Learning how to meal plan is a relatively easy task, but it can get tedious, especially when you’re trying to make a cheap weekly meal plan or feed your family on a budget.
These simple meal planning ideas will make creating a budget-friendly menu a lot more manageable.
What to Expect:
- How to create a weekly meal plan for low-income families
- Tips to save money on your meal plan
- Simple steps to help you stop wasting food and money
- Sample weekly menu on a budget
I’m sure you’ve noticed how expensive grocery shopping has become. But the good news is that if you plan ahead, you can save money at the grocery store. Meal planning is all about saving time and money, so we are going to show you how to get started with this process!
How to Create a Weekly Meal Plan for Low-Income Families
A big problem for low-income families is knowing what to make for dinner. They need to find a new recipe, buy the ingredients and then make it in a reasonable time. Sometimes they even need to juggle cooking with everything else they need to do that day.
The best way for these families is to use a meal planner. You can create one with this free printable meal planner.
To get started meal planning, follow these simple steps to create your weekly meal plan on a budget:
- The first step is to decide how much money you can spend each week and what kind of food you like most.
- Next, brainstorm a list of your family’s favorite recipes that are easy to make (bonus points if they only require one pot or pan).
- Add your schedule to your weekly meal planner. For example, if you have to take your son to baseball practice on Monday and Wednesday, mark those days with a B so you know you’ll need to make a fast, easy recipe that night.
- Review your local grocery store’s weekly sales. Is there anything on sale that you could prepare this week?
- Now add the recipes one by one to your printable weekly meal planner and make your shopping list. Don’t forget to check your pantry and freezer to make sure you don’t already have some of the ingredients.
- As you add your meals to your meal planner and grocery list, check that you have enough of everything for the whole week, including breakfast and snacks.
Tips to save money on your meal plan
Make Freezer Meals
Freezer meals are also a great way to save time and money on dinner. When ingredients are on sale, buy double the amount. Then, prepare two of the recipe and freeze one portion.
I love using the MyFreezEasy meal planning app. It has several meal plans that you can choose, based on your dietary needs or cooking preference. In addition, it has delicious freezer-friendly recipes with step-by-step, easy to follow instructions.
Use the freezer meal planning worksheet to label your freezer meals.
Reduce Your Spending Per Meal
To calculate your food budget and avoid wasting food by preparing too much or not enough, use what’s called “spending per meal.”
For example, if your food budget is $50 for the week and you prepare five dinners and eat leftovers on two evenings, your “per meal” cost of each prepared dinner is 50/5, or $10/meal.
You can also use that calculation for lunches and breakfasts.
On days when I cook full meals for my family of four, I typically aim to spend less than $1-2 per meal on breakfast, less than $5 per meal for lunches, and less than $10/meal on dinners.
Batch Cook your meat
If you want to save time while cooking, it can be helpful to prepare large portions and then freeze some of them for later use. I love batch cooking chicken and freezing pre-cooked portions for additional meals.
Buy in Bulk
You can reduce your spending even more by eating bulk foods, cooking with pastas and rice, and buying in-season produce and freezing it for later.
Also, as you grocery shop, compare each item on your list to the prices of items you find while shopping. Allow for some wiggle room for sales or items that are a little more expensive but healthier.
If you see an item that you regularly make, buy it in bulk and freeze it, if possible. Stock up on items when they are on sale, and consider getting a membership to a wholesale club like Costco or BJ’s so that you can get larger quantities of items at once and save money on per-unit costs.
Watch for coupons in the newspaper and magazines that you receive in your mailbox every week.
Related Tips to Save Money
- Use these tips to save money on meat at the grocery store.
- Here are simple tips to stock your pantry for less money.
4 Simple Steps to Help You Stop Wasting Food and Money on Unhealthy Meals
- Plan your meals in advance for the week so you know what to buy at the grocery store.
- Create a grocery list with everything you need to get and stick to it.
- Create a meal plan for the week and buy only what is needed for that specific meal so that you are not wasting food or ingredients or money by having more food than needed on hand at any given time.
- Make sure that you have healthy options at home so you don’t end up ordering takeout or fast food when you’re hungry and don’t have time to cook something healthy.
Sample Menu for One Week on a Budget
It can be difficult to determine how much food you need for the week and what it will cost.
The average American spends around $1,300 per year on groceries, which translates to roughly $150 per month. A recent study revealed that the average person who eats fast food spends about $150 per month on it as well. However, if you are able to completely cut fast food out of your diet and replace it with healthier options like home-cooked meals, you could save up to $18,000 over the course of one year!
There are a lot of factors that go into determining the cost of a meal. Grocery store items for things like produce, grains, and meat will affect your budget the most.
This plan is made up of breakfasts, lunches, dinners, and snacks. The grocery store items in this sample meal plan are affordable and easily available at most grocery stores.
Your grocery bill can vary wildly depending on what kinds of ingredients you buy. While it might be tempting to buy all the fresh produce, meat, and dairy that you can find at the store, it’s important to consider the cost of these items.
A meal plan provides a great framework for organizing your grocery list and keeping your shopping budget down.
Many people don’t know how to eat healthily on a budget because they believe it’s expensive to eat organic or healthy food all the time. But you can still eat healthy without breaking the bank, as shown in the sample meal plan below.
- 1 cup of oatmeal with raisins or walnuts at $0.45/cup or less
- 1 cup of fruit at $1.00/cup or less (or an apple)
- Greek yogurt with fruit at $1.00 or less
- Egg and toast
- Egg sandwich
- A sandwich on two pieces of bread with lunch meat and cheese, 1 side dish, 1 fruit, and 1 drink for $4.00 or less
- A salad with a cup of cottage cheese for $4.00 or less
- A pasta dish or lean meat over rice
- Omelet with vegetables and fruit
- Savory chicken sausage with eggs
- Shrimp tacos with cabbage slaw
- Salmon with lentils and vegetables
- Chicken thighs with Butternut Squash Puree
- Vegetable quiche
- Breakfast burrito
When creating a cheap weekly meal plan, take care to plan your grocery shopping and meals so you’re getting the best deals and not overspending on food.
With a little planning, you can eat healthy meals on a budget.