If you want to save money on food, meal planning can make a world of difference. Not only does this allow you to estimate your costs, ensuring you remain within budget, but it can also help you avoid extraneous spending. By having a list, you know exactly what you need. Here’s a look at meal planning on a budget.
Take Stock of What You Have
Before you do any planning, it’s a good idea to check what you already have. Go through your cabinet, fridge, and freezer to see if you have items that could work in an upcoming meal. Also, look for various cooking staple ingredients, like salt, flour, oil, and butter. This lets you know if you have the basics on-hand or if you need to add them to a shopping list.
Look at Sale Flyers
When you need to keep your food costs low, sale flyers can help. Look for great deals on various staples that you know you’ll eat and make a note of the price. Focus on flexible foods, like chicken breasts, rice, beans, or anything that you eat regularly and can prepare in a variety of ways. You can also look for matching coupons online or in newspapers if you want to bring the costs down further.
Find Out What’s in Season
Produce that is in season is always cheaper than options that aren’t. By focusing on in-season fruits and vegetables, you’ll save more. Plus, since these options are readily available, it isn’t uncommon for them to go on sale.
Consider Meatless Meals
If you want to keep your costs down even more, consider going meatless one to three times a week. Legumes, eggs, and other sources of protein can be very satisfying and are typically cheaper than chicken, beef, or pork.
Embrace the Power of Leftovers
Stretching your food budget can be easier if you come up with a plan for leftovers. For example, if you cook a whole chicken, plan to use remaining meat for sandwiches the next day. You can also use the bones to make stock, allowing you to create a flavorful chicken broth or soup.
You can also intentionally make more than you need for a dinner, allowing the leftovers to be lunch the following day. Not only does this help you cut down on the amount of time you spend cooking, but it can also be very economical.
Make a Menu
Now that you know what you have and what’s on sale, you can create a menu based on that. Decide what recipes work best with the items, then fill out a menu for the week (or month). As you plan, estimate your total costs. That way, you can make sure your menu works with your budget and won’t encounter any surprises at the checkout.