When you hear the phrase ‘meals on a budget’, your mind may automatically thinks in terms of giving up good food to save money.
However, when you budget the right way, you really are just using money more wisely and making the most of your means. When it comes to great-tasting food, you don’t have to be deprived.
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Depending on how often you go shopping and what your food budget is, you may want to make this anywhere from $5 (if you go shopping frequently / are on a smaller budget) to $50 per shopping trip (if you go shopping less often or have more room in your budget.)
Now, let me clarify: I am not saying to go crazy and buy everything on sale.
What I am saying, is if you see ingredients/food items on sale that you know you will use for a recipe in the future, although it may not be on your current shopping list, it’s good to have some room in your budget to stock up on them.
That way when you make meals that have more expensive ingredients, you will have saved money by getting them on sale.
When possible, you can look through weekly ads in advance to see what’s on sale before you go shopping. (Keep in mind though, that not every sale is advertised in a store’s ad.)
NOTE: You want to make sure that any sale items you buy will last until you use them. (Otherwise you would be wasting money.) Many foods can be successfully frozen, but you can always do a quick online search to double-check if a food freezes well, and the best way to freeze it.
A lot of recipes you can get away with using dried spices, but there are some where you will want to use fresh herbs for a better flavor. In this case, I would suggest freezing any extra fresh herbs you purchase, so you have some for the next recipe you’ll need them for.
In some cases, you may be able to save money by using a frozen or canned version of an ingredient instead of fresh, (or vice versa depending on which is less expensive/in season at the time,) or a different ingredient altogether.
If possible, read reviews/comments from others who have made recipes that you want to add to your meal plans. This will indicate to you if the recipe is worth making, give you ideas on substitutions you can make, and give you other helpful info on the recipe that you wouldn’t know otherwise.
Of course, not every comment and review is going to be from someone with the same taste/opinion as you. But usually when there are multiple comments saying the same things, such as “everyone loved this” or “it was too salty, use 1/2 the recommended salt,” it’s good to take these things into consideration.
You can often add some type of salad, vegetables (that are in season or just inexpensive in general,) and/or bread. I personally love making homemade bread in a bread machine (such as this one) with hardly any effort.
Adding inexpensive sides will make your main dish last longer, which can make the most of your budget.
There’s nothing wrong with planning meals that have ingredients that cost more than other meals. However, it’s wise to alternate these with meals that are less expensive. This makes it easier to stick to your grocery budget.
Try picking 2-3 places in your area to shop each time you need groceries. I personally like shopping every 2 weeks, although I have temporarily switched this to once a week until after I have my baby- I’m in my third trimester right now- because I get worn out doing too much.
Usually I’ll go to 3 stores, in this order: Dollar Tree, Aldi, and then either Save a Lot, Wal-Mart or Tops for the 3rd, depending on what items remain on my list.
Going to a few different places gives you the chance to get items on sale that may cost more elsewhere. You can even use a farmer’s market for one of your stops, depending on the time of year and what’s available in your area.
For myself personally, I get the majority of my items at Aldi. I like that they have a lot of organic food at the one I go to for a good price. They don’t have a lot of items with artificial colors and flavors so I feel better about shopping there. However, there are a few items I like getting at Dollar Tree that I find to be the best ‘bang for my buck.’
And usually there are a few things left I need to get someplace else that those 2 stores don’t carry. But by going to a few well-picked places I save the most money possible.
If I purchased everything at one store, I’d be spending at least 50% more.
Look at the options in your area and pick a few main places to shop that work with your personal budget and the type of groceries you buy.
So those are 7 ways to enjoy great-tasting meals on a budget. By preparing in advance and cooking and shopping wisely, you can have amazing food and still save money.
P.S. Don’t leave without grabbing your free Printable Flavorful Meal Plan Guide!
Have a great day and thanks for reading!