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Reader Question: Meal Planning For The Budget

Meal planning and budgets go hand in hand but not everyone takes the time to do them. Although meal planning is a weekly chore the more you do it the easier it will get for you. For people who want to stick to a grocery budget creating a simple meal plan helps them to be creative in the kitchen while saving money in their wallets.

This week’s reader question pertains to my nightly “What’s For Dinner” post on my Facebook fan page. If you follow the blog regularly you know that we have a Grocery Budget of $190 a month.

We work with this number to create healthy, quick, frugal meals whilst trying to get the best bang for our buck. We often have people ask us how to grocery shop because they want to learn how to save money in their budget. It all starts with a commitment otherwise you may make it through the first week and return to your old ways.

You also know that we like to use coupons but only on items that we know we will use in our meals. We have gone back to basics and have saved so much just by cutting out the “wants” and replacing them only with the “needs”. Planning takes time so don’t give up if you feel overwhelmed start slow and work your way up to a full weeks meal plan.

Here is our reader question… 

How do you feed 5 people for $5 and have a complete meal? I’m single and I can’t eat for $5. Even if I buy a pizza slice and pop that costs me $5.50.

What am I doing wrong?

Signed,

Dude, Please Help me

Once a week we like to splurge on something that we want to eat that we wouldn’t normally prepare. I don’t believe in depriving the human body of its desires, especially food. We aim for $5 meals or less but sometimes we spend more but that’s OK  The last thing you want to do is be a Meal Drill Sargent and stress over not creating a $5 meal every night. Cut yourself some slack until you build up a recipe stash that holds all your favourite frugal meals.

Cost Breakdown Of A Meal

I don’t calculate every spice I use to a “T” but I believe I have a good estimate in price. Pasta with a Sauce made with sausages, onions, mushrooms, peppers… will feed 7 people. This is our cost using coupons and flyer sales.

Cost: $5.25 approximately 

  • 2 boxes of pasta sale $1.00-$0.75 coupon=$0.25 each
  • Sausages sale $1.88
  • cans of  Aylmer tomatoes  sale with coupon $0.50 x 2
  • can tomato paste $0.59
  • onion $0.15
  • 1 carrot $0.09
  • fresh mushrooms Sale $0.99
  • 6 cloves of garlic free from father-laws garden
  • 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil Approx $0.25 = $5.45 as I forgot the oil in the original post at approximately $5.25
  • I also tossed in some herbs from the garden, fresh basil and parsley.
Meal Planning For The Budget

Not all our meals are this frugal as it really depends on our meal for the night and how much the ingredients cost us out of pocket. We like to eat quality food so sometimes we have to bite the bullet and deal with paying a higher price. We have worked hard this year creating new recipes and cooking homemade meals.

It’s been fun but we also realized how much convenience foods cost us in the grocery budget. We started posting our shops in The Grocery Game Challenge to help us to be accountable for our grocery budget for 2 and to motivate others to stick to theirs. I hope you will join us and post your weekly shop and save along with us.

We are not full-fledged weekly meal planners but we are working on it slowly and so far so good. Some weeks we have the entire week completed and others we simply throw together using what we have on hand. I print out our free weekly  MEAL PLANNER and sit down with Mrs. CBB to see what meals we can create using our stockpile in the  Pantry and Freezer  and by reviewing our Pantry and Freezer inventory lists.

Once we know what we have to work with we look at the weekly flyer specials and try to match up coupons if we can. Sometimes we just want to try something new so we put the ingredients we need on the shopping list.

My friend Dennis makes a weekly meal plan with his wife and I have learned quite a bit from Dennis who blogs at What to cook?. They cook nutritious meals that don’t compromise on flavour and easy on the budget. We also check out Aunt B on a Budget out of Duncan, British Columbia who always has some great recipes up her sleeve.

Meal planning takes time but after a while I know we will get the hang of it. Eating out vs eating in like the reader suggests they have done will always cost you more money. When someone does the work for you, your pocket-book will pay as it’s no secret that convenience costs money. Learn to cook at home and eat out as a treat once in a while if you are hoping to stick to a grocery budget.

Frugal Meals 

Some of the frugal meals we’ve created and prepared are below. You can also find many other sweet treats and recipes from the CBB kitchen in the Mr.CBB’s Kitchen Category.

I can’t tell you what your budget should be or when you can and can’t eat out, only you can make that decision. When meal planning if you have to ask yourself, “How much should my grocery budget be?”, working out a personal budget first is probably a good place to start.

How do you meal plan in order to stick to your grocery budget?

Quote-Budget and Money

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