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Amid these harsh economic times, finding cost-effective meal options is a struggle for most shoppers.
Each passing day makes it harder and harder to make your food budget work out for you. Be it as it may, all hope is not lost.
This post contains five of the best tips on how you can make a fifty-dollar a week meal plan work out for you. The points below can work out for you regardless of how many members you have in your family.
1. Draft a Reasonable Weekly Menu
The moment you understand how to draft a weekly menu, you’ll appreciate how much money, time, and energy you can save. Having a food plan also makes meals hassle-free and more predictable.
That’s far better than making your way to your nearest fast-food joint due to lack of adequate planning.
Even if you can’t make it to your home after a long day at work, you can prepare your meal beforehand and refrigerate it – another reason why you need a weekly menu.
The first step in drafting a weekly menu is developing a willingness to stick to what you write down. This may prove to be a challenge, especially if you’re used to having any meal at any time of the day.
The best part is that you get to try out various cooking techniques as well as recipes. Before going straight into planning next week’s menu, start by planning a single meal.
If you want to start with breakfast, consider factors such as whether your family eats together every morning.
Proceed to plan the foods to include in your breakfast for every day of the week. Everything you put down should be affordable and appealing to your family. This should be the case for both lunch and supper.
If you have the time, put together a list of cheap, tasty recipes. Thriving on a $50-dollar meal plan may require that you put aside expensive Pinterest meal ideas. If cooking is your thing, you probably have a few ideas in mind.
Not sure what your family loves? Well, carry due diligence and find out what they love. Asking for their input gives them a sense of ownership in meals you plan to put together on the menu.
Limiting yourself to fifty bucks every week doesn’t mean that you have to eat the same meal each day. Spice things up a little. Alternate the nutrients in every meal to ensure you don’t eat the same meals for three nights in a row.
2. Your Shopping Should Strictly Revolve Around Sales
If the items listed on your weekly menu are not on sale, don’t risk placing them in your cart. Your menu should be planned in a way that incorporates foods on sale.
For example, if hamburgers are on sale, ensure your menu has stuffed peppers, burgers, and tacos for the rest of that week. If stakes are on sale, include meals like shish kabobs, cheese salad, or steak fajitas in your menu.
Before heading out to the store, do a quick check on what’s in either your fridge or pantry. Do this especially if your one to frequent the grocery store or plan new meals often. You may end up wasting money by buying foods you already have.
Eating what’s already in your kitchen will help you shop minimally and save you money in the process. Your kitchen cabinets may have just enough food to make partial meals in-between the week.
From there, look out for any sales flyers in the stores or anywhere else in the neighborhood. Most sales run for approximately seven days or less. Various stores put out six to seven weekly grocery ads for the benefit of frugal shoppers.
Any store you decide to visit should be determined by how well you know them and how reliable their costs are.
Not all sales flyers tell the whole story. Most times there are limits or minor details on the sale that the ad intentionally left out.
In such a case, you have to rely on trial and error. If you do that and have some grocery money left, go for sale-priced staples.
Stock your pantry with those foods you know will be used up in the fastest time possible. When you think of it, there’s no sense in paying five bucks per pound of chicken when It’s probably on for sale at $2 at a store next to you.
If your budget will allow it, buy a couple of extra packages and stash them in the freezer for the weeks to come.
3. Go Easy on the Meat and Produce
Meat and produce can be quite the expense – that we know for sure. It’s somewhat unfortunate that some of the most natural foods have a bigger price tag.
The healthiest foods in any store are strategically stationed outside the store’s perimeter. That’s generally where dairy, meat, vegetables, and fruits are located. Heavily processed foods, on the other hand, are prevalent on the interior aisles of all grocery stores.
Based on recent studies, a majority of Americans spend a huge chunk of their weekly grocery budget mainly on the interior aisles. They end up spending a meager 20% on the exterior perimeter because of the prices.
What if you were to cut down 50% of the money you use on the interior isles? Almost instantly, you’d have enough money to spend on the store’s exterior perimeter. This is possible without having to sacrifice neither your budget nor your nutrition.
The following are a few handy tips to save big on meat and produce while at the grocery store:
Find out on your local grocery’s Facebook page if they run meat coupons a couple of times per year. Coupons are typically a $5/$15 meat purchase. Print a few of them to get more for less. Skip over to the next point for more on couponing.
Inquire When Your Local Grocery Marks Their Meat
Most grocery stores do this in the morning hours around 8 a.m. You can get marked meat at low prices since they need to be sold on that particular day or thrown in the refrigerator.
