budget meal planning

Budget Meal Planning Made Easy AND Healthy

Who says healthy eating has to be complicated or expensive? Cheap doesn’t have to mean unhealthy- nor does healthy have to be costly. While there are some higher price tags with certain foods, you will be surprised at the cost savings when you trade packaged processed food for fresh whole foods that you prepare yourself.

Let’s review the basics of budget meal planning. That way you have the best of both worlds: organization, healthy meals for you or your family, and most importantly easy.

Here are 5 easy ways to make meal planning work for you on any grocery budget:

budget meal planning

1. Shop once a week with a list.

I am the worst at going to the store for one item and leaving with an entire basket full of groceries. Usually, I see something that looks good or that’s on sale that I impulse buy. Unfortunately, half the time the items a buy require even more purchases or I quickly realize they don’ fit into the week’s plan and I have to spend more time making it work.

Always come up with a budget friendly list before shoppping and stick to it. Plus, if you’re meal is full of whole foods you can usually skip most of the middle aisles at the store and stay along the perimeter to pick up produce, dairy, and meat. That way, you’ll be less tempted buy junk and impulse buys.

Need help making your grocery shopping list? Many free meal plan or low-cost meal planning apps provide you an easy to follow list based on your choices for the week.

Related Article: Tips for Eating a Plant Based Diet

2. Choose a theme for the week.

Meal prep should be straightforward and only take an hour or two (3-4 maximum) to complete. This is done by choosing an overall theme for the week. This doesn’t mean you have to eat the same dish or Mexican all week. Instead, consider having one or two primary proteins that you mix with a variety of vegetables and grains for the week for lunches and dinners. For meals like breakfast, fruit can go great as a side, garnish or in a smoothie.

You can mix up your weekly meals to prevent boredom while still keeping your meals simple. Need some inspiration? Read through our most recent example of a Weekly Meal Plan, complete with recipes and a grocery list.

Related read: 10 Habits of Health That Are Easy to Add to Your Routine

3. Meal prep at the same time every week.

Getting as much meal prepping done at once as possible is ideal for making meals at home as simple as possible. For example, once you get in the rhythm of prepping each Sunday afternoon it will set the tone for the week for feeling organized and eating healthy. If you’re feeling extra motivated, try cooking double batches of your favorite recipes that you can freeze and pull out on nights when you’re in a time crunch and starving.

How often do our schedules get busy and we realize that we don’t have time to cook a meal when we get home? Problem solved, with a little meal prep your always 20 minutes or less away from a fresh meal. Yum!

Need help establishing habits? Check out my Consistent Healthy Habits Resource.

budget meal planning

4. Buy on sale and in bulk.

When making a plan for the week, it can always help to check the sales ads in the newspaper or with an online app. You can then cater your meals around those items.

Buying in bulk is also such a great way to save money each month per serving. Big box stores like Costco or online stores like Thrive can provide a huge cost savings for organic products- particularly items like grains, fruit, and meat. Just don’t get carried away on items that will go bad before you can use them!

Related read: How to Get More Green Leafy Vegetables in Your Diet

5. Invest in a pressure cooker.

I got an instapot pressure cooker last year and it has been a game changer. Whether its a soup, stew, or one pot meal, meals have never been easier. Plus, it’s crazy fast. You can cook a whole chicken or even raw chicken breasts in less than 30 minutes. Pro tip: For family meals or large bulk meals, opt for the biggest size.

I’m always experimenting with recipes for my instant pot and they never disappoint. I highly recomend one. If it’s not within your budget, wait for a sale (Black Friday will be here soon!), look for a used one, or even opt for a traditional crock pot that still has a lot of versatility.

Related read: Monthly Meal Planning Ideas: How to Create a Monthly Meal Planner

There you have it! 5 simple ways to start meal planning on a budget while still hitting the easy button. If you’re feeling overwhelmed by the thought of meal planning, stop and evaluate what is actually limiting you. Often, it’s pre-concieved ideas in our head that we just need to get over by establishing a plan and building new habits.

Whether you want to create a weekly meal planner or monthly meal plan- there’s no reason it can’t be budget friendly.

Which of these tips can you start implementing today? If you are already meal planning, what helps you stay on budget and keep it easy to follow? I’d love to hear!

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