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Are you looking for ways to save time, money and energy in the kitchen? If so, frugal meal planning may be for you. By planning your meals in advance, you can make sure that you have all the ingredients on hand to make nourishing and delicious meals. It’s also a great strategy for those of us who are super busy.
A weekly meal plan is a great way to get started with frugal meal planning. You can map out what you’ll be eating for each meal of the week, and then shop and cook accordingly.
However, meal planning can also be a bit of a challenge. For one thing, it can be hard to find the time to plan and prepare meals in advance. It’s also easy to get into a rut, making the same few dishes over and over again. Or trying to figure out what to do with leftovers or how to use up that last bit of celery before it goes bad. But with a little effort, meal planning can be a great way to save time and money while still eating well. And who knows, you might even find a new favorite recipe along the way.
To make things even easier, I’ve created a free frugal meal planner PDF that you can use to plan your meals. Simply print it out and fill in the blanks with your own meal ideas. Or save time and use my sample meals and grocery shopping list.
Keep reading for more tips on how to make frugal meal planning work for you!
Introduction to meal planning
Meal planning means being smart and resourceful with the food you have on hand. It can be as simple as using up leftover ingredients from dinner to make a lunch the next day. Or, it could be meal prepping simple meals in advance so that you have them ready to go during busy weeks. Frugal meal planning is all about being creative with what you have and making the most of your resources. And, it’s a great way to save money on your grocery bill. So, if you’re looking to cut down on your spending, frugal meal planning is a great place to start.
One of the simplest ways to save food dollars is to cook at home more often. Eating out is convenient, but it’s also expensive. By cooking meals from scratch, you can control how much you spend and what goes into your food. Plus, you’ll likely end up with leftovers that can be used for another meal later in the week.
The benefits of frugal meal planning
Frugal meal planning is a great way to save money on groceries while still eating healthy, delicious meals. By planning ahead and taking advantage of sales and coupons, you can get the most bang for your buck at the grocery store.
Some additional meal planning benefits include helping you:
- achieve your health goals
- make grocery shopping easier and more focused
- improve your nourishment
- save time on food preparation
In addition, frugal meal planning can help you avoid wasting food. When you plan your meals in advance, you can make sure that you use up all of the ingredients before they go bad. And, since frugal meal planning often involves cooking in bulk, you’ll always have leftovers on hand for quick and easy lunches and dinners. So if you’re looking to save money and time in the kitchen, frugal meal planning is the way to go.
3 tips for getting started with frugal meal planning
Not sure where to begin with meal planning? Here are a few tips to get you started:
- Plan ahead. Before you go grocery shopping, take some time to look at your pantry and fridge and see what ingredients you already have on hand. This will help you avoid buying things you don’t need, and it will also give you a good starting point for your meal planning each week.
- Make a list. Before you go grocery shopping, sit down and make a list of all the meals you plan to cook for the week. Compare with the list of ingredients you already have on hand. The grocery list will help you stay focused and avoid impulse purchases.
- Plan for leftovers. When you’re meal planning, be sure to include some meals that will generate leftovers. Having leftovers on hand is a great way to save time and money – you can either eat them for lunch the next day or freeze them for an easy meal later on.
Frugal meal planning ideas
There are endless possibilities when it comes to frugal meal ideas. To get you started, here are a few of my favorite frugal meals, which you can use for lunch, dinner, and even breakfast:
Lunches and Dinners
- Spaghetti and meatballs: This classic dish is always a hit. Plus, it’s easy to make ahead and freeze for future meals. Buy pre-made frozen meatballs and save time (buy plant based meatballs for a filling, vegan meal). Then it’s just a matter of cooking them into jarred spaghetti sauce and serving with pasta.
- Roasted chicken: A whole roasted chicken is a great way to get multiple meals out of one cooking session. Simply roast the chicken and use the leftovers for salad, soup or sandwiches throughout the week. Or buy a whole Rotisserie chicken and save even more time.
