Meal planning, my budget’s secret weapon

Meal planning is budget’s secret weapon.  Not only does it save me TONS of money, but it helps me to minimize waste, while also doing some future planning so I can stock up whenever I see a great sale.  My strategy is SO much more than just a meal plan, let me me show you how this plays into my shopping strategy.

“He who fails to plan, is planning to fail.” ~ Sir Winston Churchill

 

Step 1:

Start by looking at what items you already have.  Take a good look through your fridge and freezer and start building out a list of things that you need now, or will need shortly in the future.  I personally use the shopping list feature in the Flipp App. 

Step 2:

Take a good look through all of your local shop fliers, and start “clipping” items that you use regularly.  If you are using the Flipp App these clippings will all compile under your shopping list.

What I love about Flipp is that it will easily compare items for me.  For this example ground beef was “on sale” at two stores, in my clipping it was easy to spot which store had the better deal.  When this happens I will screen shot the item to use for price-matching at the till.  More on that here.

Step 3:

Look through any of the cash-backs app that you might have (I have compiled a list that works for Canadians here).  Take note if any of those items have already been clipped in Flipp, if they are make a mental note that this might be an especially great deal.  If not, you can easily use Flipp’s search function to see if that item is on sale locally.

Really pay attention here, because even though there is a cash back offer, doesn’t make the item a good deal.  You will get more used to spotting a good deal with practice, and it takes a solid month or two to really recognize a good deal when you see one.

Step 4:

Take the sale meat of the week and start building out your meal plan so that it features that item 2-3 times.  This allows you to maximize the sale, and stretch your budget.  Depending on how great the deal is, it might be worth grabbing an extra to help stock the freezer.

For example, last week pork loins were dirt cheap, and BBQ sauce was on for $1/bottle – no brainer!  Pulled pork and buns was on the menu!  We ate pulled pork twice through the week, and since the pork loin was so large, I added an additional freezer bag of dinner-ready pulled pork for a quick meal later.

Step 5:

When I get this far, I open up my bullet journal to my meal ideas dashboard (created by combining some ideas from this blog and the Bullet Journal Junkies group on Facebook).

meal ideas

meal ideas dashboard

This dashboard is a place where I store stickies of the meals we enjoy, broken up into categories by protein option (I have a ton of meal ideas on my actual dashboard, but I wanted it to be easy for you to get the idea).  I pull out 2-3 tabs that feature the sale meat and pop them into my plan, as shown below…  For that particular week ground beef was a great deal, so I used it in zucchini boats, spaghetti and lasagna, rounding the week out with chicken and prawns so we have some variety.

The meal plan

Stock-Piling Tips:
  • Fresh food stock-pile tip: A Foodsaver comes in SO handy (if you don’t have one, freezer bags also work). I will often come home with enough fresh meat for the week, PLUS whatever extras my budget will allow.   The Foodsaver keeps things fresh much longer than my freezer bags ever did, which always saves money.  So when ground beef it is the lowest price I have seen it in two months, I will get 10 or more pounds to freeze. 
  • Stock Pile Tip #2:  My goal when I shop is to use at leave at least $25 in my weekly grocery budget for stockpiling items to use later. My budget is $150/week, which means I do my best to cover that weeks needs on $125 and use the remaining $25 for non-perishables or freezer items. 

Our family are creatures of habit when it comes to breakfast and Lunch so they are always something simple and fast. Breakfast is typically eggs, cereal or oatmeal, so I make sure to have those on hand at all times. For lunch I make one giant pot of soup in my instant pot each week (I use this one), or plan on simple sandwiches and that’s it. My meal planning is done.

  • Quick Soup Side note – Put your soup fresh off the boil into clean canning jars (I use these ones), put the lids and bands on, and allow them to cool on the counter until the top seals.  Then, pop them directly in the fridge, it helps them to stay fresh for the full week.  I always eat the jar that hasn’t sealed first – there always seems to be one because I reuse old lids.
My final thoughts:

My last tidbit is that when you are out doing your shopping trip for the week keep a running tally on your calculator so that you have no surprises at the till.  Just because  an item is on your list does not mean you have to buy it if you are over budget. Prioritize your ‘nice-to-haves’ from your ‘must-haves, and always buy the essential items first.  If you have money left at the end, go ahead an add in the non-essentials like ice cream and chocolate 😉  Happy meal planning everyone!

Tell me about your favorite meal planning tips in the comments below.  How do you stay on budget in the grocery store?

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Comments 2

  1. Love your tips! I also find that keeping a freezer inventory on my fridge (or in my bullet journal! ;)) helps me stay on top of what’s in there and reassess my stock pile often! Otherwise I forget about all the good things I have stashed in there.

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      I have been thinking about trying out something similar. I do find now that we don’t eat out, we manage better with just the fridge freezer, so I have a pretty good idea about what is in there now. I did start this endeavor by cleaning it totally and organizing it well so its easier to see at a glance my inventory. My big deep freeze is a totally different ball game…

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