How are you planning your daily family meals? What determines what you eat for each meal? Do you want to save money and plan cheap meals? There are many tips and instructions on how to meal plan and create a grocery list from these plans. Although this is only one way to meal plan and this method is not cost effective. If each week you are making your grocery list based off of meals you plan to have, chances are not many of the groceries will be on sale. Your grocery bill and food budget will be much more than it needs to be.
Instead, make your daily meal plan based on the grocery sales for the week. With this method, plan cheap meals and lower your grocery budget. This is how I meal plan and keep our grocery budget under $40 a week. I let the sales plan for me what my family will be eating. With combining the weekly sale items and the food I already have stocked up in my fridge, pantry and freezer, I have plenty of meal and food options for my family.
Know What Your Family Eats
The first part to planning cheap meals is knowing what your family likes to eat. Before you can watch for grocery sales you need to know what you should be watching for. Eliminate extra trips to the store by knowing what to buy and how much. Buying items just because they are on sale, but not eating them isn’t smart either. Save money just by knowing exactly what to buy.
Make Meal Lists
Once a year I will write out a list of meals that includes meals I may have weekly, monthly, or even yearly. Towards the top I write meals we like the most or have often. This list should include breakfast, lunch, dinner and snack options. Before I complete the list I glance at the prior years list to make sure I didn’t forget anything or to trigger a new idea. Then I file away last years meal list and add this years to the home organization binder.
To help you make your list, here is a FREE printable of the template I use to make my list each year. Here is an example of my list from this year.
Making a list is super helpful. It will give you a sense what foods you consume and therefore should watch for to go on sale. Also, at a glance this helps me look at what food we are really putting into our bodies. I can see if we are balanced and putting a variety of healthy foods in our bodies. Furthermore, every once in a while I draw a blank on what to make for dinner. I check this list for ideas so I know what to watch for to go on sale to help me plan cheap meals.
Communicate With Your Family About Food
Check in with your family around food. Ask what they like and don’t like. Ask what their favorite breakfast, lunch, and dinner are that they eat. What snacks do they prefer to have during the day or at night.
People’s tastes change and they go through food phases. If you are going to buy something at least one person in your family should like to eat it. Buy quantities bases on how many will eat that particular food item.
Know How Fast Your Family Goes Through Foods
Knowing how fast your family goes through certain foods can help you plan cheap meals because you know how much to buy when on sale. If you notice certain foods going bad or something not being eaten ask your family if they no longer like it or why they aren’t eating it.
People’s tastes go in streaks of what they like and love to eat. I can name lots of things through my years of marriage that my husband has liked so I bought only for it to change several weeks, months or years later. If I notice him or my kids not eating something anymore, I ask them about it so I know if I should stop buying it.
Check Out Your Inventory
Checking inventory goes hand in hand with knowing how fast your family goes through a particular food. Before you check the store flyers, take a quick peak inside your fridge. Look for any perishable items that need to be used in the next few days to a week. Take a quick look inside your pantry for anything expiring and put it together at the front. Either write these foods down or have them in mind as you are looking through the grocery flyers and planning out cheap meals. Do not waste any food – use up what you have first.
On the other hand, if you already have a high quantity of an item, do not buy more just because it is on sale if you will not eat it. Do not buy food only for it to be thrown out. Knowing what is in your fridge, pantry and freezer helps you know how much of something to buy.
Look Through Store Flyers And Grocery Shop
As you search through the store flyers make out your grocery list with meal planning in mind. Click here if you need help making an efficient grocery store shopping list. The key to planning cheap meals is buying cheap groceries and food that is on sale. Although just because something is on sale doesn’t mean it is a good deal. Some sales are better than others and certain foods are cheaper than others. Steak and shrimp could be on sale, but that doesn’t mean it is a good item to buy to make cheap meals.
As you look through the flyer think what you would make with different sale items. As you make your shopping list, keep in mind what you will do with each item you buy. It may be an ingredient as part of a cheap week night dinner or a breakfast item, or it could be a stockpile item on an amazing sale that you use regularly so you purchase 10 of them.
Take time to think through how many of each item you need to buy. Take advantage of sales, but do not waste money by buying too much if you cannot eat or use it. As you make your grocery list think about what you already have in your fridge and on your shelves that you could combine together to make a meal.
After your reviewed the flyers and sales it is time to grocery shop. Grocery shop on the weekend so you can meal plan for the week. Be sure to stick to your list. Don’t forget to use any coupons that you have.
Write Out Your Meal Plans For the Week
After you know what your family eats, checked your inventory, looked at the store ads, and grocery shopped it is time to write out your meal plan. From the items purchased at the store, and your list of items that need to be used at your house, write out meals for the week. Use my FREE printable to help you plan cheap meals. Go through each meal – breakfast, lunch and dinner and write down plans on this printable. Here is an example of a weekly meal planning sheet.
Breakfast, lunch and snack Ideas do not need to be written down in any specific order unless you need them to be on a certain day. At my house a breakfast or snack item may be used 7 times that week or not at all. Part of this depends on if the item is perishable or not. For example, my husband will eat a banana every morning for breakfast if we have them, but only eat an apple sauce cup if our perishable fruit variety is low.
The breakfast, lunch and snack ideas are based off of food you got on sale at the grocery store or non-perishable food in your pantry or freezer. However, dinner is more planned out so you know exactly what meal is on which day. This way you can prepare some of the meals in advance on the weekend and know what you need to do on each day to make the meal happen.
Start Thinking Ahead to Next Week
While you are looking at the grocery store ad and sales think ahead to the next couple of weeks. Think about potential upcoming meals, parties, or events you have to make or bring a food/drink item. I am always thinking in advance what am I going to need to make coming up to watch for things to go on sale. On your grocery shopping list keep your “watch to go on sale” list full to save money on your grocery budget.
Final Cheap Meal Planning Thoughts
There are different ways to go about planning meals for your family. The most budget friendly way is planning meals from grocery store sales and stockpiles in your fridge, pantry and freezer. Besides saving money, it can save you time because the grocery ads help plan your meals. You do not have to come up with them all on your own.
Know what your family likes to eat and check your inventory before you grocery shop. This helps you grocery shop efficiently and not over spend on items you will not use. Use a weekly meal planning sheet like the one above to save you time and money on planning cheap meals for your family.