Meal Plans – Recently Married (with Debt) published its most popular article to date – Meal Plans Kick Grocery Lists’ A$$. In that article I talked about how my wife leads the family effort to save money by first making meal plans, usually a one week plan, assessing what ingredients we have, and THEN making a list of what we need.
By approaching grocery shopping with a meal plan, you take away a lot of the opportunity for unneeded impulse purchases.
Basically, it’s a grocery list for smart people.
My wife recently came home from a grocery trip very excited. She had accomplished a two week spending record – two weeks worth of meals for $200 (if you recall, I had mentioned that our weekly limit was $200).
I had also written that she was getting good at doing it for $150, so she was very excited to have bought food for four to last two weeks for $100 a week.
Now, I still do recommend that you plan meals and shop weekly because it gives you a better picture of what you actually need, and keeps you from overbuying. Plus, it keeps you nimble in keeping up with new coupons. Once you get good at making your meal plans, you can scale it up to two weeks and possibly realize even greater savings.
The reason we were able to buy for a two week period is because we sometimes buy in bulk, and we had enough ingredients left over from the previous week(s) to make a one-week shopping trip last two.
Because she was so excited, she wanted me to do a post about using meal plans to save money. I said why don’t you write one.
So she did, and here it is below.
Why does she know what she’s talking about? She used to run a daycare for over 50 kids and knows a thing or two about shopping for healthy food on a budget.
So, the words you read from here on out are hers.
Sample Meal Plans – 2 Weeks for $200
The meals in the list below are for a two-week period. Lunches and breakfasts aren’t covered, but the ingredients for these are included in the $200.
I decided to focus on dinner meal plans because it is the most costly meal, and a post covering every meal we eat in a two week period would be too much to digest.
These meals are quick and easy to prepare. There is no red meat in the menu and plenty of whole grains. These are well-balanced meals that include food from each of the food groups (if they are even doing those anymore, who can keep up?)
2 Week Dinner Meal Plan
Note: ingredients that provide enough for two meals will be notated by “(2)”
- Taco Soup (rice, beans, vegetables)
- Rice Pilaf and Chicken Breasts with Steamed Vegetables
- (2) Angel Hair Pasta with broccoli and Chicken
- Ground Turkey BBQ and Fries
- (2) Salmon Filets, Rice and Steamed Vegetables
- Turkey Burgers and Fries
- Shake-n-bake Chicken and Potatoes
- (2) Cheese Tortellinis with Steamed Vegetables (with whole grain bread)
- (2) Whole grain Rotini with Red Sauce, Ground Turkey and Canned Vegetables
- Minestrone Soup Mix (with Rotel tomatoes, ground turkey and whole grain rotini)
- Nuggets and Fries (backup meal in case of a long day)
- Frank-n-beans (another backup meal)
The $200 for two weeks also includes daily breakfast with fresh fruit, well rounded lunches for a school-aged child, and weekend breakfast and lunches for the entire family. Also included are beverages like milk, tea, fruit juice and lemonade.
For after-school snacks (also included in price), we choose yogurt, cheese sticks and/or whole grain cereals and crackers.
I feel that there is more than enough variety of meals, even though some are repeated during the two-week period. Other meals that we throw into the mix are: tacos, pasta with sausage , homemade pizza, scrambled egg and meat skillets, and potato soup with ham.
I am aware that there are further cost savings that could be had, however, I do want to provide healthy meals in addition to budget-friendly meals. The lean ground turkey may cost a little more than hamburger, but the health benefits of making this substitution outweigh the potential cost savings.
If needed, meal plans with less variety (and more rice and beans) could be implemented to make your savings even greater.
Creating meal plans, either weekly or bi-weekly, is definitely the way to save a great deal of money, and in our house, it is a family activity. When I sit down to prepare my weekly meal plan, I involve my husband and our oldest daughter (almost 7). In addition to saving money, we are teaching our children how to make healthy food choices. I place great importance, especially being the mom of two girls, on teaching them how to have healthy and positive attitudes towards food.
The feelings of pride and excitement I get in knowing that I’ve created a budget-friendly and healthy menu are absolutely wonderful. I now find myself excited to plan my one and two week meal plans full of tasty and healthful options, especially knowing that I can fulfill the needs of feeding a family of four for the average cost of $100 per week.
I hope that taking the meal plans approach will give you the same feelings of accomplishment, and help you reach financial freedom.