Plan Your Meal to Suit the Item On Sale
Based on the produce on sale, your meal plan should not incorporate any other item i.e. meat and produce. Doing so will save you hours of time and stress, not to mention thousands of dollars.
Save Up For Big Meat Sales
Buying meat every week is somewhat of a tradition to most families. The truth is that you don’t have to include it in your budget every week. Set aside some cash and wait to use it whenever there’s a big sale on meat.
4. Use Coupons on Items You Purchase Every Week
It should be your goal to start couponing on half of what you buy. Score bonus savings by using your shopper’s loyalty card.
If any of the products you buy offers rebates, be sure to cash in on them. Doing any of these tips can keep your spending to a minimum both before and after-sales.
If you use coupons often, then you understand how challenging it can be. Maybe you’ve tried your hand at couponing, and things didn’t go as per your expectations.
Instead of throwing in the towel, try installing the best couponing apps and make your experience smoother.
Clipping, saving, or organizing coupons is never an easy fete. You’re bound to make mistakes along the way. There are, however, a few common mistakes you can avoid when you go grocery shopping with coupons.
For one, never use a coupon on full-priced staples. You don’t stand to save a lot by using a $1.00 coupon on a $4.99 sale. Instead, wait to use your coupon when that cereal is on sale.
For example, consider a store that offers a promotion of two boxes for $4. You can buy one of the $4.99 boxes for $2.00, use the coupon and end up paying a dollar for the box. That’s a whopping 80% savings from the initial price of the item.
Couponing doesn’t require that you be brand-specific. Any brand you get that’s either free or reasonably priced is worth the catch. Don’t worry about the brand, utilize the savings and keep your money in your pocket.
Also, you don’t have to buy every item on your weekly menu just because you have ready coupons. Just buy the important stuff and steer clear from splurging on those you don’t need. You’d be ruining the whole concept of couponing by going for every deal that comes your way.
5. Don’t Be Fixed on a Single Retailer 1870
Prices vary significantly between grocery stores. You stand to save a ton when you switch to the store that charges lower for staples. You can make your own grocery comparison by using the relevant apps.
Alternatively, try recording the prices of twelve items you use from time to time at major stores around you.
Price comparisons often take up so much time and effort. What you want to do is to make your way to several stores around your area, pick out items on your budget, list down their costs, then compare prices.
As much as it seems like a chore, doing supermarket comparisons is a lot of fun. The moment you get it over with, you’ll be amazed at just how much you can save.
Your budget should be comprehensive and include all the staples or ingredients you need for your meal plan. With your list in place, pick out all the groceries you want to use to compare prices.
A sure tip to save on gas money is to stop by those stores that are not so far from your home. If one of them happens to offer fairly reasonable prices, you’ll have it easy making your way there every week.
The time-intensive part comes when you have to go into all the stores you’ve listed and start comparing prices. You can choose to do it all at once, although that’s not necessary.
Take some time in between the week to visit one or two of your listed stores. Don’t forget to list all the prices.
You’d be right to list down the amounts of everything you’re going to buy. Most times, retailers don’t contain the same size for various items.
Even when the price tag reads a significantly better price, don’t bet on walking away with a better deal if you’ll be getting less than what you’re supposed to.
Record the amounts of every item to make it easier to know how they’re priced based on the cost per ounce or unit.
Quick Rundown of How to Plan Your Meals with $50
Focus on inexpensive, healthy, high energy foods. Go for cost-effective foods like yogurt, bananas, frozen waffles, eggs, etc., that you can serve in multiple ways.
A cup of yogurt is approximately $.30, a pound of bananas goes for about $.50, and a dozen eggs go for $1.50
With such a pocket-friendly budget, it’s impossible not to afford any of these. In the process, you save yourself a couple of bucks.
If you have some leftover dinner chicken, that’s perfect for chicken tortillas or chicken salad. Tortillas are $1 a package, therefore making them ideal for lunch wraps. Stock up on vegetables in season, stuff them in your tortillas, then grill them in a pan.
An alternative meal that goes for a dollar or less per serving is pasta, tuna, canned soups with a touch of olive oil.
For the final meal of the day, buy a bulk of healthy produce. If any meat items are on sale, stock up on that as well.
A tasty and inexpensive meal your family will enjoy for supper is grilled vegetable skewers mixed with chunks of beef or chicken.
Prepare rice in the crockpot and mix it with a can of shredded meat and a can of cream soup. Whipping up this kind of meal won’t cost you any more than $5. Provided you don’t spend any more than $1.50 for a pound of meat.
As for the drinks, there’s nothing more healthy, refreshing, or frugal than water. Leave out the soft and hard drinks and settle for plain old water. If you fancy a bit of extra flavor, set your eyes on drink mixes rather than bottled water.
