So, you have figured out that food is one of your biggest expenses you can actually control? That’s great! But now what… well, how about some free meals plans which means…
Well, meal planning, of course!!
WAIT! WHAT! NO! You say
Oh, come on, meal planning is awesome. Don’t believe me then ask my husband and kids who used to have to eat fast food practically every night until I started meal planning.
Or think about the over $350 each month that I save because I meal plan. Actually, some folks save A LOT more. Not kidding!
Meal planning is one of the EASIEST and FASTEST ways to start saving money. Even if you decide that a budget is a bit much for you then you can still save by meal planning and with these free meal plans you can’t lose!
Sure there are others ways to save money like getting rid of your cable and watching Netflix instead but if you are currently not meal planning and going to the grocery store willy nilly then you would probably save more planning your meals. Budget or no budget.
Don’t know how to meal plan?
That’s OK, we will do a brief run through here and then you will be on your way to do your own budget meal planning.
Then, finally I am going to lead you to the most awesome budget meal plans online.
Are you ready? Let’s get to it!
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Does meal planning save money?
That is a big ole YES, YES, YES!!
There are two things that absolutely kill me… one is when folks don’t take advantage of an awesome 401k program at their workplace and the other is when folks don’t realize just how much money meal planning can save them.
If I hadn’t been that person who put her family in so much debt, with most of that debt being due to buying food to ruin in the fridge while I hit the fast food lane, then I probably wouldn’t be so passionate about this.
Alright, let’s do this…
Answer these questions.
Do you go grocery shopping and then come home wondering what you are going to fix each night?
Do you go grocery shopping but then find yourself hitting the drive thru at least a few times that week?
Do you go to the grocery store more than one time each week?
A few weeks after you have been grocery shopping are you throwing food away that’s in your fridge?
If you answered Yes to one of these questions, then you will still save a little money.
If you answered Yes to two of these questions, then you will save some money.
If you answered Yes to three of these questions, then you will save quite a bit of money.
If you answered Yes to all four of these questions, then sister, you will save a whole flippin’ A LOT of money!!
Think about it…
Meal planning on a budget, or just plain ole meal planning, will give you a plan to know what you will cook every night.
This will stop the $30 plus (easy for a family of four) fast food bill each time you hit the drive thru. You can still eat out every now and then but just keep it within your set food budget.
Meal planning for a week at a time will reduce your grocery trips to one time per week if done correctly and I will show you how. Come on, be honest with yourself, you know every time you go in that store you will buy more than just the one thing you planned to go in there and pick up. So, you go one time with a shopping list. Put your blinders and only buy what is on that list. I can see the dollar bills stacking back up in your wallet right now.
Finally, since you are only buying what you need to eat for the week then you won’t be throwing away all that ruined money, I mean, groceries.
Convinced yet? I hope so cause I just spilled over 600 words on this page trying to get you to realize how simple saving money can really be.
So, if you are convinced then let’s move on to how to meal plan.
How do you meal plan on a budget?
We will go over this quickly because I’ve already written out the steps over on Simple Step-by-Step Meal Planning for Beginners, and if you need actionable steps and additional help you can grab the Ultimate Meal Planning Guide for Beginners.
First thing you want to do is decide which meal you want to meal plan. You don’t want to overwhelm yourself; but you still want to get results. So, I would suggest that when you are starting out then you plan only one meal. By planning only my dinner is how I save more than $350 each month.
Once you have your one meal then sit down and brainstorm all the recipes you have fixed that are simple to fix. I’m talking meals that don’t take no more than 30 minutes. These can even be convenience foods like frozen pizza, already patted out hamburgers, and precooked chicken.
Choosing really easy meals means that you will most likely spend less money on the meals and they will take only a few ingredients so they will be easy to remember when it comes time to write out your grocery list.
Having a little trouble coming up with some ideas? That’s OK. That’s why I put together this list of budget meal plans.
Now, that you have your list you are ready to start planning your meals for one week.
Do you want to save money practically instantly?
Yeah, I thought so. Let me show you how I saved $200 on my very week of meal planning.
OK, let’s do a math problem. I know it’s awful but you gotta do it.
Add up how much money you spent on food over the last four weeks. This includes groceries and eating out. Now take that total number and divide it by 4.
Let’s do an example. Say you spent these amounts over the last four weeks:
- $176 on groceries
- $32 at McDonalds
- $27 at Taco Bell
- $56 at Cracker Barrel
- $151 on groceries
- $42 at Arby’s
- $29 at McDonalds
- $34 at McDonalds
- $162 on groceries
- $32 at McDonalds
- $36 at Subway
- $67 at Applebee’s
- $143 on groceries
- $35 at Taco Bell
- $37 at McDonalds
Total of these four weeks is $1059. Now divide this by 4 to equal $264.75. This means you have averaged $264.75 on food each week. You may not want to admit it, but this is where many of you are right now. I was.
Alright, planning back to saving practically instantly…
Take a look in your pantry, fridge, and freezer.
