As a parent, you have so many things to do. The kids have activities you need to take them to, and there are errands to run, a house to clean, laundry, and much more.
By the time dinner rolls around, you’re exhausted and looking in the refrigerator for something fast to cook. In the end, you order pizza and call it a day.
But when you’re on a budget, you certainly can’t eat out every day. We were in the same cycle, trying to find a way to make mealtime easier and less expensive. Having a monthly meal plan on a budget was one of the hacks we used to save money and time. When we paid off $67,630.81, we learned to be frugal without feeling like we were deprived.
If you’re skeptical about the whole meal planning thing, we promise you’ll love it after reading this post. The key is to keep things simple so that creating a monthly meal plan on a budget is easy and keeps you organized.
How Do I Make a Monthly Meal Plan on a Budget?
One of the biggest reasons people end up falling out with meal planning is they make the meals too complicated. If you’re not someone who cooks complex meals, keep your meal planning simple.
Also, when you’re busy and overwhelmed, your instinct is to go for the quickest, easiest meal which often leads to take-out. Eating out too often will blow your food budget, which can be a huge problem if you’re watching how much money you spend. Of course, if you do eat out, we have some easy tips to make sure you get the most for your money.
We’re giving you some simple meal ideas for those crazy days you don’t have time to stand in front of the stove. These meal ideas will also help you stick to your plan and budget. And you can make a great meal plan with delicious dirt cheap meals.
If you still want to eat out, you can work those days in while you’re creating your monthly meal plan on a budget.
Here is the method we use to plan a month of breakfast, lunch, and dinner ideas. Don’t forget to print out the helpful meal plan template we created for you to make your meal planning easier.
Planning ahead is a key part of successful meal planning if you want to save money. It allows you to buy in bulk which is less expensive than shopping for fewer items every week.
Planning helps relieve your stress at dinnertime. Instead of scrambling to find something to eat and spending lots of money on takeout, monthly menu plans eliminate the hassle and reduce anxiety.
Check Your Pantry, Cupboards, and Freezer First
When meal planning, you want to check your pantry, freezer, and cupboards to see what you have and what you need. You also want to look for the food that’s ready to expire. That way, you can create meals around them so you can save on how much you spend at the store.
Pick Easy Options for the Days You Don’t Feel Like Cooking
Let’s face it, you’re going to have days where you just don’t feel like cooking, something unexpected came up, or it’s just been a hectic day, and you’re exhausted. Those are the days where you’ll be tempted to get takeout food or run through a drive-thru and get fast food.
We know this reaction is normal because we’ve been there! So, we plan simple meal options or a frozen pre-prepped meal that you take out and dump into the Instant Pot to cook quickly.
If you want to save more money on food, challenge yourself to use pantry staples and whatever you have on hand for several days. It’s a great way to use food that is getting ready to expire, so you save money and grocery trips. If you have a stocked pantry, this challenge is easier.
Keep It Simple
As mentioned earlier, many people quit meal planning because they try to use complicated recipes. Unfortunately, while creating a monthly meal plan on a budget is a life-saver, it doesn’t magically make you a five-star Michelin chef.
I’ve seen many aspiring meal planners try to plan elaborate meals, but that only increases your stress, so keep it simple! Find recipes that you can fix quickly or throw in a crockpot or Instant Pot. Add prepared foods too, if you need to, because that’s still less expensive than buying pizza or McDonald’s every night.
Buy in Bulk
Planning allows you to buy in bulk which allows you to save money on groceries. If you follow the sales at your favorite stores, you can stock up on what you need for less money.
Buying in bulk helps you save on your food budget which is one of the tricks we used to pay off all our debt.
One way to tackle your weekly meals is to cook in batches. You can take a Sunday afternoon and make some of your weekly meals and freeze them, or you can prep ingredients and freeze those. Then all you need to do is dump the food in a crockpot or Instant Pot to cook while you do something else.
Freezer cooking in batches is a great way to prepare your dinners for the week once you create your monthly meal plan on a budget. There are many benefits of meal planning, like batching, to reduce the stress that last-minute cooking causes.
Monthly Meal Plan on a Budget – Food and Recipe Ideas
Here are some simple meal ideas for breakfast, lunch, and dinner that you can add to your family meal plan.
Breakfast on a Budget
- Bagel and cream cheese – A simple breakfast everyone loves; just pop the bagels in a toaster and add your favorite cream cheese.
- Toad in the Hole – This toast and bread combination will be a favorite. Simply melt butter in a skillet and cut a hole in the middle of a piece of bread. Place the bread in the skillet and crack open the egg in the hole. Cook for 2-minutes, flip and cook until the egg yolk is set.
- Omelet and Toast – Make omelets the way your family likes them. You can even just make the eggs a scramble and mix in vegetables and meat. Sliced tomatoes go well with omelets too.
- Blueberry Banana Nut Smoothie – Combine almond milk, bananas, almond butter, and blueberries for a yummy quick smoothie.
- Sheet Pan Sausage and Egg Breakfast Bake – This meal may seem fancy, but it’s cooked all on one sheet you can prepare on weekends when you have a little more time.
