I have always strived to have a meal plan, use the meal plan to grocery shop, and be able to keep our food budget in a range that didn’t completely tank our bank account. Groceries is one area we can control how much we spend. It’s not always easy and sometimes it means we go without snacks, but it is possible. When our food budget has gone of the rails either because life exploded with busyness or I just go lazy in the planning, the first thing I do is put myself back in check and get back to meal planning.
If life has meal planning bogged down and you are just tired. Simplify your meal plan. Sandwiches, quesadilla, spaghetti, rotisserie chicken from the grocery deli, salads. Make your go-to’s easy peasy.
While knowing where to shop can help a budget and watching sale ads can also help, it doesn’t always work for me to zip twenty minutes over to the next town to go to Aldi’s. The gas I spend to get there could have been used for my groceries here. The same is true of Sam’s Club or Costco. I firmly believe how I use the groceries I do have is as important, if not more important where I get my groceries.
If I know how to meal plan, stick to the meal plan when grocery shopping; make meals from scratch, and know how to turn one meal into another. This right here is the gold of making a grocery budget stretch.
We have themed nights throughout the week. Monday – Soup/Casserole, Tuesday – Mexican, Wednesday – Sandwiches, Thursday – Pasta, Friday – Pizza or Calzones, Saturday – Grilling/Sheet pan meal, Sunday – leftovers. My favorite part of themed nights is it allows me to have variety while still eating well throughout the weeks and still allows you to be budget friendly.
Every so often I make a list of my family’s favorite meals and rotate them through the meal plan. If my family won’t eat it, then I’m not going to put the finances or the physical effort into it. For example, Mark loves spicy stuff, my kids kinda do, but they want to feel their tongues when they’re done. So I make taco night mild and give Mark a bottle of hot sauce. There was a season we wanted to be a family that like brussels sprouts. We didn’t. I stopped buying them.
There have been times we have really had to pinch our pennies. During these times I would have a meat of the week. I would buy a big beef roast cut it in half, then crockpot half of it for pulled beef sandwiches or to use in casseroles, tacos or all three if I had a big enough half. The rest of the roast I would cut up for stir fry meat, small steaks to grill, kabobs, whatever we wanted to use the meat for. Then the next week I would get a couple of rotisserie chickens from the deli or I would get a couple of big whole chickens and roast them. One for a meat and potatoes kinda meal, using the leftovers for chicken and biscuits, hand pies, something simple. I would roast the second chicken on the same day and pull the meat off of it for casseroles, tacos, sandwiches or what have you.
Rollover meals are one of my favorite ways to cut our budget. Taco night can be used later in the week for taco salad or taco soup. Shredded chicken we use for sandwiches, quesadillas, chicken and biscuits, and stir fry. Spaghetti/pasta night I leave the noodles and sauce/meat separate when we put the leftovers away. Spaghetti noodles can be used to make a Lo Mein stir fry, the sauce/meat I use for pizza night with our favorite homemade pizza crust recipe. There are so many ways to get creative with leftovers so it doesn’t feel like you are eating the same thing five days in a row. But, it is a serious budget game changer. It can make a week of groceries turn into a two weeks of meals.