It's time to talk all things meal planning and eating on a budget! You may not think it's possible to feed a large family on a low budget during Shelftember… But I'm here to show you that it's not only doable, but easy!
Hey Freebs Nation! You guys have been begging me for a while to sit down and walk you through eating on a budget. You're in luck because I'm going to show you just how easy it is to feed my growing family of 10 for just $25 a week during #Shelftember.
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See, that wasn't so bad! Meal planning and eating on a budget sounds like a daunting task, but it's really not so terrible once you get in the habit of doing it weekly. Follow how I meal plan for my family of 10 and you'll be a pro in no time!
Quick disclaimer: Having a budget of $25/week isn't the “norm” over here, just something that we do during Shelftember! I usually recommend $100/person/month, starting at $300. You can find more info on that in THIS post.
KEY STEPS FOR EATING ON A BUDGET
It's really quite simple to meal plan and keep a low grocery budget! Follow these easy steps and you'll be on your way in no time!
INVENTORY YOUR FOOD
The first step when I'm meal planning is to inventory my fridge, freezer, and pantry and see what absolutely needs to be used up before it goes bad. Keep in mind, you don't have to inventory your kitchen staples, since those are items you probably always have on hand. It can take a while to do the initial inventory of all your food, but it goes much smoother once that's done — as long as you update it every week!
The fridge is the first place you should look and include in your meals for the week because it's the food that will go bad the quickest. I like to grab a notebook and my favorite erasable pens, then go to town. I'll write down what I have that's either about to expire or is in a partial container that's taking up too much space. (I obviously can use other items in the fridge as well, but I make sure to notate what needs to be used up for the week.)
When I get to the freezer, I look for leftovers that need to be eaten or bulky items that are taking up space. I may have a freezer (or seven) and use them to the best of their abilities! So I'll make sure I'm rotating through my food in there and using up items before they go bad.
Once I get to the pantry, I pay special attention to open items that need to be used up first (like open bags of chips, bread crumbs, pancake mix, you get the idea)! Pantry organization is key to meal planning and eating on a budget. Always keep the items that are open or will be expiring soon where you can see them and easily grab them.
PLAN YOUR MEALS
My next step to meal planning for my large family and eating on a budget is to plan meals for the week based off what I have and need to use. This can sound scary, but it's really not that bad as long as you use my tips! Don't run to the store because you've run out of something that you typically use in a recipe. Instead, find a substitution for it using items that you have at home!
EATING ON A BUDGET AND CHOOSING YOUR MEALS
The first place that I start is by looking at which proteins I have. Some meals come together really easily! Looking at my list above, I see that I have sausage, spinach, pasta shells, and lots of cheese. I know that I'll be able to make spinach-stuffed shells for dinner one night without having to try too hard! #Winning
Sometimes, I'm left with random ingredients I know could go together but don't necessarily know how. When that happens, I look in my recipe binder. It's where I keep ALL of the recipes I've made that my family loves. I have it organized by meat and meal type. It's an easy place to look to get ideas!
I also like to turn to AllRecipes.com (or Google) when I'm left with random items that I'm not quite sure how to put together. It's great because you can put in the items you have and it'll bring up recipes using those exact ingredients. It seriously makes your life so. much. easier.
HOW TO ASSIGN A MEAL TO A DAY
As I'm meal planning, I write down everything I have and will need for each meal. This includes what I'll need to use from my inventory, what I'll need to buy from the store, and what I'll need to do for the meal (such as making rice, baking bread, and roasting veggies).
Then I'll figure out the best day to have that meal. If you look at the list above, you can see we're eating rice twice for the week. We're having white rice with egg rolls and Mexican rice with the taco lasagna. Instead of making two separate batches of rice for each of those meals, I chose to make the egg roll meal with white rice first.
I can grab my Instant Pot and make a double batch of white rice in no time. I'll serve half of it with the egg rolls meal. Then, I'll take the leftovers and transform it into Mexican rice to eat with the taco lasagna meal. When you think this way and repurpose your leftovers, it makes your life so much easier!
Always remember to work in one or two nights for leftovers. That allows us to clean out our fridge weekly and keeps us from being wasteful. Plus, it makes eating on a budget totally doable because you're basically getting a “free” meal out of leftovers!
Pro Tip: Our world changed once I learned how to reheat and repurpose our leftovers properly! Yours will to, so make sure you learn how to eat leftovers and make 'em tasty!
WRITE YOUR MEAL PLAN OUT
Once I know which meals I'm having, and the order of those meals, I write them down on a magnetic dry erase board that we keep on the fridge. My meal planning board is a great way for the whole family to see what we're having for dinner every night and keeps the incessant “what's for dinner?” questions at bay!
Our meal planning printable sheets are another great way to write everything out and keep it organized, so be sure to check those out!
Alright, well there you have it! I'm curious to know what meals YOU would've made using my list of ingredients that I had to work with. Let me know in the comments!
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If you want even more help with your budget, then make sure you check out Budget Boot Camp! It's our awesome online video program that makes getting your finances in order and understanding your budget easy.
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