Eating nutritiously doesn't mean you have to spend a lot of money. In fact, with a little effort, and the right know-how, creating a budget meal plan for two is easier than it sounds. Trust me, I've been there and done that on OhThatsGood.com! Meal Plan on a Budget for Two - Cheap and Easy Tips are some of the best ways to do so without compromising on taste or nutritional value. And the best part? You can whip up meals that are not just cheap, but downright delicious. If you are new to cooking for two you might want to start by reading my 9 Top Tips on Cooking for Two.
Creating a budget-friendly meal plan for two can be a bit of a challenge, especially when trying to maintain healthy eating. But don't let that discourage you! With a sprinkle of creativity and some handy tips from ohthatsgood.com, it's entirely possible to whip up meals that are both nutritious and budget-friendly.
Exploring seasonal ingredients, taking advantage of sales, and incorporating more plant-based options are just a few tricks to enjoy meals that won't break the bank. Believe me, every penny saved doesn’t mean sacrificing flavor. Every recipe I've shared proves that affordability and taste can coexist! So let's get started!
Why Meal Planning Is Essential On A Tight Budget
A huge chunk of our monthly expenses goes into food costs. Believe me, I've seen it firsthand running OhThatsGood.com! The idea of meal planning isn't just a fad—it's one of the most effective ways to reduce your grocery bill. It's not merely about churning out cheap meals; it's about strategically planning and smartly using what you buy.
Immerse yourself into meal planning, and you'll find it's a game-changer in reducing food waste and optimizing your shopping list. Remember, every recipe I whip up, with the exception of my splurges, is proof that with a bit of planning, your plate and pocket can both be happy!
Here's Why Meal Planning is a Game-Changer for Success:
Reduces Food Waste: We've all been there - discovering that wilted lettuce or the shriveled bell pepper at the back of the fridge. But with a weekly meal plan, as I often advocate on ohthatsgood.com, you know precisely what to buy and consume. Say goodbye to tossing out forgotten produce!
Avoids Impulse Buys: Ever wandered the aisles and ended up with a cart full of snacks you didn't need? With a defined grocery list, those unplanned splurges are a thing of the past. You'll be focused and less likely to be tempted by items not on your list.
Maximizes Deals: I love a good bargain! Knowing your menu plan in advance gives you the advantage of purchasing in bulk or stocking up when there's a juicy sale.
Healthy Eating: Let's be real; it's much easier to incorporate wholesome, budget-friendly meals when you're plotting ahead. Planning ensures that every bite is both tasty and nutritious.
Time-Efficient: No more staring into the pantry wondering what to cook. By mapping out your meals, you'll save heaps of time and avoid the stress of last-minute dinner scrambles. Every recipe I share on my blog is not just good; it's a testament to the magic of planning ahead!
Crafting Your Perfect Weekly Meal Plan
One of the secret ingredients to stress-free dining is a solid weekly meal plan. When you have a meal plan in place, the age-old question, "What's for dinner?" becomes a thing of the past. Picture this: A kitchen stocked with all the ingredients you need, and a clear picture of every meal you're going to relish for the week.
Use your favorite family recipes or try some new ones, sprinkle in some fresh, healthy options, and voila! You've crafted a budget-friendly meal plan for two that doesn't just banish mealtime stress but opens a world of delightful daily dining experiences.
Now, let's get organized! Consider investing in a day planner that lays out the entire week over two pages. This will be your culinary canvas. To structure your meal times, use a ruler to divide each day into three sections: breakfast, lunch, and dinner.
Next, create your "Master Meal List". Scribble down all those heartwarming favorites you've cherished over the years. From breakfast delights to dinner classics, jot them all down. As a nifty tip, note down the prep and cook time next to each meal. Feeling adventurous? Dive into that recipe box you've been curating. Handpick four tantalizing dishes you've been itching to try.
Now, populate your planner. Allocate each meal from your Master Meal List to a slot in the planner. Remember to be realistic: On action-packed days, lean towards the quick fixes, while reserving the intricate, time-consuming dishes for more leisurely days. Challenge yourself! Slot in at least one new recipe to try each week. And, let's not forget about those tasty leftovers. Dedicate one day a week as a "leftovers day" to relish those scrumptious remnant meals.
