One of the struggles we face as busy moms is how to get a healthy meal on the table in less time, without breaking the bank.
I’m a firm believer in the time-saving and budget-friendly benefits of meal planning. It’s the key to success, really; without a plan, we either spend too much money eating out at restaurants or you have to tell everyone that it’s “every man for himself” and they end up eating cereal.
We can do better! It just takes a simple strategy and a few tips and tricks.
I’ve shared many of my recipes and meal plans with my readers over the years. We’ve even talked about 10 ways to stretch your whole foods budget. Today, I’d like to share a few meal planning tips and tricks to give you ideas and inspiration.
Ready? Let’s dig in!
10 Budget-Friendly Family Meal Planner Tips & Tricks
1. Create your meal plan on Sunday night.
Planning on Sunday night sets you up for success right from the start. Get out a notepad and make a list. Look over your family calendar. What does your week look like? Will you be home every night this week, or only four? Do you need to plan seven dinners? What days are especially busy for your family? Be sure to plan very simple meals or crockpot meals for those days.
2. Try going meatless or using less meat.
If you’re on a tight budget, plan a meatless meal or two. For the other meals, look for recipes where you can use less meat. For example, if you’d like to serve beef stew, use less beef than you normally would but bulk it up by adding more barley or carrots and potatoes. They cost less and are still filling.
3. Take advantage of my “fill the grill” method.
This has been one of the greatest tricks I’ve discovered with my own meal planning! It saves me so much time! I do this often in the warmer months.
4. Browse free meal plans online to see what other moms are doing.
Kelly from The Nourishing Home shares a wonderful bi-weekly meal plan at The Better Mom. Her plans are whole foods based and gluten free. If you have a family with food allergies, you’ll definitely want to check her meal plans out.
Tammy from Organize Yourself Skinny shares weekly meal plans, along with skinny recipes and health inspiration.
Menu Plan Monday is a great link-up that offers hundreds of meal plans. If you are at a loss for ideas or new recipes, it’s a great place to visit. The ideas are endless!
5. Menu plan with a theme; for example, Meatless Monday, Taco Tuesday, etc.
Andrea explains her experience with meal themes and also has a free printable you can use. I think this takes some of the pressure off of coming up with new ideas!
6. Take advantage of free meal planning printables.
Money Saving Mom offers many helpful meal planning printables. She’s also outlined several meal plans and shopping lists.
7. Stretch your chicken.
Yes, you can stretch ONE whole chicken into SIX meals. Laura from Heavenly Homemakers shows you how, here.
8. Don’t forget to browse print books or ebooks for new ideas.
I gleaned quite a few useful tips from Family Feasts for $75 a Week: A Penny-wise Mom Shares Her Recipe for Cutting Hundreds from Your Monthly Food Bill. You can easily get it from Amazon or check with your local library.
9. Let your kids be in charge of the meal for one night of the week.
Maybe they can be in charge of making personal pizzas on Friday night, or put together a simple “breakfast for dinner” night. My boys love having pancakes and sausage for dinner, and it’s so simple to put together, especially if you have a nifty electric griddle to use.
10. If you still struggle with a successful meal plan, you can try an inexpensive, useful service like $5 Meal Plans or eMeals.
For a free trial period or a small fee, they provide you with customized, well-reviewed meal plans. You’ll still save money overall since you’ll avoid eating out and can stick to a plan.
Do you meal plan? What are your favorite meal planning resources?
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Great tips! I don’t really meal plan too much, but I do try to make a dinner that will last 2-3 nights so it’s less work for me. By cooking in bulk, I spend more time with my kids and on schoolwork than I do cooking 🙂
Thank you, Ashley! Yes, cooking in bulk makes a big difference in the time we spend in the kitchen. That’s why my “fill the grill” is so helpful to me 🙂 Thanks for bringing that up!
Jaime, I love the ideas you shared here. I am always on the lookout for new resources and new recipes or recipes with a new twist that I already have in my repertoire. Happy to be visiting as your neighbor at the Linkup at From House to Home.
Jaime, thanks for sharing these helpful tips. I love the idea with the meal themes. I am glad that I found your blog through the Linkup at Making the World Cuter.
Great tips. I love Sunday prep days. Meal planning is a great way to save money and time during busy week nights.
Great ideas!! I always love to change it up for my family! Thank you for sharing with us at the #HomeMattersParty
Cynthia Rusincovitch says
I definitely stretch my chicken. Perfect tip! We use rice a lot in various meals and it’s super filling! Thanks for linking up with Delicious Dishes Link Party!
Shirley Wood says
These are all great tips for budget stretching! Thanks for sharing with us at Merry Monday. I stretch chicken quite a bit.