Milk is also quite affordable and serves as a great alternative to water especially at the start of every day.
Benefits of Having a Weekly Meal Plan
1. Saves Money and Optimizes Purchases
Incorporating a meal plan into your everyday meals enables you to manage your purchases better. Food wastage arises from not being accountable for the money we spend while at the grocery store. Meal planning makes it less likely for you to splurge on non-essential food items.
Each time before you go to the grocery store, check out your weekly menu. Do some research on a few budget-friendly recipes.
Based on those recipes, draft a list, then develop a grocery game plan. It should be as frugal as insanely possible.
The more you save from your meal plan, the higher the opportunity you have to cater to your financial goals.
Maybe you want to pay off debt, build an emergency fund, or save for a vacation fund. All these are achievable with just the right level of planning.
Be sure to do a complete inventory of your refrigerator and pantry when preparing your grocery list.
That ensures a steady rotation of stock, thereby keeping food and money wastage to a minimum. Also, it saves you the gas money used up on frequent grocery visits.
2. Reduces Stress Levels
Meal plans have the unique benefit of simplifying mealtimes, especially on weekends. The moment you step into the kitchen, you already know what to prepare.
If you open your pantries to find nothing at all during meal times, you need to consider your options.
We all understand how nerve-wracking it can be to decide on what to have for either breakfast, lunch, or supper.
Most of us work ’till late, rush home from work hungry and frantic. You know you have a limited time to know what to have for dinner and set it at the table.
A major reason most working-class citizens tend to gain weight is due to the frequency in which they eat out.
With a meal plan, you have the opportunity to sort out stuff in advance. On less busy days, planning makes the cooking process more manageable, thereby decreasing stress levels significantly.
A sure way to keep your mind at ease is to avoid restaurants and cook at home. Doing this will ensure that you have ready-made food for the next day or even the day after. Reusing menu leftovers saves time and energy.
For instance, you can reheat the leftover chicken from two nights ago and use it in sandwiches. Provided your refrigerator works fine, recycling won’t be a problem.
3. Saves Time
Time, as they say, is money. The ultimate strategy you can use to save time is planning. If you don’t have a plan for your meals, it means that you waste precious time (and gas money) stopping by the supermarket and the grocery store.
Lessen the stops you make at your favorite food store and increase the time for other equally-important duties.
Meal planning takes only thirty minutes, give or take. When you come up with a workable menu for the next week, that’s time well spent. The menu you make for one week can also be used in the next.
You can make a few tweaks here and there and still have lots of time to spare. At the beginning of every week, ensure you take a quick look at your meal plan.
Head over to the grocery store and buy whatever ingredients or staples you need for the meals on your menu. Planning is a welcome time-saver for big families as well as the working class.
4. Promotes a Healthy Diet and More Food Variety
If you never plan for your meals, you may find yourself eating the same stuff every single night. Financially, you may be doing yourself a favor. Healthwise, however, you’re hurting your body by depriving it of certain nutritional foods.
Meal planning enables you to stay ahead of your diet and eliminate any meal repetitions. You also make room for a balanced diet from the different cost-effective meals you list on your weekly menu.
Seeing what you’re supposed to eat at breakfast, lunch, or supper can allow you to look up some new recipes.
Spice things up a little and try out affordable meals you’ve never tried out before. That will also serve as a welcome treat for your family as well.
5. Fast and Easy Grocery Shopping
A successful meal plan is achieved by doing more than just picking out a couple of meals for the whole week.
It also depends on how well you do your grocery shopping. It can be quite stressful, but the comforting bit is that it doesn’t have to be.
Take thirty minutes to draft a seven-day meal plan and make a separate list of the ingredients you’ll need. From there, it’s up to you to stock up on cost-effective food options.
Shopping during weekdays (i.e. anytime in the morning or later in the day) can save you a lot of cash. As much as possible, steer clear from shopping on the weekends.
Now that you have a meal plan, grocery shopping won’t be such a tedious undertaking. Step in with a detailed list, grab the items and utilize any of the multiple grocery-saving apps.
Ready to Fund a Week’s Worth of Food with Only $50?
Savvy shoppers use several tips and tracks to put meals on the table for relatively less.
And no, it doesn’t involve substituting their favorite meals for cheaper options.
It’s still possible to stick to a tight budget while savoring well-rounded and healthy food.
If you don’t have a workable meal plan, it may become harder than ever to know how much to spend on all three meals of the day.
Make it as specific as you possibly can to do a quick rundown of the items and their prices.