Budget meal planning for families can be a challenge.
Convenience foods loaded with empty calories and extra fats are so tempting to feed our families in the chaos of a hectic schedule.
Yes, prepackaged foods are convenient, but we know deep down they are not good for our families.
I’m sure we are all guilty of feeling like just throwing our money at something to get dinner done. Whether it’s the fast food line or the pizza delivery person, we just want it over and done with by the end of the day.
But, we are wasting precious time when we are not around the dinner table together! Our children are only young once!
But how do you plan easy healthy meals?
With a little meal planning and strategic shopping, you can plan healthy meals for your family without breaking your budget.
Here are eight tips to on how to plan easy healthy meals on a budget.
1. Plan Around Your Calendar
Before you plan your family’s meals for the week, check the calendar.
Budget meal planning starts with your time restraints. Be realistic about how much time you have to prepare each day’s meal.
If you don’t plan ahead you’re more likely to pick up fast food on your way home, which is never healthier than a home cooked meal and often more expensive, too.
This is my biggest tip for budget meal planning. As they say, “you plan to fail, when you fail to plan.”
2. Check Your Pantry
As you plan your meals for the week, check your pantry to see what items you already have on hand.
Budget meal planning is best utilized by using ingredients you already have. This will save time, money and cut down on food waste
Using ingredients you already have will save time, money and cut down on food waste.
Download this handy Kitchen Inventory Sheet to get you organized!
Have you ever heard of this FREE recipe tool from SuperCook? Just enter a couple ingredients you have on hand and it’ll produce several fun 30-min or less recipes!
It was a game-changer for my family when I was looking at our ingredients and couldn’t seem to put them together into a quick and easy recipe. Oh, and the tool is FREE also. Boom!
You learn how to plan easy healthy meals, buy learning the tricks from other mommas! Take the guess work out of coming up with a unique meal on your own. Inputting your ingredients into an app, takes less time than wracking your brain to come up with a dish. And it’s less stressful too!
3. Make A Complete List
Taking the time to make a thorough list and write down every item you’ll need for each meal will help you save money when budget meal planning.
Check the actual recipe (don’t rely on your memory) for each ingredient.
An unplanned trip to the grocery store later to get that one ingredient you forgot is sure to cost you extra money along the way. Not just in time and gas, but it has been scientifically proven that each trip to the grocery store costs you more. The shelf displays and end caps are all organized to entice you to make an impulse buy.
Limiting your shopping trips (and sticking to your list) will reduce your unnecessary spending.
4. Buy Meat in Bulk
Meat is usually the most expensive part of a meal. When budget meal planning, purchase larger packages of meat that are sold at a lower price per pound will save you money.
To determine what is a good deal you’ll want to keep track of prices of the meat your family often buys and determine what is the lowest price for that cut.
We call this the “Stock Up Price” and when it is at this lowest price, you “Stock Up” and fill your freezer with as much as your budget will allow. Then only buy it when you see it at that lowest price again.
Search your area for a local meat store (in Tampa we recommend Good Earth), check prices at warehouse stores like BJs, or Sam’s. If buying in bulk is too much for your budget, find a friend to split a large order with (you’ll be helping their budget, too).
We have several other ways to specifically Save Money On Meat.
5. Buy In-Season Fruits and Vegetables
Buying In-season produce at its lowest price is best for budget meal planning.
In-season produce is always at its lowest price. Check our monthly What To Buy Guides for the current in-season produce and incorporate those into your meals.
Cabbage is one of our go to ingredients when we plan easy healthy meals. It costs less but makes a lot for our large family.
As your budget allows, buy extra produce when it’s in-season and freeze it for later use.
Don’t miss these four other ways to Save Money on Produce.
6. Stock up on Frozen Fruits and Vegetables When They’re On Sale
Healthy meals always include produce, so make sure you always have them on hand is key to healthy budget meal planning.
An easy way to keep produce on hand is to buy frozen. This is one way on how to plan easy healthy meals on a budget since frozen is usually cheaper than fresh. Plus, it won’t go bad on us forcing us to throw away money.
Check your favorite store’s sales ad before you shop each week, and be sure to clip any coupons to reduce a sale price even more.
Plus, frozen produce coupons are almost always available.
7. Make It Homemade
Prepared meals and sauces contain preservatives and extra salt.
You can make many of the same foods cheaper and healthier than the prepared version when you are budget meal planning.
Keep things on hand like flour, oatmeal, eggs, butter, and cornstarch to thicken sauces and make your own gravies.
Pinterest is full of delicious recipes like pasta sauces and treats that you can make instead of buying. Cutting out the middleman is one way how to plan easy healthy meals on a budget.
Do you realize how quick and easy it is to make Whipped Cream instead of buying it in a pressurized can with all those preservatives?
Yes, I cheat and use a $30 hand blender, but in 2 minutes flat you can have the most delicious whipped cream ever, at a fraction of the cost too!
8. Cook Extra and Plan To Eat Leftovers
Plan a night off from cooking by intentionally making extra food to eat as leftovers. This is one way on how to plan easy healthy meals.
Turn leftover baked chicken into a Chicken Caesar Salad, a soup or even Chicken Salad Sandwiches.
Leftovers don’t have to be boring with a tiny bit of forward thinking when you are budget meal planning.
Actually planning on eating those leftovers means you won’t be wasting your money. And that means you’ll be a master of how to plan easy healthy meals on a budget.
Check out these 25 recipes that use leftovers!
I hope you can see how a little bit of budget meal planning and strategic shopping can help you have healthy meals for your family without busting your budget (or choosing those unhealthy convenience alternatives).
Adopting these 8 easy strategies will save you money and keep healthy meals on your dinner table.
And when you know how to plan easy healthy meals, you can not only stay on top of your budget, but you can spend more time around the dinner table with the most important people you love!