Check out my June Monthly Meal Plan here.
I started meal planning at the beginning of June, and I have been documenting my journey on Instagram ever since. I have learned that meal planning is a process, and just like budgeting, you have to perfect a system that works in your own life.
Over the last couple of months, I have learned a lot about my eating habits, what I like, what I don't like (I realized I HATE cream of chicken soup), and what recipes will work best with my budget. I have learned how to cut costs, save time in the kitchen, and learned about different methods of cooking that make my busy life a little bit easier.
Every month, I allocate $400 in my food cash envelope. This envelope is used for eating out and groceries. 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.
As you will see in this meal plan, if I spend too much cash on eating out, I have to reduce what I spend on groceries for my meal plan. This month, I had to go a week with spending any money on groceries because I ran out of cash in my envelope. We ended up using what was already in my kitchen and stuck to simple foods like Mac and Cheese, and frozen pizza.
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.
JULY BUDGET MONTHLY MEAL PLAN
For my meal plan in July, I attempted something I have never tried before – freezer cooking. I have been using onceamonthmeals.com to help me cut down time in the kitchen and make food prep a lot faster. I love that I can assemble an entire batch of recipes, freeze them, and then just stick them in the instant pot when I am ready to eat. I dedicated a full week to freezer cooking in July, and I found some recipes I really loved.
I am still using leftovers for lunches, and once or twice a week for dinners. We are still making spaghetti every Monday, which you can find the recipe I use for that here.
JULY (WEEK 7/1-7/8)
- 7/1: LEFTOVERS
- 7/2: Easy Baked Tortellini
- 7/3: Spicy Honey Instant Pot Chicken
- 7/4: LEFTOVERS
- 7/5: Instant Pot Garlic Parmesan Chicken
- 7/6: LEFTOVERS
- 7/7: Instant Pot Smothered Green Sauce Enchiladas
- 7/8 LEFTOVERS
My favorite recipe from this week was the enchiladas. I had no idea that they would turn out as good as they did. It made a huge patch which gave me plenty of leftovers for lunch and one additional dinner. Using my Instant Pot has allowed me to cut down time in the kitchen. It has also been hot lately, sometimes reaching into the 90's, so using my Instant Pot has been a blessing since it doesn't heat up the house.
JULY (WEEK 7/9 – 7/15)
- 7/9: Spaghetti & Garlic Bread
- 7/10: Instant Pot Creamy Bruschetta Chicken
- 7/11: Instant Pot Tortellini Alfredo
- 7/12: LEFTOVERS
- 7/13: Instant Pot Buttermilk Herb Chicken
- 7/14: Instant Pot Lemon Garlic Chicken
- 7/15: LEFTOVERS
My favorite recipe from this week was the Instant Pot Tortellini Alfredo. My son loved it, and we ended up eating the entire portion that night. Next time, I will make sure to make a double batch to ensure I have enough leftovers for lunch. It only takes 15 minutes to cook in the Instant Pot, and I already had most of the ingredients at home.
The Buttermilk Herb Chicken was one of my freezer meals, and the Lemon Garlic Chicken was a recipe I prepared in my Instant Pot. I am not a huge fan of chicken, but it's cheap and can be paired with a lot of different sides.
JULY (WEEK 7/16 – 7/22)
- 7/16: Spaghetti and Garlic Bread
- 7/17: Buttermilk Chicken
- 7/18: Mac and Cheese
- 7/19: LEFTOVERS
- 7/20: Frozen Pizza
- 7/21: Leftovers
- 7/22: Leftovers and Sandwiches
This week, I ran out of cash in my cash envelope and had to make a meal plan using things I already had in my kitchen. It was a rough week, but we got through it without spending a dime on food. I could have used my business income to go grocery shopping, but I stayed disciplined and made it work.
Having my pantry and freezer inventory list helped and I was able to make two full recipes that gave me enough for some leftovers for lunch. We had frozen pizza two nights, one being leftovers.
JULY (WEEK 7/23- 7/31)
- 7/23: Instant Pot Creamy Chicken with Mushrooms
- 7/24: LEFTOVERS
- 7/25: Instant Pot Lemon Chicken
- 7/26: LEFTOVERS
- 7/27: Instant Pot Tangy Creamy Beef Stroganoff
- 7/28: Instant Pot Rosemary Balsamic Pork Tenderloin
- 7/29: LEFTOVERS
- 7/30: Spaghetti and Garlic Bread
- 7/31: LEFTOVERS
For this week, I definitely had some favorites. Every month, I highlight on my monthly meal plan calendar our favorite recipes. Eventually, I want to create a meal plan with all of my favorite recipes.
I did have an issue with one of the recipes. I HATED the Creamy Chicken with Mushrooms recipe. It turned out exactly right, and there were no issues with the cooking. However, it was my first time using cream of chicken soup, and I found out really fast that I hate it. I love cream of mushroom soup, and I will make sure to substitute that in every time a recipe calls for cream of chicken soup!
The Beef Stroganoff and Pork Tenderloin were my favorites recipes from this week, and both of them were freezer meals. For July I tried the following freezer meals:
- Creamy Bruschetta Chicken
- Buttermilk Herb Chicken
- Creamy Chicken with Mushrooms
- Lemon Chicken
- Creamy Beef Stroganoff
- Rosemary Balsamic Pork Tenderloin
Overall, I really liked the simplicity of the freezer cooking. It was really nice to pull a meal out of the freezer and just dump it in the Instant Pot. I hope to do more in the future, and also find some more wonderful resources for freezer recipes.
My first full month of meal planning went really well, and for the first time ever, I had leftover cash in my food envelope for the last week of July. My food budget has really transformed, and I am finding more ways to save every month.
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!