Are there any foods in there that you can use to make a meal?
When I made my first meal plan I had quite a bit of meat in my freezer and canned stuff in my pantry.
Use those ingredients and see if you can come up with some meals for the week. I bet you can.
When I did this I found that I only needed to get essential foods at the grocery store like bread and milk.
So, how much did you save on your first week?
After you have cleared out your pantry now you can just use your brainstorm list and start planning each week. You will add to your brainstorm list as you get more ideas. You will also want to take into consideration what you have going on through the week so you can plan your meals based on how busy your day will be.
Alright, once you have your meal plan then write out your grocery list what you will need to fix your meals. Don’t forget to add any other essential items you may need so you don’t have to run back out to the store later.
Now you are ready to shop. Remember to keep your blinders on and stick to your list.
Alright let’s get to what you really came here for and that is the free meal plans for budget meal planning.
Where can I find free meal plans for budget meal planning?
Sometimes all you need is for someone to just spell it all out for you. That is where these free meal plans come in real handy.
I have done some different searches across the internet trying to find some pretty awesome meal plans to make life easier for you with meal planning.
Other than these there are many, many more.
To give you an idea of how to search some on your own all you have to do is open your friend, Google.
Then type in these phrases:
- Easy budget meal plans
- Budget meal plans
- Cheap meal plans for families
- Free meal plans with grocery list
From these alone you will come up with tons of ideas.
Alright, I did this very search myself and here are some of the meal plans I came up with.
Mike, Tawra, and Jill believe in shopping for sale items. On this page they give you meal plans with prices. Although you should keep in mind the prices are from 2019 unless it has been updated. They also included recipes to make it easier for you.
Some of these recipes are:
- Quick and Easy Beef Stew Recipe – Mom’s Crockpot Beef Stew
- Easy Baked Potatoes Recipes
- Easy Pan Fried Lemon Chicken Recipe (this link also has other really good looking recipes)
Here you will learn some tops for keeping your food cost low plus some ideas of what you can create a meal plan with.
A few of these ideas are:
Lydia gives you several tips on how she keeps her food bill low. If you poke around on her blog you will find that she has several meal plans you can explore.
Here a couple of the recipes from this particular meal plan:
Budget stays in the forefront of the brain when this meal plan was put together. With thoughts of what might be in your pantry and fridge combined with planning for bulk buys these will save you a few bucks indeed.
Here are a few on the list:
Lois has a few meal plans on her blog but this one in particular is what fits our theme for meal planning on a budget. But sometimes we just need some ideas for a theme so we can put together our own meal plan so be sure to go on down to the next section where I will list her other meal plans for you to do just that.
But for this meal plan here are a couple recipes:
While poking around on Lois blog I came across another meal plan that I thought you would enjoy. One of the great things about the meals she list is that she will go out there and find what she thinks will work real well instead of just taking from her own meals.
Here are a few from this meal plan:
7. Dirt Cheap Meals (2 Week Meal Plan): Eat for as Little as $1 a Day! – Families for Financial Freedom
Stacie has given us some super cheap meals that not only help our pockets but also helps our time. These meals are only 15 minutes. Head on over to check out her simple meals.
She includes the recipes right on the same page because they are so simple. We are talking pancakes, egg salad sandwich, and quick and easy chili, just to name a few.
In this meal plan Tiffany has given us breakfast, lunch, and dinner. She doesn’t include links to the recipes but that’s OK ’cause most of them are super simple and you probably already know how to make them. If not, then that is what our good friend, Google, is for!
A couple of her ideas are baked chicken, simple spaghetti with garden salad, and bacon, onion, and greens pasta skillet. See, I told you they were super simple and exactly what a bigger meal planner needs!
Here you will have another really simple meal plan. I love that I’ve been able to find so many simple meal plans that can be made easy, fast, and inexpensive. These are the meal plans that you want to start out with. Keep it simple so you don’t get overwhelmed.
Here are few:
In this meal plan Step also includes a grocery list with prices but please remember that prices will vary depending on your location and where you shop.
I have to admit a few meals in this plan I have not heard of before but I guess that is the beauty of exploring what is out there!
Here’s a couple:
This meal plan must be pretty popular considering that Google is still pushing it up far enough for me to find it. If you look at the date of this one she created it in 2012!
Kimberlee created this meal plan with six people in mind and three of them were teens. I have a couple teenagers myself and know how they can eat you out of house and home. Just like many of the others these are easy meals to put together. She includes breakfast, lunch, and dinner with this one.
Here are few:
GET 78 DINNER THEME NIGHT IDEAS
If you struggle trying to figure out what to put on the table Every. Single. Night. then grab these dinner theme night ideas to make this much easier and fun. You also get the How to Meal Plan Checklist and the What’s for Dinner worksheet.
Here is another one that I came across from Living on a Dime. This one includes a shopping list with prices listed. Again, the prices may be different depending on where you live and where you shop.
