Everyone has to eat, right? I grew up in a large family full of boys and my mother really had to stretch every dollar to be able to keep us all fed, clothed and have money for our home, hobbies and activities. When my Hubby and I got married we were poor college students and we were forced to find ways to make our money stretch for our food budget as well. My childhood growing up seeing my mother budget for groceries and then my own experience as a young wife has lead me to develop an easy to follow and well rounded way to plan your meals that is budget friendly.
First I start out with a calendar, I go online and find a calendar that I think is cute and print it on my home printer. Calendarlabs.com is a great resource for free printable calendars. I mark out the dates that I will be buying groceries this can be based on when you get paid or when you have time. Make sure to mark out any special meals you will be having such as holidays, birthdays or nights out. This ensures you will buy just the right amount of food.
I plan my meals for a week to 10 days at a time, even up to 2 weeks around the holidays so I can avoid long lines and packed stores. And, I set a weekly budget, which is capped at $120 for the three of us. Now you can spend much less but it takes work to gather coupons and other discounts. I wish I could coupon but I don't have the time or patience to do it so my meal planning and budgeting is the best I can do for my family right now. Maybe one day I will learn and actually try couponing.
Now first things first, plan your meals, put foods you like and don't be afraid to make a large meal and eat it for leftovers the next day. For example, I will make Crock-Pot Chicken Tortilla Soup and we will eat the leftovers the next night
Once you have made your meal plan for the next week, you can make your grocery list. I always start with the basics, milk, bread, juice. Then I go through the calendar and write the ingredients I need for each meal. Now when you plan meals there will be things that you already have. I buy ground beef in bulk, so when I meal plan I do not need to buy ground beef.
My grocery list will look like this:
Now when you buy groceries try not to buy prepackaged foods, they are more expensive than their individual ingredients. It doesn't take too much more time to make meals from scratch and it also will taste so much better.
****Tip: I purchase my meats from a grocery store's meat department. There are two grocery chains near my home and they generally switch off on meat sales. I can usually pick boneless skinless chicken breasts for $1.99 or less as compared to most prepackaged chicken breasts that sells for $2.50 or more a pound.****