Besides the big stuff like rent, mortgages, and debt payments, groceries should be the next biggest chunk of your budget. While groceries are essential items, and you need a healthy dose of money dedicated to them, you can still slim down this area of the budget. How, you might ask? With frugal menus and meal planning!
A big part of eating cheaper also means eating healthier. It requires more cooking on your part and could mean changing the way you eat. But really, that’s a win-win!
I’ve outlined my approach to making my own grocery budget and some of my go-to meals that you can use to feed the family on a budget. By the end of the post, you’ll already be writing out next week’s grocery list.
How to make a grocery budget
Before you do any of the shopping or the cooking, you need to make a grocery game plan. Many factors will affect how much you need in the budget – including where you live, how many family members there are, how old your kids are, and how often you eat at home.
For our 4-member household (plus pets!), we spend about $130-$150 each week on groceries, which does include things like pet food, toilet paper, and toiletries. Here’s exactly how I make my budget each week!
1. Determine: How many meals do you need?
In reality, you don’t need to plan for 3 meals, 7 days a week. Look at your calendar and note if there are any days you won’t be eating at home, or you may need to plan for a quick meal.
Consider days where you can eat leftovers or if you’re the kind of family that only needs cereal or yogurt for breakfast. Only plan for the number of meals you actually need.
2. Make a grocery list.
Typically, I make a grocery list once a week. I take my monthly grocery budget and divide it by four to determine how much I have to spend for the week.
Before making my list, you’ll want to take a look at what you already have. If you have any perishables that will go bad this next week, plan to use them and incorporate them into this week’s recipe plan.
3. Refer back to the basics.
Most American diets go heavy on expensive proteins like meat and dairy and processed foods. Not only is this unhealthy, but it’s also expensive!
- The largest portion of the weekly grocery budget should be allocated to fruits and vegetables. When on a budget, go for frozen whenever possible. They have no difference in nutrients, often cost less, and won’t go bad. For more savings, turn to vegetables that are in season. You can even attempt canning!
- Next, you’ll want to buy healthy fats and proteins. I love stocking up on nuts and seeds when they’re on sale. For inexpensive forms of protein, give tempeh and tofu a try. All other meats I buy in bulk. What I don’t need immediately, I freeze.
- Then, you’ll also need your inexpensive staples. Stocking the pantry with staples ensures you always have stuff on hand to make quick meals and stretch out your grocery budget. This includes whole grains like oats, brown rice, pasta, couscous, etc., and things like beans and baking supplies.
4. Go shopping.
Once you have your budget in place, you’ll need to do your best to stick to it while grocery shopping. Always purchase generic brands instead of name brands and look for anything on sale. Avoid prepackaged foods at all costs!
While it may take some time, consider shopping at different stores for different items to find the best deal for the best quality. For instance, Walmart is a great option for non-perishables due to the low price point, but they don’t have the best selection of produce. Meanwhile, Costco offers amazing prices for buying meat in bulk for a family.
Coupons and price matching are also something you’ll want to consider when shopping for groceries. Another great tip to save money is ordering groceries online! This way, you won’t be tempted to grab anything that’s not on the list.
Planning frugal menus: Recipes and ideas
Here are some simple and delicious recipe ideas for any meal of the day – all that fit within a budget. Each one would make a great addition to your family’s weekly frugal menus.
Breakfast ideas for frugal menus
If your family is anything like mine, most weekdays call for quick breakfasts. But, that doesn’t mean you can’t indulge on a budget on weekends or special days.
These little quiches cost just $0.40 each! They’re a wonderful recipe for a grab-and-go breakfast or to serve alongside toast and fruit for a weekend breakfast.
If you like having a hearty meal every morning, why not do some meal prep? These bowls contain eggs, bacon or sausage, broccoli, and roasted potatoes so you can start your day off strong.
While pancake mix is already inexpensive on its own, this is a great healthier alternative. Spoiler alert, the two ingredients are eggs and bananas! And yes, they do taste good.
As a mom, I always try to sneak in vegetables for my boys whenever possible. Luckily, these egg muffin cups make it easy to grab and go while getting a good intake of protein and veggies.
This casserole is designed to be made the night before and then popped in the oven in the morning. It’s made of eggs, sausage, cheese, peppers, and bread, to create a savory French toast-like casserole.
Frugal menus lunch recipes
These lunch recipes are designed to be eaten multiple times a week for the whole family. They’re either quick to make or easy to meal prep.
Pizza and quesadillas are a crowd pleaser at my house, so why not combine them? This simple lunch only costs $1.54 a serving and is customizable to your kid’s taste buds.
With these bowls, everyone in the family can make it just how they like it. Make them for easy lunch meal prep or even as a family dinner.
As far as salads go, this one is very hearty and scrumptious. I love how lentils are the star of the show here, thanks to their super low price point while being packed with healthy protein.
Avocados are a jack of all trades. They add some creaminess to this recipe, so it requires no mayonnaise. Plus, it’s a healthy, filling fat. Pair the avocado with some chicken you buy in bulk.
Oftentimes, I’ll make more chicken than my family needs for dinner. Toss the leftovers with some whole grain rolls and a tangy sauce for quick and healthy school or work lunches the next day.
Dinner ideas for frugal menus
I find that dinner is when you have the most time in the day to really make a delicious meal for the whole family! These recipes are designed to bring families together around the dinner table.
This is an easy meal that only requires a good piece of pork and spices to make a filling meal for the whole family. Throw it in the oven, be patient, and you’ll have plenty of pork for dinner and leftovers.
The fewer ingredients, the better! A classic recipe, shepherd’s pie is one of the most affordable and filling family-sized dinners you can quickly make.
These are always a hit in my household, containing chicken, onions, and peppers. Fajitas are simple to make and can be customized to your family’s preferences.
Every family needs a staple casserole dish. This one comes loaded with broccoli, chicken, and a creamy cheddar mushroom sauce kids will love.
Cheap quick dinners
Sometimes you’re in a rush! But that doesn’t mean you have to eat out or eat processed foods. These foods are equally healthy, quick, and cheap.
The name isn’t lying! This one-pan beef stir fry consists of tender beef strips and chunks of sauce-coated broccoli. It’s sweet and savory.
Two dinner staples, this recipe consists of juicy chicken thighs alongside white rice cooked in vegetable broth and sauteed onions. It’s simple and tasty.
This is a simple recipe that uses cream cheese as a sauce. If you have picky little eaters at home, they’ll enjoy this pasta using leftover ham and mushrooms.
This is a great fallback meal for busy nights. It’s comfort food, freezable, and makes a lot of food for a low price point.
Recipes for frugal vegetarian menus
I didn’t want to leave any of my vegetarian and vegan friends in the dust! Here are some frugal recipes designed for all pallets.
A vegetarian take on the classic Indian dish. I love this recipe because it pretty much requires taking a bunch of cans and spices and throwing them all together in one pan.
Beans are one of the cheapest and healthiest proteins out there. You can make these enchiladas ahead of time for meal prep or cook them right away for the family.
Chili is another awesome recipe for families on a budget. This tempeh take on the classic adds in some extra protein for vegetarians and vegans.
If you need a simple yet filling menu, try this kale and mushroom pasta dish. It uses a few pantry staple items alongside fresh kale (or use frozen) and mushrooms.
That’s it for my frugal menus. These are just some recipes you can try that will fill the family up healthily, all while being on a budget. Happy cooking!