Check out these free printables to help you meal plan, shop, and stick to your grocery budget!
I have not meal planned regularly in several months. Maybe even a year since I really payed attention to our grocery budget.
It’s been bad, y’all.
I sat down this week and pulled up my grocery budget spreadsheet and edited it with new amounts. I created a new printable to keep track of meal planning, and used price lists to create a shopping list and meal plan for the next two weeks. (Each are available to print at the end of the post).
And then I took all four of my children to Whole Foods and Costco and almost died.
But since the kitchen and pantry are stocked with food and I know what I will be cooking for the next two weeks, I’d say my near-death experience was worth the effort.
Blurry because I was busy bouncing a fussy newborn.
I have used a variety of meal planning methods over the years. I have tried planning meals and filling them in for specific days on the calendar. I have couponed and planned meals according to sales and deals. I have planned meals according to categories– one pasta, one pizza, one meatless, etc, for each week.
But what I have found to work best for us is to simply plan for a number of meals that can be made over a two-week period, purchase what we need for those meals, and then decide each day what we want to eat.
Planning this way gives us flexibilty and allows us to choose what we feel like, while still being prepared and and avoiding the last minute frantic dinner decisions.
Because we’ve all been there– dinner is fast approaching, everyone is asking what’s on the menu, and you.have.no.idea. All of a sudden, you have to think about what meat thaws the quickest and what meals can be thrown together in little time with little fuss.
Meal planning is the remedy for that, as well as being a budget saver since extra trips to the grocery store are also avoided.
I will explain how I am meal planning and being strategic with our grocery budget in case you are in a rut too and could use some fresh planning inspiration. There are endless ways to meal plan and budget, this is simply what works for us.
How to use the Simple Meal Planning Printable:
1.Make a note of what you already have on hand.
This is an important first step because it helps to prevent food waste and spending money unnecessarily. Typically, at least a third of our meals can be made at least in part with what is already in my freezer or pantry.
It is not necessary to list everything, of course, but any meat or produce in the refrigerator or freezer should be listed since those are typically the key parts of any meal.
2. Make a note of any special occasions or circumstances occurring in the planning period.
Write down any plans that will affect your meal times. An evening outing, dinner with friends, part of the family out of town, etc. You want to make a note of these so you can plan for meals that can be eaten on the go, or meals that will feed more or less people accordingly.
This is also the place I fill in specific sales or meal requests so that I will not forget.
3. Start planning meals.
The meal plan printable includes a spot for breakfast and lunch, although those meals do not vary as much as our dinners. I fill in a few ideas for breakfasts–we usually rotate through the same three things during the week. Then I write in a few lunch ideas. These may vary a little more than breakfasts depending on what is on hand, but still lunch is usually some type of sandwich, salad, soup, or snack style meal with whatever I can bake up or pull out of the fridge that day.
The first thing I do to plan dinners is to look at what’s on hand, and then write in a few meals with those ingredients. After that, I look at these main dish ideas, my Pinterest boards, and/or flip through a favorite cookbook or two. Keeping a master list of meals like my friend Leigh Ann does is another great idea.
I never plan meals for everyday in the planning period. If I’m planning for two weeks, I typically only plan about 8-10 meals. I know that there will be nights for leftovers, spontaneous dinners with friends or family, or nights we pick up a pizza on the way home from the park.
4. Make a note of special ingredients and pantry staples you need to buy.
While writing down the meal ideas, I also make notes of any special ingredients I need to pick up. I also make a note of things we regularly keep on hand that I know we need more of. This step makes filling in the grocery list/budget spreadsheet much easier.
All-in-One Grocery Budget and Shopping List
This spreadsheet is key to me staying in budget (well, to trying to get back to staying in budget). All I need to do is fill in the items and their prices, and the program does all the math for me. The totals and remaining balance is adjusted without me every pulling out the calculator (app).
I will try to explain the spreadsheet as simply as I can, but you can also download it and play around with it on your computer too. The blank copy already has the formulas plugged in, so you just need to adjust your beginning balance and fill in your items.
(The beginning, or total, amount of your grocery budget is found in the formula in cell C17– the total grocery amount minus the 2 Week Total Regular Expenses determines how much is left for produce, meat, and everything else).
Along the top half of the spreadsheet are three columns– one for items I buy each week, one for items I buy every two weeks, and one for items I only need to buy about once a month. These items do not change, once I fill them in, I do not need to adjust it each time I plan my list.
The bottom half of the spreadsheet is for the items that do vary. The column on the bottom left is for produce, the middle column is for pantry items, and the column on the right is for meat. I assigned each group a budget amount and as I fill in each item, the total is adjusted at the bottom of the column.
I use the price lists I put together for the price comparison between Aldi and Costco to determine each item’s amount. The price may vary slightly, but not enough to really affect the budget.
An example of a recent grocery list.
Download and Print:
- Two Week Meal Plan
- All-in-One Grocery Budget and Shopping List
- Costco and Aldi Price List
- Printable Shopping List for Kids
What helps you to stay in your grocery budget?
Do you meal plan weekly, biweekly or monthly?