Meal Planning on a Budget

Now that you know the basics of planning your meals and have some tools to do so, let’s talk about the budget part of shopping. Each budget is different. I am a modest Dave Ramsey fan (I haven’t drank all the kool-aid in my cup yet, just about half 😉 ) and Dave recommends setting aside 5% to 15% of your monthly budget for food, including eating out. I like to maximize our percentage and cook as many meals as possible at home, including taking lunches to work.

Eating out can be one of the biggest budget drainers you will ever know, hands down. But that is why we are exploring this. If you plan to eat all of your meals at home except 2 or 3 a week, you can get a week’s worth of groceries for the same price as 2 nice meals out. Perspective much? I think yes…not to mention how much better for you a home-cooked meal is. Yum!

You could have all of this (about $80 in groceries, some are not pictured)….

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Ooooor this… About $10. It looks great and it was tasty. But mulitply it by a spouse and you’ve got $20. Plus tip. So, $25. $27 if you’re feeling generous… 🙂

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There’s just not much of a way around it. Eating at home is just better. So what can you do to make sure you stay within your budget whenever you venture out to the store?

Number one… MAKE A LIST! I know you’ve probably heard it a thousand times. But the key to the list is sticking to it. Make the list, check it twice…so you can make sure you’re not naughty, but nice! It’s not nice to blow your budget on things you don’t need. So be good and only buy the things you set out to get.

Number two…ties into number one. Don’t go to the store hungry. I’ve done it and ended up buying a LOT of things I didn’t need because my stomach was doing the shopping instead of my head. So eat something! And do it before you walk into the store everything you see looks glorious and you end up buying it all!

Number three…use a calculator to keep track of how much you’re spending. I remember when I was a kid and some of the grocery carts at the store had calculators built onto them. I thought it was the dumbest thing ever. How naive I was. Most of us have cell phones and those cell phones have calculators built in, so you have no excuse to not do this. The prices are funky with our tax not being included and such, so I like to round up. Better to be under budget than over. For example, if an item is $2.29, I’ll go ahead and add it in as a $3 item. At the end of your list, if you’re over, it’s time to take a look at your cart and see what you can put back. If you honestly can’t do without the item, keep it there, but remember next week’s shopping budget will need to be a little less.

Number four…maximize the meals you prepare. Waste nothing. Do your best to use up all the leftovers. They make for fantastic lunches the next day at work. They also work well on lazy weekends when you don’t feel like cooking. Get creative. Search Pinterest for a good idea on how to use up the beans or the fajita filling. Most items go well on a salad, so there’s an idea. 😉

Time for me to run. Instead of eating out tonight, we are cooking up some tasty fall chili and then heading out to see Interstellar. Have a good Saturday evening, friends!

Do you have any tips or tricks for saving money at the store? Feel free to share with the class!

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