Passionate About Des Moines
and the Moms Who Live Here

Honey, We Ate All Our Money: 3 Tips for a Budget-Friendly Meal Plan

Picture yourself crumpling up hundred dollar bills and sprinkling them over a bed of lettuce, topping it with a little dressing and chowing down.

Promptly proceed to the doctor’s office for updated immunizations and a tetanus shot.

Or imagine this scenario: you spend over $100 at the grocery store with intentions of feeding your family healthy, nutritious, and interesting meals over the next week. But when you get home from work, you get completely overwhelmed by the thought of preparing dinner, so you throw in the towel and take the kids to Chick Fil A. They need to burn off some energy, and it’s winter for Pete’s sake!

The next night, you have gymnastics so you eat at Fazoli’s on the way home. Finally, you didn’t make time to pack your lunch, so you spend $10 at Panera for lunch.

And at the end of the week, after you’ve spent another $100 at the grocery store, you waste the food in the fridge and start over again.

That flushing sound? $300 down the drain.

That is an accurate description of October 2016 at our house. The month we spent three times as much on food as we were supposed to. The month I realized I needed to make some ch-ch-ch-changes. 

Enter 2017 and 12 more fresh starts. One of my resolutions this year is to be more intentional with our food budget. I want to look at what’s going on during the week, and make a plan for the week to come.

Here are three things I’ve been practicing since we ate all our money in October. 

1. Make a simple meal plan.

Take 5 minutes before you go grocery shopping and write out 3 to 5 ideas for dinners based on what you have coming up in the next week.

Next, go through your pantry and make a quick grocery list. We eat the same things everyday for breakfast—alternating between eggs, bagels, frozen wheat waffles with pb, plain old pb+j, or the occasional cinnamon roll for a weekend treat. For lunch it’s leftovers or wraps/sandwiches (if I’m not eating our money at a restaurant).

I have a friend who asks her husband and two kids every Sunday to choose one dinner they’d like in the upcoming week. This is a great way to get the whole family involved in the meal planning process!

food budget meal planning | des moines Moms blog

2. Choose the right store for you.

There are a lot of factors to consider in choosing the right grocery store for you: price, convenience, and  location, to name a few.

I go grocery shopping once a week, so my main concerns are the amount of time it will take and the amount of money I’ll spend.

The Hy-Vee bakery is my kryptonite. I see those perfectly round muffins, and I lose all self control. After I’ve loaded my cart with all the banana nut 4-packs and cartons of sugary  puppy chow goodness, I forget what I came for, spend $120, and still don’t know what we’re going to eat for dinner.

I love ordering my groceries online, and it keeps me from making those dreaded impulse buys. I’ve found a combination of Hy Vee Aisles Online and Aldi works well for my grocery budget.

If I know I won’t have time to go to the store at the end of the week, I place an order online.

If I do have time to go to the store, or I want to brave taking the children on Saturday, I head to Aldi. I can always get out under $70. This particular week, I took the girls and spent $61.86 on groceries. We were also in a state of emergency with respect to diapers and wipes and there was NO WAY I was going to TWO stores at NAPTIME.

Here’s what that looks like in food. During this particular week, I already had quite a few items we needed in the pantry. We have plenty of fresh fruit, frozen vegetables, pancake mix for breakfast for dinner (if you like pancakes, click the link and thank me later) and Kirkland marinara from Costco—I swear it’s the only spaghetti sauce without added sugar or a “genetically modified” disclaimer that gives me the heebie jeebies. 

food budget meal planning| des moines Moms blog

3. Let go of perfection.

I like food. I enjoy trying new recipes, but I have found that during the week, it doesn’t work for this family. Plus, my husband does most of the cooking, and he appreciates quick and simple things he can throw together.

So instead of my dreamland of “try something new every week,” it’s good enough to try new things for special occasions or on the weekends.

I also like feeding my family healthy things. In a perfect world, where I didn’t get frazzled with trying new things during the week, there would be more quinoa and chia seeds in our regular diet—probably hiding in something we already eat on a regular basis because PATH OF LEAST RESISTANCE.

Incorporating new, healthy foods into our routine is another goal for 2017. I really admire you moms who do these things with ease. Fist bumps and pats on the back to you all!

This year we are working toward not eating all the money and eating simply.

That is good enough.

If you’re struggling in this area, facing constant defeat, and losing your mind—start with meeting basic needs and add on from there. We can do this! And together, we will all eat less money.

Check out these other posts for dinner time and meal planning: 

Kristin’s Mealtime Sanity and Budget Savers

The Bridge Builders Wife’s hilarious account of how she spends all her money at the grocery store.

Christine and the Straight from the Heart(land) podcast team, sharing their strategies for meal planning in Episode 32. 

Des Moines Moms Blog’s Month of Meal Plans from 2013. 

How do you make meal planning happen within your budget?

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