The one area you can always cut back on is your groceries! I know it may seem impossible right now with the increase in grocery prices and everything else, but I’ve been able to do it for years, and I’m hoping to inspire you to stick to your meal plan this week by creating a frugal meal planning binder.
When making meals, we tend to go all out and forget that simplicity is key. Trust me; you don’t need a five-course meal every night. Simple and tasty is the way to go! And, if you’re new to meal planning, here’s a frugal trick I like to use:
The 3 Proteins 4 Veggies 1 Starch rule. It’s super easy and takes the guesswork out of deciding what to eat.
First, I take inventory of what’s already in my kitchen so I don’t end up impulse shopping and wasting food (and money!) on things I already have. Then, I move on to the good stuff.
Proteins are the building blocks of a healthy diet, so I always make sure to have plenty on hand. We’re lucky enough to raise our own chickens, lambs, etc. so I like to start there.
But no worries if you don’t have a backyard full of feathered friends! Just keep an eye out for sales at your local grocery store. If you have the Flashfood app set up near you, you can save 50% on food, including meats, just by ordering on your phone.
From there, it’s just a matter of filling in the blanks. Plan your meals with Four veggies, three proteins, and one starch to round out the meal plan, ensuring a balanced and satisfying plate.
With a little helpful structure and smart shopping, eating well has never been easier! Cutting back the expensive protein can be a huge money saver, but this post isn’t all about how to save money. It’s how a meal planner is key!
So let’s get to making a frugal meal planner.
For a more in depth look at how to cut back your grocery bill each week check out these frugal tips.
Frugal Meal Planner
Creating a frugal meal-planning binder and using it to plan meals is a great way to save time and money on groceries. A meal planning binder will help you stay organized during grocery shopping and menu planning so that you can make the most of your food budget.
This blog post will provide step-by-step instructions on creating a meal-planning binder and tips and tricks for meal planning and saving money on groceries.
First, gather all the materials you need for your meal-planning binder. You will need some folder or three-ring binder; divider tabs; loose-leaf paper; plastic sleeves; and any other storage device (a pocket folder or even an old shoebox can be repurposed).
Things that are not necessary but helpful to a laminator. I laminate all my sheets so I can use it the entire year.
If you already think making your meal planner is too much work, I have my favorite frugal meal planner you can print out here. All you need to do is grab a binder.
Additionally, print out any useful recipes you want to keep in your binder. You can either find them online or cut them out from magazines.
Once you have all the necessary materials, it’s time to start assembling your binder!
Begin by labeling your dividers and recipe binder dividers with helpful categories related to cooking and groceries:
- Grocery List
- Menus & Meal Planner
- Recipes & Ideas
- Shopping & Coupons, etc.
These categories will make it easier to quickly find what you are looking for when putting together meals or shopping at the store. After labeling the dividers, organize all your loose-leaf paper in each category before adding them to the pockets of the binder.
If you don’t want a basic meal planner- even those sheets of paper are frugal meal plans, you can create meal planning sheets in Canva for free. Or you can print out my meal planner here.
Place all recipes into their folders in separate pockets so they don’t get lost between sheets of paper! Finally, add any coupons or extra items into the appropriate sections.
To keep to your food budget, it is helpful to create a sheet of money-saving apps to check before you shop and after. Fetch is an easy one where you can scan any receipt from any retailer and earn points which equals money back in your pocket.
Save Money With Lists & Menus
Now that your meal plan binder is assembled properly, it’s time to fill it with important information like grocery lists and menus!
Start by writing down all the items needed for upcoming meals so that when you go grocery shopping, everything is easily accessible without having to run back home for forgotten ingredients.
As soon as you get back from the store, update your inventory list, which should be tucked away in one of the dividers (this step may require separate list-making skills).
After updating inventory, take some time to plan out future meals incorporating different flavors from around the world and daily staples such as breakfast snacks and lunchbox fixings, if applicable!
This process might take some trial and error and a few hours at first, but once perfected can become second nature while still providing exciting flavor combinations every week!
Don’t be afraid to make a little extra when you make dinner, leftovers are a frugal family’s best friend.
Dare to Try Coupons?
Using coupons is another great way to save money while grocery shopping! When preparing for a grocery trip, flip through coupon books or search online websites like Ibotta, Honey, etc, for discounts applicable towards products on your list (make sure to use before the expiration date!).
Also, always look out for sales that could potentially give even more savings than coupons alone – bulk buying nonperishable items such as condiments can often yield extra savings over time!
Of course, if you learn how to extreme coupon you will save big on your weekly grocery bill.
Monthly Pantry Cleanout
Finally, organizing monthly pantry cleanout sessions helps free up space. It eliminates unnecessary spending due to expiring food items from being purchased again (just because something is cheap doesn’t mean it’s necessary!).
Each month clean out shelves, remove expired cans, jars etc, then reorganize shelves according to usefulness/frequency – this will make future trips much quicker since items are easier to find without having to sift through everything manually each time!
Some of my family’s favorite meals stay in my meal planner. When it comes to meal ideas I tend to stick to the same breakfast ideas, which consist of cereal, eggs, toast, or pancakes.
I suggest creating a page for your family favorites. This way, when you have a busy week or feel uninspired to make dinner, these idea lists are a sanity saver. I have included this sheet in my meal planner.
