Check out my July 2018 Monthly Meal Plan here.
August was a horrible month for meal planning. I got lazy and ended up eating cereal, frozen pizza, and Velveeta a lot of nights. The one thing that I am learning about meal planning is that you have to make the time to do it. If you don't, it just won't happen.
Even though I seemed to fall behind in the kitchen in August, I was still able to stay within my food budget. Meal planning has such a positive impact on my budget, so taking an hour every Sunday to sit down and plan out my meals is definitely worth it.
I allocate $400 in my food budget every month ($200 per paycheck), and I use the cash in that envelope for eating out and grocery trips. I have a small family, just my son, my boyfriend, and myself. I like to choose recipes with at least a 4 serving portion size, so I have enough leftovers for lunch throughout the work week.
WHY I STARTED MEAL PLANNING
Just like you, I am consistently trying to find ways to cut down on food costs and cut out extra expenses in my budget. Starting in January 2018, I began tracking every dollar that I spend throughout the month. Not only am I keeping up-to-date on my expense tracker, but I am also keeping a close watch on my cash envelope spending trackers.
If you are not familiar with my budgeting method, you can read all about the cash envelope method here. Essentially, I pay all of my regular expenses online and use cash envelopes for the rest of my variable spending. If you are interested in using my budgeting method, I have a free email course that teaches you step-by-step on how to set one up. You can see more about my Budget Blueprint Email Course here.
I started noticing that almost every line item on my spending tracker was eating out. I was spending nearly $800 every month on eating out and spontaneous Starbucks purchases. I have tried meal planning in the past, but I never lasted more than two weeks.
Seeing my spending tracker for my food budget was enough to kick my butt into gear.
It made me furious that I was spending all of this money on food, rather than on my savings or paying off debt.
THINGS I HAVE LEARNED SO FAR
Here are some things that have helped me save money on my new meal plan.
- Always shop your pantry, refrigerator, and freezer first! You can cut costs by making recipes that use what you already have on hand.
- Have a planned grocery shopping list! Use this list to see if any of the ingredients you are going to buy are on sale or can be substituted for ones that are on sale. The apps I currently LOVE using are Checkout 51, Ibotta, Walmart Savings Catcher, and the Krazy Coupon Lady.
- Don't be afraid to incorporate dedicated days for leftovers in your meal plan!
- Make a price list before you head to the store. Jump online and check prices before you start grocery shopping. This will give you a good idea if you need to substitute an item or remove it completely if there is not enough cash in your food budget.
AUGUST BUDGET MONTHLY MEAL PLAN
For my meal plan in August, I stepped away from freezer cooking since the weather has cooled off. I get a lot of my recipes from Pinterest and try to find at least 4 recipes per week. I do all of my meal planning and shopping on Sunday, and I try to keep each trip under $75.
My saving grace has been my Instant Pot. Being able to cook dinner in under 20 minutes allows me to go to the gym at night, and still have dinner on the table by 7:30pm.
I also love how you can cook one-pot meals which allows you to cook EVERYTHING in one batch in the Instant Pot. I like to add potatoes and vegetables to my Instant Pot for my sides, and it saves me time from having to cook my sides separately.
AUGUST (WEEK 8/1 – 8/5)
- 8/1: LEFTOVERS
- 8/2: Honey BBQ Boneless Chicken Thighs
- 8/3: LEFTOVERS
- 8/4: Honey Sesame Chicken
- 8/5: James's Birthday Dinner
We were huge fans of the Honey Sesame Chicken. I had a lot of frozen chicken in my freezer for the beginning of August, so I made sure to build recipes around what I already had on hand. Before I sit down to meal plan, in addition to creating a monthly inventory list, I check my freezer to see what meats I have already in my freezer. Meats are a huge cost for my budget, so I always like to make sure I don't have any laying around before I plan my meals.
AUGUST (WEEK 8/6 – 8/12)
- 8/6: Cereal
- 8/7: Spaghetti & Garlic Bread
- 8/8: LEFTOVERS
- 8/9: Mongolian Beef and White Rice
- 8/10: LEFTOVERS
- 8/11: Country Steak & Mashed Potatoes
- 8/12: Creamy Thyme Chicken
Our favorite recipe from this week was the Mongolian Beef. I have never had flank steak, but we ended up eating this for a couple of nights. I got all of my recipes for this week from OnceAMonthMeals.com which shows you how to create a freezer meal from each recipe. If you want to save even more prep time in the kitchen, having the freezer meal option is amazing!
AUGUST (WEEK 8/13 – 8/19)
- 8/13: Cream Tuscan Garlic Chicken
- 8/14: Chicken Fajita Pasta
- 8/15: LEFTOVERS
- 8/16: Pizza Pasta
- 8/17: Spaghetti & Garlic Bread
- 8/18: LEFTOVERS
- 8/19: LEFTOVERS
AUGUST (WEEK 8/20 – 8/26)
- 8/20: Grilled Cheese Sandwiches & Soup
- 8/21: Tangy Beef Stroganoff
- 8/22: LEFTOVERS
- 8/23: Velveeta
- 8/24: Spaghetti & Garlic Bread
- 8/25: Frozen Pizza
- 8/26: LEFTOVERS
I only made one entire recipe during the second to last week in August. We choose to make one of our favorite meals from last month since we knew it would give us at least two nights of leftovers. The rest of the month was scrounging around the pantry. When I don't have time for meal planning, I always make sure to keep extra cans of tuna, Velveeta, stuff to make Spaghetti, and a frozen pizza in the freezer. This keeps me from going out to eat, and still gives me options for finding something quick and easy.
AUGUST (WEEK 8/27 – 8/31)
- 8/27: Dinner Date with Tina
- 8/28: Pork Chops & Mashed Potatoes
- 8/29: Red Pepper Chicken & White Rice
- 8/30: Honey Garlic Chicken
- 8/31: Chicken Tacos & Instant Mexican Rice
If you are struggling with your food budget, I highly recommend starting a meal plan. It doesn't take a lot of time but could save you a lot of money in the end.
I plan on posting my meal plan updates every month. So be on the lookout for those updates!