The magic happens when you generate a shopping list tailored to your meal plan. Assess each mouthwatering meal and list down the essential ingredients. Spot any repeated items? Combine them. For example, if creamy broccoli Alfredo is on Tuesday's menu and cheese-broccoli delight is for Friday, you can buy just one bulk quantity of broccoli.
And always keep an eye out for clever shortcuts - sometimes, frozen veggies can be just as good as fresh, and pre-cut options can be real time-savers.
Lastly, position your weekly meal plan where it's in clear view. Remember, out of sight, out of mind! Initiate your meal planning early in the week. That way, you set the culinary tone, shop with purpose, and kick back and enjoy without a second thought until the next planning session. With every recipe being oh-so-good, you're in for a delightful culinary week!
Tips For Your Food Budget And A Healthy Meal Plan For Two:
Inventory Check: Start by checking pantry staples, and use what you already have. You will be surprised how easy it is to use what you have to create a great budget meal for two.
Use Local Grocery Stores: Different grocery stores offer varying prices. It's a good idea to explore local grocery stores to find the cheapest foods without compromising quality. If the store offers a membership, get it and faithfully enter your membership number each time you shop. The savings are worth the minor inconvenience.
Do you use grocery delivery services? Check out my Pros and Cons of Grocery Delivery Service. I could write a book!
Incorporate High-Value Ingredients: Ground beef, chicken breasts, and black beans are versatile and provide great value. Chicken especially lends itself to budget cooking. By choosing the least expensive pieces like wings and drumsticks you can save money and make delicious meals.
For example, in my chicken recipe category, you will find almost enough budget-friendly recipes for the entire month. I know that many feel that they don't like liver. Fine, I get that, but have you tried chicken livers? Cooked with lots of onion and bacon it is a spectacular healy meal. A carton of chicken livers with more than enough for two costs around $3.50! My Chicken Livers with Onions and Bacon Recipe is rated #1 by Google.
Use Generic Brands: Often, they offer the same quality as branded ones for a cheaper price. I always try the generic or store brand first. If I like it I choose it every time. If not I pay a little more to get something we like. Canned beans are a particularly good product to try generic brands. Often, I cannot even tell the difference.
Limit Fast Food: Not only is it less nutritious, but the costs add up. Instead, explore easy recipes for delicious meals at home. This one hits home right now. We are updating our kitchen and it has been out of commission for a week. Eating out, mostly fast food has been significantly more expensive than eating nutritious, home-cooked meals. Do you love grilling but need some tips for budget-friendly grilling? My article Gourmet Grilling on a Budget is a must-read.
Bonus Points for Leftovers: Dishes like slow cooker chili can be used in multiple meals. Leftover chicken can be transformed into various dishes. This brings me to the subject of store-bought rotisserie chicken. When feeding two people you can eat the rotisserie chicken with a salad one night and remove the leftover meat from the bone to make another meal or two.
We like to eat the thighs and drumsticks on night one and save the white meat breasts for chicken Caesar salad on night two. I then throw the whole carcass in a pot of water, add celery, carrots, onion, and a little chicken base, and make a delicious chicken stock for the freezer. I share my tried and true tips about freezer cooking in Easy, Cheap Freezer Meal Ideas for Any Budget.
Sample One-Week Meal Plan
Lunch: Bean burritos with refried beans, cheddar cheese, and sour cream.
Dinner: Ground beef sloppy joes with a side of sweet potatoes.
Lunch: Leftover sloppy joes.
Dinner: Chicken breasts seasoned with chili powder, black pepper, and olive oil, served with bell peppers.
Lunch: Chicken salad made from leftover chicken, mayo, and black pepper.
Dinner: Pasta dish with tomato sauce, mozzarella cheese, and ground beef.
Lunch: Peanut butter and jelly sandwiches.
Dinner: Black bean chili with ground beef and sour cream.
Lunch: Leftover chili.
Dinner: Easy homemade pizzas with mozzarella cheese, tomato sauce, and favorite recipes for toppings.
Lunch: Simple recipe salad with fresh fruits.
Dinner: Sheet pan roasted chicken breasts with bell peppers and sweet potatoes.
Day 7: Date Night:
Try a new recipe from online platforms. This not only adds new ideas to your rotation but also brings some excitement.
Still need ideas?
You might want to check out my popular recipe-sharing post, 35+ Dinner Recipes for Two On a Budget. People love it!