- Ham and Swiss Omelet – Another great weekend breakfast idea is eggs with ham and Swiss cheese.
- Parfait – All you need is vanilla yogurt, berries, and granola, and layer each ingredient in a tall glass or bowl.
- Waffles – You can buy waffles frozen that you can throw in the toaster for a delicious weekday breakfast that makes you feel like it’s a weekend.
- Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Bread – You can make this bread over the weekend, so it’s ready for a quick Monday breakfast.
Lunch Ideas on a Budget
- The World’s Greatest Ham Sandwich – A simple and easy, yet mouth-watering sandwich, great for packing your lunch. Ingredients include herb mayo, crusty bread, deli ham, your favorite cheese, arugula, tomato, and onion.
- Mediterranean Grilled Chicken Salad – Combine grilled chicken, feta cheese, cucumbers, onions, black olives, tomatoes, and Greek dressing for a quick lunch you can take to work, and the kids can take to school
- Leftovers – A great way to have a quick lunch and not waste food from previous meals.
- Wraps – A break from taking sandwiches to lunch, these wrap recipes are quick and easy.
- Grilled Cheese and Soup – A quick weekend lunch idea
- Greek Yogurt Chicken Salad – A healthy chicken salad you can make from leftovers and pack with chips and fruit. Or here’s a classic chicken salad recipe.
- Easy Mini Bagel Pizzas – There’s no need to order pizza when you can make these in less than 20 minutes, and that includes ten minutes for cooking.
- Peanut Butter and Jelly Sandwich – Old standby that’s easy to make and pack the night before . You could add fruit cups or grapes as a side.
- Egg Salad Sandwich – Egg salad is quick; the hardest part is peeling the eggs, but you can get help from your family
- Rick’s Big Bad Bean Burrito – You’ll love this simple bean burrito made from just five ingredients.
- BLT Pasta Salad – Combine bacon, cherry tomatoes, cheese, lettuce, and pasta like rotini or gemelli. Combine the ingredients with a premade dressing like ranch or this homemade dressing.
- Tuna Salad + Cut Celery and Carrots – Cut up carrots and celery to pack with your tuna sandwiches.
- Pizza Burgers + Sweet Potato Fries – If the kids don’t like sweet potatoes, you could also use white potato French fries.
- Focaccia Sandwiches + Chips – This quick layered sandwich includes pesto, deli ham, deli pastrami, deli smoked turkey, sliced onion and tomato, American cheese, and Italian seasoning. Of course, you can adjust it to the meats your family likes.
Dinner Ideas on a Budget
- Egg Roll Bowls – Egg roll ingredients cooked in under 15 minutes for a quick dinner that satisfies that craving for Chinese food.
- Emergency Easy Fish Recipe – You can have this fish recipe done in ten minutes.
- Creamy Lemon Chicken Breast – Another quick ten-minute meal easy to prepare
- Greek Chicken Pasta Salad – We love this delicious pasta salad because it’s easy to prepare in 15 minutes.
- Ultimate Pork Tacos – Hungry for tacos? Try this 15-minute meal that everyone will love.
- Chili and Cornbread – the perfect meal for when it’s cold outside
- Hamburger and Hot Dogs + Cole Slaw – If it’s a nice day, take advantage of the grill. You could even grill steak or chicken and then eat them for leftovers the next day.
- Rotisserie Chicken or Roasted Chicken + Premade Salad such as garden, potato, or pasta – We love rotisserie chicken because you can eat it for a meal or use leftovers in other dishes the next day.
- Healthy Chicken Lime & Avocado Soup with Cheese Quesadillas – This hearty soup satisfies everyone, and you can even cook it in the crockpot or Instant Pot.
- Frozen Pizza + Premade Salad – An easy go-to option if you don’t feel like cooking.
- Spaghetti and Garlic Bread – Use everything premade and frozen garlic bread if you’re in a hurry or brown beef and make your own sauce.
- Salmon Cakes + Spinach Salad – Salmon cakes are easy to fix and a seafood dinner even kids love.
- Sloppy Joes and Baked Beans – You can whip up a quick homemade sauce or simply use canned.
- Taco Wraps – These quick wraps include guacamole dip, cream cheese, olives, pepper, onions, and bean dip.
- Frozen Dinners – If nothing else, when you’re buying groceries, get some frozen dinners you can just pop in the microwave. These can also serve as a backup meal if something goes wrong with dinner preparation, and it inevitably will!
Creating a monthly meal plan on a budget is a great way to save money and makes preparing breakfast, lunch, and dinner easier.
Every family is busy with a variety of activities and tasks that stress you out. Instead of getting pizza or take-out, use meal planning as a way to streamline meal prep. You’ll save more money to pay off debts, build up your emergency fund or vacation savings account.
If you’re worried about your family getting tired of the same old meals, look for simple online recipes for more variety. If you don’t have many budget-friendly meal planning options, it may be hard to keep your family interested.
And if you don’t always enjoy cooking meals, be sure to add more simple food options. We understand that it’s hard to cook a 3-course meal or even a 5-course meal like your parents may have.
You’ll find life much easier with monthly meal planning. It helps you stick to your grocery list and your grocery budget, plus you’ll reduce food waste!