt, pepper, olive oil, and Italian seasoning). We usually have a little chicken left over and it goes on the menu the next day on top of a salad or if we have enough, chicken salad.
3. It’s doesn’t have to be formal
- Almost every week we have a “pick your own” and a “clean out the fridge” night. This works well for us because the boys love to figure out what they are having and we use up the leftovers.
- We love to use our firepit and cook turkey dogs over the fire for supper. It gets us outside, talking, and is a super easy supper. I have learned to keep a couple packs of turkey dogs in the freezer for a time such as this. Throw in some chips and salsa, veggie straws, and slice up some apples and we call it supper!
- The boys love having breakfast for supper. We love eggs and hope our six hens will be laying soon, which will be so fun and help our grocery bill as well. One of our kiddos eats a different sausage than the rest of us due to dietary restrictions, so I serve him that brand and the rest of us eat what’s on sale.
Pin to save for later:
The Dry Erase Menu
A few years ago, I asked my husband to print out a menu with the days of the week for me. I got an 8” x 10” frame from Dollar Tree, along with some dry erase markers, and have loved it ever since. The kids love seeing the plan for the week and it helps cut out the “what are we having for dinner question?” Get yours here!
What I have grown to love most about the way we shop and prepare meals is the money we save and the convenience of having the prepared meals in the freezer. It is so helpful to be able to thaw out taco meat or pop a meatloaf in the crock pot and be able to focus on the kids after they get home from school.
It also helps on the nights my husband has to be back at work right after supper. We did a great job eating from our freezer this past summer and I can’t wait to stock it back up.
What ways have you learned to plan your menu and stick to your budget? I would love to hear them!
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