I really like how they put the recipes right there on the same page.
A couple of these recipes are:
- The BEST 3 Ingredient Roast Chicken Recipe
- Easy Homemade Stir Fry
- Perfect Fried Potatoes
Ruth has several of these meals where she has put together an ingredients list for five recipes that you can fix ahead and put in the freezer. I know, I know. This is a little outside the scope of just meal planning. But I still included these because they are still pretty good meals you can plan for a week even if you don’t want to double them up and create ten meals to freeze.
I chose this one because it has more chicken in it. Chicken seems to be a favorite among folks so I wanted to throw a little more into the mix but while you are there you really should check out some of her others. Like “Part 3” is really good too with all the comfort foods.
Here are a few from this one:
Where can I find budget meals to choose from to create my own meal plan?
Alright, let’s continue this list but now we are getting away from “meal plans” and more into giving you ideas of where you can go to find some new recipes to try out. Remember to keep them simple and cheap.
Recipes to choose from are endless on the internet. I have done some searches for you to come up with a list but if you decide you want to do your own search then here is what you can look for:
- Budget cooking
- Cheap easy meals on a budget
- Cheap meals when you are broke
Here’s what we came up with for you…
I know I said no more meal plans but this one is a little different. It is only chicken. I mean I know we love us some chicken but for every day of the week? I guess if that’s what you want…
So, we will start this off with the Walking on Sunshine Recipes meals that I mentioned earlier. This one is all chicken. And I gotta say with the recipes she has chosen then it could be possible to have chicken every day. They all look super tasty.
Here are few:
- Grilled Chicken Sandwiches with Garlic Mayonnaise
- Roast Chicken Sandwich with Garlic Butter
- Baked Chicken Parmesan
Here is the other one I was talking about. Now I guess you could fix crock pot recipes every day in a week. Especially if you did the 10 Meals in an Hour that I mentioned back on number 13.
We haven’t thrown in much pot roast or pork so here is where you get a couple of those along with a few other tasty looking recipes.
Here’s a couple:
16. Budget Bytes
This will look a little different for you because instead of listing one particular post that was written with meals in it I’m giving you an entire blog. Why? Because she has so many tasty looking recipes.
None are extremely hard and Beth has the price per recipe and price per serving listed for them. I’m going to say this again just in case you didn’t see it above. You have to remember that her prices may be a little different from yours because of your location and where you shop.
Here are a few from her site and yes, I have tried some of these:
- Easy BBQ Chicken Sandwiches – have not tried it but looks sooooo good that I will.
- Pizza Pasta Salad – sorry a bit of a selfish move there. I want to try this one so I listed it to remember it. 🙂
- Bowties and Broccoli – tried it, loved it.
- One Pot Creamy Pesto Chicken Pasta – tried it, loved it.
How about a month’s worth of recipes? And all with shopping lists. Each week is completely different.
If you would like more budget recipes from here then you can check out the Budget Crunch Budget Cooking Recipes page. They have more ideas, recipes, and even some videos.
Now back to our current 5-ingredient dinners. Here are a few they have listed:
Stephy has listed out actually a few more than 150 recipes that she feels are appropriate for when you are broke. This is list is also great because it gives you some ideas of other places you can go to find easy meals to add to your brainstorm list.
But to just give you an idea of what kind of meals she has listed here are three that takes no more than 15 minutes to fix:
Arlene gives you plenty of tips on how to make cheap meals before she starts to lists all the recipes she has scoured the internet for to meet her expectations. I like how she has separated the meals by categories like chicken, pork, beef, and so on.
This is another one of those that can give you plenty of other food blogs to look at to get ideas of meals you want to plan.
Here are a couple she has listed:
These are not “meals” but they are different categories to help get your brain juices flowing on different kinds or themes of food. You could take this list and then do a Google search for each one using “easy budget ____ meals” or “recipes”.
Here’s some example Google searches you can do:
- You want pork so Google search: easy budget pork meals or easy budget pork recipes
- You want Mexican so Google search: easy budget Mexican recipes
It’s that simple. Just use the list to easy theme out each night for the next month if you want and then when you do your weekly meal plan just choose or search for easy budget recipes for that theme.
The meal planner that is right here on this site will give you recipes that take no longer than 30 minutes to complete. All the ingredients are ingredients you can purchase in your own store without having to go to a special store.
Also it is created in a way where you either click on how much time you want to spend cooking, what type of food you want to fix, or if you prefer a slow cooker method.
Pretty cool if I must say so myself.
After writing this post I answered a question for a friend and came up with a week plan of breakfast, lunch, and dinner. She needed something that is super easy and could keep under a budget.
I hope this list of meal ideas gives you plenty to work with during planning your meals.
IT’S UP TO YOU NOW
If you are ready to change the path of your future and starting working toward your money goals and desires. Do you want to pay off debt? Do you want to make new memories with your family? Do you simply want a spending cushion? Whatever it is, it is possible. All the tools are available in the Toolbox.
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