I like to stick to easy recipes when making dinner on the weekday. I’ll save a Sunday for more hearty meals because I have more time on those days. Planning your meals according to your family’s weekly schedule makes sense.
Don’t be afraid to repeat meals each week. When my girls say they love a meal, I’ll make sure to add it to next week’s menu. Until they say they are sick of it, and these days you never know when that will be.
I love using my crockpot and following cook-once-eat-twice recipes when the schedule is hectic, or I’m trying to stick to a tight grocery budget. I’ll also try to menu plan for two weeks at a time.
When I grocery shop every two weeks, I save big, forcing us to eat what we already have.
Here’s a peek at five of the cheap dinner ideas.
This is a glimpse of the fun dinner ideas you can use in your frugal meal plan.
1. Chicken and Vegetable Stir Fry
Stir-fry is a quick and easy meal that can be made with whatever vegetables and proteins are on hand. Serve it over rice or with noodles.
- 1 pound boneless, skinless chicken breasts, sliced thin
- 4 cups mixed vegetables diced, such as bell pepper, onion, snow peas, broccoli, carrot, etc.
- 1/4 cup soy sauce
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- 2 tablespoons cornstarch
- 1 tablespoon vegetable oil
- Mix the soy sauce, garlic, cornstarch, and 1/2 cup water in a small bowl.
- In a large skillet, heat oil over medium-high heat.
- Add the chicken, stir until browned, about 5 minutes. Add vegetables, stir until crisp-tender, about 5 minutes.
- Pour over the sauce, mix well, and cook until heated, about 1-2 minutes.
- Serve hot.
2. Black Bean Chili
This vegetarian dish is perfect for anyone looking for a healthy and protein-packed meal. Eat it topped with cheese, avocado, and a side of toasted bread.
- 2 cans of black beans, drained
- 1 can of diced tomatoes
- 1 onion, chopped
- 2 cloves of garlic
- 1 tablespoon of chili powder
- 1/2 teaspoon of cumin
- 2 cups of vegetable broth
- In a pot, cook the onion and garlic until golden.
- Add the spices and cook for an additional minute.
- Add the beans, tomatoes, and broth.
- Cook for about 25-30 minutes until the chili thickens.
- Serve hot.
3. Cheesy Potato Casserole
This casserole consists of simple ingredients and is a great way to use up any leftover potatoes.
- 2 cups of cooked potatoes, diced
- 1 can of cream of chicken soup
- 1/2 cup of milk
- 1/2 cup of sour cream
- 1/2 teaspoon of garlic powder
- 1/2 teaspoon of paprika
- 1 cup of shredded cheese
- Preheat oven to 375°F.
- Mix the cream of chicken soup, milk, sour cream, garlic powder, and paprika in a bowl.
- Layer the potatoes and soup mixture in a baking dish, then top with shredded cheese.
- Bake for 25-30 minutes or until the cheese is golden brown and bubbly.
- Serve hot.
4. BBQ Chicken Pizza
This pizza is easy to customize as per your family’s preferences and is also a great way to use up leftover chicken.
- 1 ready-made pizza crust
- 1/4 cup of BBQ sauce
- 1/2 cup of cooked chicken, shredded
- 1/4 cup of red onion, sliced
- 1/2 cup of shredded cheddar cheese
- 2 tablespoons of chopped cilantro
- Preheat the oven to 375°F.
- Spread the BBQ sauce over the pizza crust.
- Top with shredded chicken, red onion, and cheddar cheese.
- Bake for 12-15 minutes, or until the cheese is melted and bubbly.
- Garnish with chopped cilantro and enjoy!
5. Beef and Broccoli Stir Fry
A classic Chinese dish made simple and perfect for a busy family’s weekday dinner. Serve it hot over rice.
- 1 pound of beef sirloin
- 4 cups of broccoli florets
- 1/2 cup of soy sauce
- 2 tablespoons of cornstarch
- 1 tablespoon of garlic, minced
- 2 tablespoons of vegetable oil
- In a bowl, mix the soy sauce, garlic, cornstarch, and 1/2 cup of water.
- In a large skillet, heat oil over medium heat.
- Add the beef slices, stir until browned, about 5 minutes. Remove the beef and set aside.
- In the same skillet, add broccoli, stir until crisp-tender, about 5 minutes.
- Pour over the sauce, mix well, and cook until heated, about 1-2 minutes.
- Add beef to the skillet and toss to combine.
- Serve hot.
You can see the full list of cheap meal ideas, including breakfast and lunch, I created here.
More Money-Saving Tips For Food
As a busy mom, I find that keeping any snack in a clear container in the cupboard helps us eat up what we have, and the kids tend to go for items in the container versus a bag thrown in the back of the pantry.
You can check out my video sharing those containers in our pantry here. Or watch it on Tiktok below.
Creating a meal planner binder is a great tool for staying organized during grocery shopping and menu planning so families can save time and money during processes!
Follow these easy steps and assemble yours today. Get started utilizing the useful tips and tricks above, ensuring long-term success, maintaining healthy eating habits, budget-conscious lifestyle in the future!
If you want to grab my super simple meal planner and then customize it to your own liking snatch it up here.