Planning a meal is hard enough. But planning on a budget is even harder. However, it doesn’t have to be complicated. A few hacks can stretch your budget a long way. Below are some of the ways you can plan your meals while on a tight budget.
1. Plan Based on What You Already Have
Check what you already have in the pantry, refrigerator, and in the freezer. Do you have enough ingredients for a meal or two? If yes, get that off your list. Now add on to what you don’t have.
2. Go For Budget Friendly Ingredients
Seasonal ingredients are always cheaper. If you are looking for vegetables, choose carrots if they are in season over parsnips for example. Besides, most ingredients in season are fresh and juicy.
On the other hand, some ingredients will always be cheaper than others. For example, beans, lentils, peas, sweet potatoes, arrowroots, potatoes, butternut squash, rice, and spinach will be cheaper than seafood and animal proteins.
Create recipes out of the available ingredients. And occasionally slot in a few pieces of chicken and beef to entice your pallet.
3. Take Advantage of Seasonal Sales and Offers
Browse your favorite stores for ingredients that are on sale. Great discounts are always welcome. However, make it a habit to confirm the expiry dates of the food ingredients you buy – especially during clearance sales.
Similarly, companies launching new products will often offer discounts to win new clients. Finally, use grocery apps to compare prices in different stores. If the stores with the lowest prices are within your radius, why should you buy elsewhere?
4. Be Innovative And Ditch Your Nanas Recipe Book
The traditional beef wellington can have over 10 ingredients. But do you know you can make an almost similar dish with only five ingredients? Create your recipes according to the ingredients available. Easy recipes that are within your budget, yet healthy could come in handy.
5. Make Great Use of the Leftovers
Leftovers can make an excellent dinner the next day. Frozen rice even makes the best stir-fry. Some frozen vegetables also make the best stew. It’s also economical to cook one meal in a day. Besides saving energy with the dishwasher, you have fewer ingredients to use. Pack your leftover dinner for lunch the following day.
If this sounds boring, you could also re-cook the same meal into an entirely different dish. For example, if you had meatloaf for lunch, scramble the leftover and stuff it in bell peppers. Sprinkle a generous amount of cheese and bake. What do we call this meal? Meatloaf stuffed bell peppers? I guess that will do for now.
Similarly, if you had roast turkey for dinner, use a few turkey slices from the leftover to create delicious sandwiches.
6. Shopping on Budget
Now that you are on a budget stay focused and avoid impulse buying. Never go shopping hungry. You might be tempted to grab almost everything that you crave.
Minimize the times you go shopping. Look at it this way, the time you waste going to get groceries is enough to do something constructive. You only need a few hours to plan, shop, and prepare meals for the entire week.
7. Strategic Meal Preparation to Avoid Wastage
As you prepare your meals for the week (according to your recipes), put what you’d consider as waste in a clean bowl. Then after you’re done, sort through the “waste”. For example, beef trimmings, fat, and chicken skin are excellent additions to minced meat. They enhance the flavor. Vegetable trimmings and stalks, on the other hand, make a rich vegetable broth.
Pre-boil dry cereals and freeze them in single-serving dishes. It makes thawing and reheating convenient. Organize your refrigerator in a way that you start consuming the first foods you stored.
Why Should You Plan Your Meals?
Whether you are on a budget or not, meal planning always works to your advantage. It saves time and money. Besides, planning ahead is always convenient when you’re busy. It also keeps your diet in check.
No matter how busy you are, your health comes first. Meal planning might be time-consuming, but you can’t compare with the time you take to grab groceries every time you want to cook. After prep, you don't have to think about groceries. Instead, you can channel the remaining money elsewhere. Finally, consider investing in a kitchen garden. A few potted plants will also do. It will reduce the cost of buying some of the usual groceries.
Image credit: Pexels