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Last Updated April 10, 2020

Looking for ways to save money with meal planning? Meal planning will help you save a ton of money on your grocery budget and limit the amount of money you spend on going out to eat. Learn these simple tips for planning meals on a budget and start saving more money today.

free budget binder

What Are The Benefits Of Meal Planning?

Meal planning is basically thinking of your meals ahead of time so you’re not stuck wondering “what’s for dinner” at the last minute. There are many benefits to meal planning such as:

  1. You usually eat healthier meals.
  2. Eat better quality more nutritious foods.
  3. Save money by not ordering more expensive takeout or going out to restaurants.
  4. Save time because you’re not wondering what to eat every day.
  5. You waste less food because you have a plan for every ingredient in your fridge.

Because of these benefits, I try to meal plan every week. After I plan out my meals for the week, I usually go grocery shopping and meal prep on Sundays.

Weekly Meal Planner On A Budget

planning meals on a budget

Now that you know the benefits of planning meals on a budget, I’m going to give you a FREE Weekly Meal Planner Printable that you can find in my Resource Library. This meal planner will help you get more organized with decided what you want to cook for the week.

How Do You Cook On A Tight Budget

If you’re planning meals on a budget, you need to get organized and make a plan as to how you will spend your money. Here are a few tips to help you cook when on a tight budget…

Planning Meals On A Budget

Short term financial goals

1. Take Inventory Of What You Have

I recommend you plan your meals around foods that you already have at home. Take inventory to see what food you have in the fridge, freezer, and pantry.

To get started, make sure you use the FREE Weekly Meal Planner in my Resource Library to help you keep track of your food inventory. This free printable will help you know what you currently have at home to work with.

2. Make A Menu When Planning Meals On A Budget

challenges of budgeting

Once you know what food you have, start by making a menu incorporating those foods. Look for recipes that use those foods and ingredients. This will help you save money and cut down on waste.

Decide what meals you will make for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. You can use the Weekly Meal Planner in my Resource Library to write down your menu.

Here’s an example of what it looks like when I use the Weekly Meal Planner to make a menu for the week:

Personal Finance Binder

3. Plan Your Grocery Shopping Trip

Once you consume the food you already have in your home, you can start incorporating grocery shopping in your meal plan. If you want to meal plan for the week on a budget you have to plan your grocery shopping trip.

grocery shopping as ways to save money

When planning meals on a budget, start by looking to see what items are on sale that week. This will help you decide what to cook when making your menu. So be sure to check your local store flyer before you make your menu.

You can also check your newspaper inserts or coupon sites such as to see if there are any coupons you can use. Just be sure you buy foods that you will actually use (and not because it’s on sale) so they don’t go to waste.

Once you have your menu planned out make your grocery shopping list before you go to the store. When you get to the grocery store, stick to your list and only focus on getting the things you need. Leave your children at home if you think they will make it hard for you to stick to your grocery list.

One method I use to stick to my list is to not go to the grocery store hungry. I find when I go to the grocery store hungry, a $50 shopping list turns into $100!

4. Batch Your Meals

planning meals on a budget

The next step is to actually do your meal prep. I’m not going to lie, this takes the most time out of the entire process, but it will save you even more time down the road.

It normally takes me about 1-2 hours to cook 6 days worth of food. That works out to be only 10-20 minutes a day and no time spent wondering what I’m going to have for lunch or dinner.

I normally cook 2-3 different dishes during my meal prep so I’m not stuck eating the same thing every day. Once I’m done cooking, I batch my meals in these great food storage containers and then I freeze them.

I like these particular containers because they are freezer safe, microwave and oven safe, leak proof with airtight lids, durable, and help with portion control. It only takes me 5 minutes when time comes to reheat my food.

bento box storage containers planning meals on a budget

Batching your meals is so important when planning meals on a budget because it makes dinner so convenient. Most of the time we eat out or order in because it’s easy and convenient. Now dinner is as easy as popping your container in the oven or microwave.

5. Consider Using A Weekly Subscription Meal Kit Service

If you’re not a great cook, consider using a service like Home Chef or Blue Apron. These services aren’t for everyone, but depending on your personal situation, it can be well worth it.

I’m not a great cook and have used these services before. Groceries are delivered to your home with easy to follow recipes—and the meals come out tasting delicious!

I like using these meal prep services because I tend to waste less food this way. You are given perfect portions of ingredients that you need for each meal, so there is no waste.

For example, I hate having to buy an entire pack of fresh parsley when all I need is a pinch. I also like it because it allows me to try cooking meals I wouldn’t normally cook.

blue apron planning meals on a budget

Keep in mind that these services don’t provide common staple items such as cooking oil, salt and pepper. With these meal kit services, you can skip the meal planning, grocery shopping, recipe hunting and go straight to meal prepping.

You can use my affiliate links to save money on your first orders with Blue Apron and Home Chef.

I think this option is well worth it if you have a small family, and find you waste a lot of food because you’re forced to buy more ingredients than you need (like my parsley example). However, if you have a large family, it might be more cost-effective to do your grocery shopping and meal planning yourself.

Don’t want to have a monthly subscription? No problem. Just order a meal kit like this one from Amazon. It’s the same concept as Blue Apron or Home Chef, but without the monthly commitment.

free Resource Library


With all these easy tips that help you meal plan for the week on a budget, you will certainly save time and money. Start by taking inventory of the food you already have; make a menu; plan your grocery shopping; then batch and freeze your meals after cooking.

Finally, if you want to save even more time on meal planning, consider using a weekly subscription meal kit service such as Home Chef or Blue Apron.

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