Meal Planning on a Budget

packed meals in jars

Help keep your grocery shopping and cooking organized by planning ahead for your family meals. Eating tasty food, both nutritious and healthy, doesn’t require a hefty budget!  Planning your meals ahead can potentially help to save you time and money.


When meal planning, it is important to remember that your master plan should include balanced meals containing all five food groups - fruit, vegetable, grains, dairy, and protein.  Here are some tips on how to plan and prepare nutritious meals for your family while also staying on a budget:

  • Buy food items in bulk.  Consider buying some of your family’s staples, such as rice and breakfast cereal, in bulk.  Buying in bulk is often cheaper than purchasing a smaller size in the long run. Bulk items don’t just have to be nonperishable items either. Having items from all food groups that can be incorporated into multiple balanced meals - such as tomatoes, apples, milk, nonfat yogurt, avocados, and whole wheat bread - already in your refrigerator or pantry is a great way to save time and often money! 
  • Create menus based on ingredients in stock and on sale. Limit food waste by choosing recipes that have overlapping ingredients that are already in your refrigerator and pantry.  You can also shop based on what’s in season, which is most likely what’s on sale at the grocery store.  During the springtime, look for items such as asparagus, beets, bok choy, kiwis, pineapple, and strawberries!
  • Consume foods that are high in nutrients, but low in cost.  Foods such as tofu, eggs, greens, bananas, and beans are some examples. Another option is to substitute costly meats for plant-based protein, such as beans.  If possible, try to aim for a meatless meal once a week to save even more money!
  • Keep a running grocery list.  Food shopping with a plan will allow you to keep track of what you actually need to buy at the store and reduce impulse buys. A running grocery list can also help you from buying food items that were already on hand, but forgotten; this can limit double purchasing.


To learn more about money-saving grocery shopping tips and how to get the most bang for your buck, visit Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics' website.