Frugal Meal Planning

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Cooking at home and implementing frugal meal planning is a wonderful way to save significant dollars.

I’m always amazed at how much money we can save on food when I plan ahead and shop for groceries strategically. With a little creativity and planning, cooking at home doesn’t need to be a lot more work.

A pottery bowl filled with spaghetti and meatballs on a gray napkin with a fork.

How to Get Started

Begin by taking inventory of what foods you have on hand as well as your other basic ingredients so you can use food that you already have from the freezer and refrigerator this month.

You may already have the ingredients to make some meals with what you have. Here are 14 meals you can make from your pantry and freezer.

For inspiration, you might enjoy checking out Big Oven, which has over a million recipes you can access. Simply plug in the ingredients you have on hand, and you can browse all the recipes that match those ingredients.

There are also apps that work the same way, including SuperCook and Tasty.

Save Money on Vegetables and Fruits

It’s usually more economical — and healthful — to plan meals using seasonal, regionally-grown produce. You might want to consult your grocery store’s website or weekly sale circular to plan meals based on what’s available at a reasonable price. Here in the U.S., for instance, citrus fruits, hard squash and root vegetables are generally in season during January.

I keep a running list in a meal planning journal of dishes my family especially likes; then, when I’m low on inspiration I can review the list and get some ideas for sure-to-please meals.

I’ve also collected a bunch of easy, family-friendly dinner recipes on this Dinners and Suppers Pinterest board.

While you’re on Pinterest, check out my friend Kathleen’s boards at The Fresh Cooky. Her wholesome, easy, kid-friendly recipes are gems, and it’s easy to see why her account gets millions of views a month!

Two other places I find good recipes and frugal meal planning ideas are the Taste of Home and Epicurious websites.

Make Your Own Pizza

One dinner my family seems to consistently love is pizza. Back in the olden days I used to call for pizza delivery on a regular basis, but now I prepare a a big batch of pizza dough early in the month and freeze the extra rounds of dough. I remove the dough from the freezer and let it thaw in the refrigerator for 24 hours before pizza night, and after that it’s really easy to press the dough in a pan, add the toppings and bake. We can make a great, piping hot pizza with organic ingredients for less than $2.00 using this method.

My homemade pizza recipe (archived over at Happy Simple Living) includes detailed instructions, two crust recipes, a homemade sauce recipe, dozens of topping ideas and lots of photos. If you don’t have a pizza pan you can simply use a cookie sheet for the pizza, and it’s so easy, economical and delicious you may never call for delivery again.

Soup-er Meals

Soup is another great choice, especially for cozy winter meals. I remember how my mom always carefully saved and froze leftover meat and the cooking water from vegetables for homemade broth. Her soups always have the most incredible flavor, and I follow her example now.

If you have a slow cooker, you can prepare a meal in the morning and enjoy an easy dinner that night. A slow cooker is great for a less expensive cut of meat, which becomes nice and tender after cooking at low heat all day.

If you have an Instant Pot, you can make homemade soup in a jiffy. You might find some new ideas from Delish’s 25 Instant Pot soup recipes.

Daily Specials

For easy planning, you may want to assign days to meals during January.

Here’s an example:

* Mondays — casserole night
* Tuesdays — stir-fry night
* Wednesdays — slow cooker night
* Thursdays — pasta night
* Fridays — pizza night
* Saturdays — cook-on-the-grill night
* Sundays — soup night

Your Challenge:  Plan Your Meals

Figure out the meals you want to prepare and serve this month. Begin by utilizing what you already have on hand. Try to take advantage of seasonal foods and specials at your grocery store, and stay within your budget. You’ll be way ahead in the challenge to spend less and eat well this month.

Bonus challenge: Plan to cook a double batch of at least one of your meals, and freeze half.

Do you have some favorite recipes you can share with us? Tips for saving money on meals? I invite you to share your thoughts and ideas in the Comments section of this post or over at the Money Diet Facebook Group page.

Best always,

Eliza Cross's signature

P.S. If you use Pinterest to save ideas, here’s a handy pin:

Plan meals and save money

5 thoughts on “Frugal Meal Planning”

  1. Eliza, what a great, inspiring list of ideas and meals!! In fact, I am right now making a HUGE pot of beef and veggie soup using marinated shish kabab meat I had in the freezer, frozen zucchini, older carrots and cleaned out several cans and boxes of broth from my pantry and it smells delicious! This should feed us for two days and that is including freezing some for another time this month!

  2. This is an area I always struggle with! I know I have a lot of ingredients but no plan! I’m going to spend some time putting together a plan this weekend. Thanks for the great ideas!

  3. This is how we eat always. People don;t understand that I don’t like to eat out. I decided this year to learn how to make sushi. It cost to much to buy out and my husband loves it. I have so many goals for this year. Saving more money, losing some weight, learning a new language, making my garden better. The most important thing is to learn as much as we cam. We are doing a no clothes buy for a year.Every other month will be a no spend month and make these goals I have work. This will be my best year ever. I will learn how to make money for my house hold too. God bless


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