Finances are a tricky thing. You have to make sure that you budget correctly while not getting to stressed out by making sure you have all of your pennies accounted for. Well, lately I’ve been having to penny pinch, and one of the areas I’ve gotten pretty good at is budgeting meals. So I figured I’d share a few of my tips with you today.
- The first thing you need to do is make a meal plan. While you make your plan, go through your freezer, pantry, and cabinets and plan meals based on what you already have. That will cut down on what you have to buy. You always want to make the best of your current resources.Without a meal plan, you typically end up buying a bunch of random stuff that you won’t end up using. You also run the risk of not buying enough items that go together to create meals, so you have to make several runs to the store which, in the long run, will cost you more money.
- Next, make a list of what you need ONLY for your meals. That can includes flour for pie crust or butter for sauce. While you make your grocery list, make sure you keep in mind things you may need for breakfasts and lunches. I typically just make enough at dinner time to have leftovers for lunch the next day or so. I have a motto, “if you don’t need it, don’t get it”. Sure, if you have a little extra cash, go for that bottle of soda, but if you’re tight on funds, stick to the necessities when making your list.
- After that, go through and see which “always have’s” you need or are running low on. These include, but are not limited to, flour, butter, milk, eggs, baking powder, baking soda, salt, spices/seasonings, and any other food items that you use on a daily basis.
- When you go shopping, STICK TO YOUR LIST! One of the main reasons we end up spending so much when we go shopping is because we buy stuff we don’t need. Sure you may think “oh, it’s just a small bag of chips”. Then it turns into several “small” items which quickly adds up. It’s okay to get a small candy at check out, but limit yourself to one thing at the END of your trip. That way, you can make sure you know that you’re only getting one splurge item.
- Stick to your meal plan. If you go off of your meal plan too much, you’re going to use items from other meals. If that happens, you’ll need to go buy more stuff which, you guessed it, costs more money. So do yourself a favor and plan meals that are diverse and that you know you’ll cook.
Now, lets talk about some meals. Now, these aren’t going to be five-star meals, but it’s not Ramen. I do most of my shopping at Walmart, so the pricing on these meals is based on shopping there.
- Spaghetti and meat sauce – Yeah I know, it’s an everyday meal, but it’s a good one to come back to when nothing else sounds good. Now, if you’re trying to go the healthy route, you can go with wheat pasta. You can find the Great Value brand of pasta for about $2. If you want to brand – up, you can find Barilla whole wheat pasta for $2. But if you want to go the original white pasta, you can get the Price First brand for $0.88. Now, for sauce, I had always gone with name brand because it was supposedly so much better. But, brands like Ragu and Barilla are extremely costly, so I started looking for a cheaper brand that was still tasty. I found that the canned Del Monte spaghetti sauce is right up there with the expensive stuff, and it’s only $0.88 for a 24oz can!. I like to spice my spaghetti sauce up with some meat. But not just any meat, I use the Great Value ground Italian sausage. It’s about $2.50 a roll, and is just as good as Jimmy Dean breakfast sausage. I like to freshen it up with a quick salad. Bagged salad is going to run you close to $3 a bag. If you buy a head of whatever kind of lettuce you prefer, you’ll only spend about $1.60, and you just cut it yourself. All in all, you’ll end up spending about $8 if you go with whole wheat pasta, or about $6 if you go with regular pasta. With a pound of pasta, a pound of ground sausage, a can (maybe two if you like more sauce) of sauce, and a head of lettuce, you can easily feel 4 people with some leftovers for lunch the next day.
- Chicken Pot Pie – This one is one of my favorites, its a warm, home style kind of meal, and it feeds a crowd! Now, you want to start out with your pie crust. Find a recipe you like and stick with it. This is where you will need your stock items like flour, Crisco, eggs, etc. But in a ball park figure, a recipe of pie crust that will give you two round, double crust pies, you’ll spend about $1 if that. Again, this figure is based off of Great Value Brand flour, Crisco brand shortening (other brands just don’t compare), and the cheapest eggs and other ingredients. Next you will need your filling. I use chicken breast, but I know some people who prefer thighs. You can use some of both if you’d like. Now, you will want about 1/2 a breast, decent sized, per person you’re planning to feed. You can get a pack of about 7-8 good sized breasts for $10-$12. This may seem like a lot, but remember, you only are going to use 2-3 of those,which will be about $1.20 each breast, so you have a few meals out of that pack. I portion out my chicken into zip locks when I buy it so I can freeze it but only have to thaw what I’m going to use. I get the cheapest brand, and it’s usually about $1.80 – $1.99 per pound which is decent. For the veggies, I stick with Great Value frozen mixed vegetables. Let’s say you’re going to be making two pies. You will need the 16oz bag of vegetables, more or less to your desired amount. You can find these for around $1.50 a bag. Total, for two pies, you’re looking at about $7 – $8. Two pies will feed about 6 people with leftovers.
Well, I’d give you one more meal, but I’m ready for bed so it’ll have to wait for some other time. But now you have an idea of how to cut costs where you can.