going debt free staying on budget

Living Debt Free #4: Meal Planning 101

Hey friends! If you are just now joining us, my husband and I are in the midst of attempting to be debt free! It’s an exhilarating and nerve-wracking undertaking.

In my last post, I mentioned some ways we found to stay on budget, one of those being meal planning. This super simple step has literally saved us $300 this month alone (I’m internally cringing at that number). So here is an overview of what we each week to keep costs down, and provide you with a free downloadable meal planning sheet!


My Guide to saving TONS of money by meal planning

Meal plan with a strategy in mind. 

Make a list of each breakfast, lunch, and dinner every single day of the week. We actually leave breakfast off because we do about the same thing every morning. I just immediately add what we get to the list. As you’re planning this keep a few things in mind:

  • What you have in your pantry.
  • How much ingredients cost.
  • What you could easily make with what you have on hand- get creative! Usually, I plan out at least one meal per week that I have to buy almost nothing for because we already have most of the ingredients.

As you plan, to use try to use the same ingredient in multiple meals to consolidate costs. For example, Josh loves to have cheddar chicken (you know that recipe that is EVERYWHERE) but we don’t usually have the sour cream on hand that the recipe calls for and we don’t use it with much. When we plan that meal I will either one, leave it out, or two, plan tacos the same week so we get multiple uses out of it.

Simply making this list every week will absolutely save you money (as long as you actually cook the meals, I am guilty here). But keeping those things in mind when you are making your plan will really let you hone in on where you can cut back. Just as a note- there is no reason you cannot eat healthy this way as well. With a 1 year old that is really important to us. We’re always getting fresh foods and easily staying on budget for all three of us.

Use what you have. 

If you are like any other family in America you probably have food sitting in your pantry that you have not used in a while, that is still good but you’re just never in the mood for it. Get over it. That’s my best advice. Using what you have will really cut down on those extra expenses. Now keep in mind, moderation is always key. Don’t eat pasta for a week just because you have it in the cupboard (I mean you can if you really want to, but I wouldn’t.)

My best advice there is to just come up with a plan that is appetizing but frugal. You can absolutely do this. Search Pinterest for recipes and tweak them to meet your low budget needs.

Real life scenario: I have a 10 lb. bag of rice that we have been making meals with left and right lately. Each week I plan one meal that is sesame chicken and rice with a veggie on the side. I already have all the ingredients for sesame chicken so usually, all we have to buy is the chicken and veggie. This will feed us for 1 dinner and 1 lunch each. The chicken and veggies only cost around $5 so in theory, it costs us around $0.83 per meal (without calculating the rice.)

Expect things to go wrong. 

Always have a backup. Never think that every single day is going to go as planned because it never does. That’s how life goes, but in our case, I always have something up my sleeve to try and avoid going out for lunch. We buy lunch meat once every couple weeks and always make sure we have bread on hand to take a quick sandwich when we need it.

For all you kind readers, here is a FREE printable meal planner and grocery list for your use. I hope it helps you save as much as we have!


I’m not even going to go into the whole couponing thing here- that’s enough for one day! But I do want to ask what is your favorite simple meal? I’m always looking for more options! Let me know if you have any questions for me in the comments below.



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