10 tips for plannings meals on a budget

Are you trying to save money on food? If so, start by planning your meals for the next few days or week ahead. It takes a bit of time, but it will help you save money later.

10 tips to get you started

  1. 1. Make a menu. Decide which recipes you will make for lunch and dinner and make a list of the items that you will need from the grocery store. When you have a plan, you will be less likely to spend money on fast food or convenience meals. Take a look at these tips for easy menu planning. 
  2. 2. Plan your meals around foods that are on sale. Check store flyers, newspaper inserts and coupon sites online. You may be surprised at the good buys available. Just be sure to buy and plan for foods that you will actually use so that they don’t go to waste.  
  3. 3. Plan at least one meatless meal a week. Legumes (beans, lentils, dried peas), eggs, tofu, peanut butter and canned fish offer great tasting protein at a good price. Here are a few tasty meatless meal recipes: Black Bean Couscous Salad, Egg Bhurji, and Sweet Chili Tofu Stir-fry.  
  4. 4. Check your pantry, refrigerator and freezer. Look at the expiry dates of the foods and ingredients you already have on hand. Which ones do you need to use up? Look for recipes that use those foods and ingredients.
  5. 5. Enjoy grains more often. Grains such as rice, pasta, barley and couscous are inexpensive and can be used in many different recipes. Try them in soups, stews and salads such as Chicken Bulgur Salad. 
  6. 6. Avoid recipes that need a special ingredient. Some recipes call for a special ingredient that you may not have. How much does that ingredient cost? Does it come in a small or big package? Can you use it in other recipes before it goes bad? It may not be worth the money to buy an ingredient if you are only going to use it once.  Leave the ingredient out or try the recipe with an ingredient that you already have at home. It’s fun to experiment while cooking and you may surprise yourself with the finished dish.
  7. 7. Look for seasonal recipes. Vegetables and fruit are cheaper when they’re in season. 
  8. 8. Plan to use leftovers. Think about how you can use leftovers. If you’re cooking roast chicken with rice and vegetables for Sunday night’s supper, then make chicken sandwiches for Monday’s lunch. On Tuesday, use the bones to make a chicken soup and toss in any leftover vegetables and rice.  
  9. 9. Make extras. Don’t let a big bunch of carrots or celery go to waste. Use it all up by making an extra big pot of soup. If ground beef is on sale, make two batches of lasagna instead of one. Serve one batch for dinner, and freeze the other batch in meal-sized portions for another time.
  10. 10. Know what your family likes to eat. Encourage your family to share their favourites and help with menu planning. That way you can look for favourite ingredients and foods when they go on sale.

 

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