Key concepts of meal planning
1. Embrace the Beauty of Simplicity: Often, it's the uncomplicated dishes that bring the most joy. Think of classics like bean burritos. Not only are they straightforward and quick to whip up, but they're also packed with nutrition and are undoubtedly satisfying. And if we're being honest, some of the best recipes on ohthatsgood.com are the simple ones!
2. Don't Forget Those Snack Attacks: While main meals take center stage, snacks play a crucial supporting role in our daily eating routine. Plan for those in between hunger pangs. Stock up on wholesome options like fresh fruits and peanut butter. And for those days when you're craving something sweet? A dab of ice cream can hit the spot, and let's face it, we all deserve a treat now and then.
3. Loyalty to the List is Key: Crafting that shopping list isn't just a task; it's an art form. And the most rewarding aspect? The sheer clarity it brings to your grocery shopping journey.
Stick to the list and watch how it becomes one of your most potent tools in keeping that grocery bill in check. Remember, every item on that list has a purpose, and straying might just tip your budget off balance.
Creating your own meal plans is a great way to save a lot of money, reduce food waste, and enjoy nutritious meals. By adhering to the weekly menu, being smart with your grocery shopping, and being open to new recipes, you can ensure that you and your partner have a month filled with delicious, low-cost meals.
Navigating the grocery store can sometimes feel like a maze, especially when you're on a mission to make easy meals without spending much money. It's astonishing how quickly your cart can fill up, and even more surprising when you see the total on the cashier's screen. Controlling your grocery budget is crucial, but so is ensuring you're preparing healthy meals for your family.
One of the easiest ways to create a grocery shopping list that doesn't leave you reeling from sticker shock is budget meal planning. And trust me, it's an easy way to guarantee not just savings, but also tasty outcomes. You might be thinking, "But Mary, my family has a penchant for comfort food, and those aren't always cheap." Well, you'd be surprised! You can whip up a cheap family meal that's still hearty and fulfilling, without spending much time or money.
For example, think of a dish like spaghetti aglio e olio. It's simple, delicious, and doesn't require pricey ingredients. It's an effective way to serve up something scrumptious without straining your budget. If pasta isn't your thing, there are countless cheap dinner ideas ranging from frugal meals like bean chili to casseroles using fresh vegetables. They can be a great alternative to pricier options, and still leave everyone asking for seconds.
Now, creating a monthly meal plan or even a 2-week meal plan might sound daunting, but once you get the hang of it, it's a breeze. You can start by listing down favorite meals and incorporating a few new easy dinner ideas you find on websites like ohthatsgood.com. Remember, variety is the spice of life!
Consider including meatless meals once or twice a week. They're not just a good option for the planet, but also for your wallet. Fresh produce, like bell peppers, zucchini, and tomatoes, can often be cheaper than meats. These fresh produce items offer a plethora of options from stuffed bell peppers to zucchini fritters. And honestly, they can be every bit as satisfying.
Another easy way to trim your expenses is by leaning towards cheap easy meals. Sometimes, the less complicated the dish, the less it costs. Think simple salads, stir-fries, or rice bowls. These meals often utilize fresh food, ensuring you're getting a nutritious bang for your buck.
Money-saving tips aren't just about what you buy, but also about how you plan meals. Try planning around what's on sale that week. If chicken is at a discount, then perhaps a comforting chicken pot pie might be on the menu. If food prices seem to be skyrocketing, consider seeking out local farmers' markets. Not only will you get fresh vegetables and produce at a better price, but you're also supporting local businesses.
Another gem in the realm of budget-friendly meal planning is to embrace bulk buying, especially for non-perishables. Things like rice, grains, or pasta can be bought in larger quantities, resulting in savings in the long run. I share more of my recommendations in Tips for Saving Money on Groceries. I am 74 years old and I have a lifetime of experience grocery shopping, both good shopping and bad shopping.
The key takeaway? You don't need a hefty budget to eat well. With some strategic planning, hunting for deals, and embracing both old favorite meals and new easy dinner ideas, you can master the art of budget-friendly meal planning.
Remember, every meal doesn't have to be a lavish spread. Sometimes, the most straightforward dishes, made with love (and a keen eye on the budget), are the ones that resonate the most. If you are more interested in meal planning for two on a budget without less emphasis on budget, you might enjoy Meal Planning for Two.
With these tips in hand and a stash of fabulous, budget-friendly recipes up your sleeve, you're set to conquer every grocery trip and meal prep session with confidence and start cooking for two without breaking the bank!