Don’t you hate that question? After a long day, the last thing you want to do is figure out what to eat. The best way to avoid decision fatigue is to plan your meals ahead of time. But how do you do it on a budget? And what do you do to please everyone in the family?
Below are five tips to meal plan for your family AND stick to your budget.
1. Start by shopping from your pantry
Before you sit down to make your weekly menu, take a peek in your refrigerator, your freezer, and your pantry. The first rule of eating on a budget is to not waste food. You likely have enough food in our kitchen to make at least one meal. Combine the container of leftover vegetables with last week’s chicken. Throw them in a crockpot with some spices, noodles, and chicken broth. Add a salad and you’ve got yourself a meal. Pro tip: Buy enough salad ingredients to include as an easy side with a few meals during the week.
2. Keep a rotating list of meals
Kids are picky eaters. Sometimes parents are too. Have each member of the family pick at least two of their favorite meals to add to a menu list. Don’t forget to include yourself. The rule is that it can’t be a complicated meal and can’t include more than 5 or so ingredients. Rotate in at least one favorite meal per person every couple weeks. This will keep at least one member of your family from complaining. Follow the same process for sides and desserts. If you have four members of the family and each member includes two meals on the rotating list, you’ve got a list of 8 meals ready to include at any given time.
3. Include a leftover night
Avoid planning a full meal every night of the week. Pick three to four main meals throughout the week and spread them out. Fill the remaining nights with leftovers. Remember not to plan the nights you have other obligations. For example, if you’ve got late soccer practice on Tuesday, use that as your leftover night. Don’t make it complicated. The more complicated your plan is, the less likely you’re going to stick to it.
4. Plan your meals around what’s on sale.
Look at the grocery fliers, and use money-saving apps such as Ibotta to figure out what’s on sale. Then make your meal plan based on those ingredients. This is called “Backwards Planning”. Combined with tip #1, you’re making a list of what you have and what’s on sale and then creating your meal plan. Rather than the opposite which prescribes for making your plan, then deciding what ingredients you need.
5. Have someone else do it for you.
If you are anything like me, you can’t be bothered with a meal plan. The results are a priority, but I don’t enjoy the process. So, I have someone else do it for me. For $12 a month, my meals are planned for me, come with a video tutorial and instruction to fill my freezer with enough meals for the month. I set aside one day each month, cook for a couple hours, and I’m done, other than sides and a few fillers here and there. It’s amazing. If that sounds good to you too, check it out here (affiliate link).
What tips do you have for planning your meals on a budget? Share them in the comments below.