Save Your Grocery Budget with Smart Meal Planning

Cutting back on your food budget doesn't mean you have to sacrifice flavor. These simple tips and meal ideas for budget friendly recipes will help you create a variety of flavorful meals for less money.

Meal Planning Basics
Photo by Meredith.

Purposeful Shopping

The best way to spend less money on food? Plan ahead. Most shoppers waste money on impulse buys or last-minute trips to the supermarket for missing ingredients. When you're ready to put the skids on wasteful cash flow, try these purpose-driven strategies.

1. Plan out menus. Before heading to the store, sit down with supermarket sale circulars. Plan out full menus for the week based on specials and in-season produce.

2. Stick to the list. Always make out a shopping list first. And stick to the list.

3. Save with coupons. Clip coupons from newspapers, magazines, or the Internet for products that you buy routinely. Take advantage of double coupons days or in-store specials.

4. Stock up on sale items. If you can, stock up on frequently used items while they're on sale.

5. Use up what you have. Go through cabinets routinely to use up canned and boxed staples.

6. Buy in bulk when you can. Ingredients like dried beans, pastas, rice, and other grains, nuts, and flours are often cheaper when purchased in the bulk section. Here's why People Who Buy In Bulk Actually Waste *Less* Food.

7. Make it Yourself. You'll save money and eat better by making everyday grocery items instead of buying them. Check out 18 Foods That Are Cheaper And Healthier Homemade.

Eating Ethnic

One of the simplest ways to cut costs is to dine globally. Make it an adventure for your family to try new cuisines. You'll learn fast what most foreign cooks already know: cooking with lots of vegetables and grains keeps food costs low.

  • Fill plates with vegetables and whole-grain starches like brown rice and noodles. Let expensive meats and seafood, if you use them at all, act as side dishes.
  • Play around with spices. Indian cooks add ingredients like coriander, cumin, and turmeric to build depth in dishes that contain large amounts of vegetables or lentils. Here's more: 1 Simple Spice Mix, 8 Thrilling Indian Dishes.
  • Focus on whole grains. Italian cooks stock the cabinet with dry pastas (either regular or whole wheat varieties), and add roasted vegetable sauces, tomato sauce, or a sauce where meat is a minor player.
Vegetable Fried Rice
Vegetable Fried Rice | Photo by naples34102.

Cutting Back on Meat

Meat, poultry, and fish account for the lion's share of most grocery bills. You don't need to give them up altogether, just cut back.

  • Make the usual roast chicken but put out a wide assortment of vegetables, potatoes, and sides. Aim to fill two-thirds of the plate with side dishes and just one-third with meat.
  • Shop for less expensive cuts of meat and use them in stews or soups or casseroles that stretch them further.
  • Serve casseroles as the main course rather than dishing up meat and potatoes.
  • Stretch meat by adding grains and vegetables to main dishes. Add pasta noodles or bulgur to chicken salad. Mix ground beef with beans to fill tacos rather than using meat alone.
  • Serve breakfast for dinner. Omelets, pancakes, and French toast are inexpensive entrees.
  • Try going meatless at one meal each week. Start with simple, well-loved items like macaroni and cheese. Branch out to ethnic repasts like lentil dals or pasta e fagioli.
Cumin and Coriander Chickpea Salad
Cumin and Coriander Chickpea Salad | Photo by mms09.

Check out our collection of Budget-Friendly Recipes.

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