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Growing up in the ’80’s I never once saw my mom make a meal plan. I knew there was a budget for groceries, but I never saw her make a plan. When I became an adult I had to learn how to make a cheap healthy meal plan to keep our budget on track and to keep my health on track.
For the last year, we have been winging it in the meal department. I haven’t made a meal plan and our grocery budget has gone through the roof. Not to mention the amount of produce that spoils because we aren’t eating it.
While I was emptying the fridge and making room for our new groceries, this was the eye-opener I needed to see exactly how much was being thrown away. Have you been there?
Since I had already made a meal planner for my Complete Picture Planner, I grabbed it and started planning out meals for the week. I jotted down all the groceries I would need. and I was shocked that I had groceries for the week for less than $100! I hadn’t spent less than $150 in months!
If you sign up for my email list you can get my meal planning page in the Complete Weekly Planner. You can sign up below:
Here are the steps I took to start my meal planning.
- Print off meal planning page.
You can get yours for free by signing up for my mailing list. If you are looking for where to sign up, there is a sign up in the sidebar.
- Scan your Pantry! If your pantry is like mine you know there are probably 2 meals you can make in there don’t even require going to the grocery store. Decide right now you are going to use those items this week. That will reduce your spending by about $10!
- Scan your freezer.
My freezer is always full of meat. I tend to purchase my meat at Costco and then I use it throughout the month. When I plan, I pull out the meat I want to use and put it in the fridge so it is defrosted for the meals in the coming week.
- Buy staples like oils and spices at Walmart or Aldi.
Walmart and Aldi seem to have some of the best prices. Or purchasing spices in bulk could save you money too.
- Leftovers for lunch.
While planning your weekly meal plan, for lunch you could have leftovers. My kids love to have leftovers for lunch, especially when it’s one of their favorite meals. As an adult, I prefer to have leftovers for lunch than dining out. It saves me money, time and it saves me a ton of calories!
- Breakfast for dinner.
Breakfast for dinner is something everyone loves so very much! Pancakes, eggs and maybe some bacon or sausage, everyone loves it. The only downside for this is there isn’t usually leftovers for lunch the next day.
- Pasta and Rice
Rice and pasta are those staples that collect in the pantry but are so inexpensive and they are easy to make. Pasta and rice even make leftovers into something new.
- Cut the meat prior to cooking
This trick I learned when we were unemployed and didn’t have a large amount of money coming in. I learned that if I prepared the chicken and diced it up before I served it or cooked it that it would go further. I noticed that my husband ate less and I did too.
- One new recipe a week
New recipes are great but they sure can add more to your bottom line when you are purchasing the ingredients. Check the recipe before you shop and make sure it doesn’t have any ingredients you would only use once.
- Ask your family
This has been something I have been trying to implement in my weekly meal planning. Asking everyone what they would like for dinner helps me so I don’t get stuck in the dinner rut.
- Shop the sales
Shopping the sales is a great place to start when meal planning because then you know you are getting the better price for a recipe you may want to make. I use this method when my family starts to ask for a steak dinner. I watch for the steaks to go on sale and then that week it will make it onto the menu plan.
About 10 years ago it was easy to use coupons and get food for free. I used to be an extream couponer when we were unemployed. Coupons are still a great way to save money.
I also use the app Ibotta. I highly recommend it! It is a great way to save money without using coupons. You can sign up for your own account by clicking here. It’s free to use and it’s my favorite way to save money on groceries today.
- Print off meal planning page.
Make your cheap healthy meal plan
Now that you have an idea of what is in your pantry and what new recipes you want to make this week, it’s time to fill in your menu plan.
I usually start with dinner and my calendar so I know if we are dining out at all during the week. For instance, I know we are dining out once this week when our school has a fundraiser at a restaurant.
Once dinner is planned, it makes lunches easy because most of the time lunches are leftovers. If we grill chicken for dinner, then I know my kids will eat a Ceaser salad for lunch the next day. Yes, my kids eat salad! I know it’s a shocker! I was shocked too!
Breakfast is a little more challenging for me. We tend to follow a high protein low carb diet and with boys, that means lots of eggs. But this is your cheap healthy meal plan! You know exactly what your family eats so plan that.
Now you should have your meal plan finished, and you can start making your grocery list. If you are a pen and paper person, then I highly recommend getting my Complete Home Package in my shop. It has the meal planner, a grocery list and some other goodies that will help with meal planning.
I am going to be honest, we have been using Instacart to have our groceries delivered. It has helped me with saving time and just getting the groceries to our home. It has been a lifesaver while I have been sick.
I did notice that on some items the price is more expensive, but on others, it was the same as when I shop. So watch the prices and you decide if it’s worth it for your budget. If you want to try it you can click my referral link and get $10 in free groceries.
Stick with your cheap healthy meal plan!
The last step in creating a meal plan is sticking to it! They say it only takes 21 days to create a new habit. My challenge for you is to create a meal plan for 3 weeks with the goal to stick to it to help your budget and your health!
I would love to hear if you were able to stick to the 3-week challenge of creating a meal plan! Be sure and sign up for my email list and get your free instant download of the meal plan, along with the Complete Weekly Planner to plan your best week! You can sign up below!
Stephanie has been blogging at Sticky Note Mom for 4 years. Before starting her blog she worked in the finance industry working on the floor of the Chicago Board of Trade to working for major financial institutions with personal financial planning and the mortgage industry. Now she shares all she has learned about frugal living to help others learn how to stop spending and start saving more.