7 easy ways to meal plan on a budget from a mom of 7.
Grocery budgets are getting harder and harder to keep! Try these tips for meal planning on a budget even with a large family!
As I have more kids and as those kids grow, my grocery bill seems to keep creeping up on me. Feeding them leads me to double my recipes. The problem with that is that doubling my recipes doubles my grocery bills.
So, I had to turn to an expert to help me with my family’s budget meal planning! Maybe you struggle with stretching your meal planning budget week after week, trying to meal plan on a budget, or feeding TEENAGERS!!!
I went to a mom who seems to make it look easy, and I collected her family budget meal planning tips to share with you!
Budget, time, and sanity savings with family meal planning!
So, if your kids, teens, and their friends are eating you out of house and home, or, if your family just needs some new and simple ways to stretch that weekly budget, then this is for YOU!
My friend, Betsy, working mom of 7, parent to 6 teenagers, and all-around parenting guru has shared with me some of her new, simple, and CHEAP tips to save your BUDGET, save your SANITY, and save your TIME!!
Best of all, you don’t need any special skills, advance planning, or parenting experience to implement them. These tips can easily integrate into your home to keep you on budget week after week and eliminate the stress of feeding all those mouths and their friends!
Let’s get to it! BUDGET MEAL PLANNING SOLUTIONS FOR YOUR FAMILY
1. OPT OUT MEALS
When you are dealing with 9 people (and sometimes more when their friends and significant others come over), you are bound to find someone who doesn’t like what you cook. In Betsy’s house, she NEVER makes 2 meals.
Instead, her entire family always has an opt-out meal option. If someone is unhappy with the meal or even wants more than is served, he can make himself a peanut butter and jelly sandwich.
It’s impossible to make everyone happy every single night. What is the harm in a little PBJ once or twice a week?
In addition to maintaining mom’s sanity, this also encourages independence as children make their own meals. Plus, kids might be more inclined to try new, different, and healthier meals if they know that PBJ is always the alternative. Stop prepping two different entrees and implement the opt-out.
2. SKIP COUPONS FOREVER
“Forget couponing,” says Betsy. Eventually most couponing will burn you out, will force you to buy the most expensive brand-name item, and eat up your time. In my experience, Aldi always beats other stores’ prices overall.
Although you can find good deals, sales, coupons, and bulk items that might save you on specific items, don’t use precious brain power and time to coordinate a strategy among 6 different grocery stores.
Choosing Aldi, (check out my review of Aldi’s curbside pickup here) mixed with a big box store for household goods, keeps Betsy’s family of 9 and their friends eating healthy and cheap!
In fact, according to Consumer Reports, you can save as much as 50% or more on groceries by shopping at Costco and Aldi! 1
3. DON’T DO IT ALL YOURSELF
Guess what! If you have a house of teenagers who regularly clean out the pantry, then they can pitch in too.
In Betsy’s house, the teenagers are also responsible for meal prep a few times a week as their schedules, school, and work permit.
Teach your teens a few simple, healthy, budget recipes, and know that once or twice a week the pressure is on them to get the meal on the table instead of on you.
Try these easy meals for a crowd for starters!
Take this even further with your little ones. My 4-year-old regularly helps me prep side dishes, my 6 year old can make sandwiches for the family, and all my children are expected to set and clear the table.
Outsource some of that labor to your children! (For more time-saving tips, check this out.)
4. GIVE YOURSELF AN OUT
If you are constantly concerned with finding recipes that are new, healthy, and budget friendly, you are going to burn out…fast.
Schedule once or twice a week where you rely on premade meals, frozen pizza, rotisserie chicken, or premade dump meals so you don’t have to shop, plan, and prep for every meal in advance.
Watch for fundraisers for purchasing premade meals, dump meals, or even grab a few premade meals at Costco or Sam’s Club that you can keep in the freezer.
Having at least one night a week where you aren’t expected to make the meal from scratch can be just the break you need to keep you on your meal planning budget for the rest of the week!
5. SKIP THE MEAT
Choose Meatless Mondays (or another day of the week) to cut out what is likely the most expensive ingredient in your meal: THE MEAT.
Your kids won’t even notice! Have pancakes and eggs for dinner; try French Toast; experiment with sweet potato tacos, or have a baked potato bar.
OR, if you just can’t give up the meat, stretch the meat with other ingredients.
If you are making tacos, replace a pound or two of beef with refried beans. Plenty of other ingredients can be mixed into meals and seasoned just like meat to keep you on a budget.
Hot, simple, meatless (or less meat!) meals are crowd-pleasers and a simple way to stay on your budget every single week! Plus, you might even find that you start integrating meatless meals or meat substitutes more than one day a week.
6. MULTI-PURPOSE YOUR INGREDIENTS
Making marinara sauce? Try it over spaghetti, then baked potatoes the next night, then over lasagna another night. Making shredded chicken? Cook several pounds and put the rest in the freezer to be ready for another day.
Simply adding some complementary ingredients to the same base ingredient can stretch your budget and drastically reduce your planning time. Freeing up margin in your bank account and your brain!
7. DOUBLE (or TRIPLE) UP AND USE THAT FREEZER
Don’t think about what you are going to just eat for tonight. You probably rotate the same recipes anyway.
Don’t make just one batch of your family’s favorite soup, double it up. Now you have one of those frozen meals (Reference 4!) for the next time you are tired of planning dinners, yet your family still INSISTS ON EATING!
Most meals can be doubled or tripled easily and stowed away in freezer bags or your freezer safe containers.
This same theory applies to sale items. If your budget allows, when you catch a good deal on meats or other go-to freezer staples, then purchase several. BUT…if your budget does not allow, move along, and refer to the other tips.
Remember, the tips above are all about making your life simpler rather than stressing yourself about what you can’t do! If you want some ideas for cheap meals for a crowd, look here.
BONUS TIP for family budget meal planning!
BONUS: Obviously, budget-friendly meal planning takes planning and preparation. But Betsy takes it one step further than just meal planning. Teenagers (and even littles) have sooo many events during the week. Basketball games, competitions, practices, recitals, etc. are events you know about in advance.
Therefore, don’t only plan the meals around your budget, but plan them around portability. If you plan for sandwiches on game night or a big pot of chili that everyone can ladle out in between practices, then you will keep yourself from the beckoning of the drive thru window.
Don’t only consider planning the meals, consider how those meals will fit into your daily schedule.
I hope that you found these simple and practical solutions for budget meal planning helpful.
If you are tired of your skyrocketing grocery bill and ever-growing restaurant expenses, try a few of these tips. Let me know whether any work for you!
If you want to know how Aldi can further save your budget and your sanity, click here!
Have any other helpful tips, comment below!