- Quinoa bowl: This healthy and filling dish can be made with whatever veggies you have on hand. Simply cook the quinoa and top with your favorite vegetables, protein (see Roasted Chicken above) and dressing.
- Dutch Oven Chicken Noodle Soup: You can meal prep this comforting soup by chopping and freezing all the vegetables and using leftover Rotisserie chicken. Then it’s just a matter of sautéing the veggies and adding the rest of the ingredients to the pot on the day you’ll be cooking it.
- Bean Enchiladas: This vegetarian dish is hearty and satisfying. Plus, it freezes well, so you can make a big batch and enjoy it for weeks to come. Just combine refried beans, taco seasoning and cheese, and fill and wrap flour tortillas with the mixture. Freeze. Then it’s just a matter of pouring enchilada sauce and shredded cheese over them and baking until it’s bubbly. Easy!
- Slow cooker chili: This is a great meal to make on a busy weeknight. Simply throw all the ingredients into your slow cooker and let it do its thing. Serve with some shredded cheese and sour cream on top for a delicious meal. Use leftovers as a topper for slow cooker baked potatoes.
- Chickpea Salad: A simple vegan option perfect for Meatless Mondays, this salad is simple and versatile. Serve it wraps, sandwiches or as a protein packed side dish.
- Mason jar salads: Mason jar salads are perfect for on-the-go meal planning. They’re an easy way to get a variety of nutrients in your diet. Plus, they’re convenient and time-saving.
- Pumpkin Pie Overnight Oats: Meal prep this recipe by combining all the ingredients in a container and refrigerating it overnight. Instant breakfast the next day!
- Blueberry Cheesecake Overnight Oats: So good, tastes like dessert for breakfast!
- Breakfast smoothies: Too busy for breakfast in the mornings? Prep some smoothie packs beforehand and in the morning, just blend and go! And make sure to check out these convenient and delicious options from SmoothieBox by clicking below.
Free frugal meal planner PDF
This FREE frugal weekly meal plan PDF can help you:
- Get organized and meal plan for the week
- Eat satisfying meals without spending a lot of money
- Enjoy cooking delicious, homemade meals for your family
- Spend time with your loved ones around the dinner table
This downloadable, printable PDF is useful for frugal meal planning for a family of 4, and includes:
- 1 week of sample meals for breakfast, lunch, dinner and snacks
- Blank 1 week meal plan
- Sample grocery shopping list
- Blank shopping list
Meal planning equipment
For frugal meal planning, a few key pieces of equipment will make your life much easier:
- A good, sharp knife is an essential for any kitchen, and can save you time and money in the long run.
- A cutting board, preferably one that is dishwasher safe, is also a valuable asset.
- A set of measuring cups and spoons is another must-have; invest in a good quality set that will last you for years.
- A slow cooker can be a lifesaver on busy nights.
- An air fryer can help you not only with cooking but they’re excellent for reheating foods that have a crispy texture, like fried chicken.
- Reusable containers with different size compartment further simplifies meal planning for you.
With just a little bit of planning, you can throw together a healthy and delicious meal with very little effort. Investing in these few key pieces of equipment will help you to save time and money in the kitchen.
Meal planning services
As we have just seen, frugal meal planning can be a great way to save money on groceries. There are a number of online services that can help you plan your meals and make frugal choices.
In addition, frugal meal planning can help you save time by providing you with pre-planned meals and eliminating the need to make multiple trips to the grocery store. If you are looking for a frugal way to save money on groceries, consider signing up for one of the many frugal meal planning services available online. Just click on each banner for more information on the services:
So, will you give meal planning a try? It’s not as hard as it seems and there are plenty of resources to help get you started. And once you do, you may be surprised at how much easier (and cheaper) it is to eat well.
I hope this ultimate guide to frugal meal planning has helped make the process a little less daunting. Good luck!
Hi! I’m Melissa, Registered Dietitian and mother of two dragons. When I’m not talking nutrition you can find me rolling around the floor with my kids, sewing, crafting, cooking or missing the 90s (seriously, music just isn’t the same). Read More…