Welcome to my May Budget Meal Plan Update! May was a hard month for meal planning. I had two vacations, and I wasn't home a lot.
I completed the Pantry & Freezer Savings Challenge and completed one large grocery haul in May.
Every month, I allocate $400 to my food budget, and I use the cash in my food envelope for eating out and grocery trips. I have a small family, just my son, my boyfriend, and myself.
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.
I also knew that I could cut my food budget in half if I had a plan. So I developed the TBM Meal Planning Workbook. (The TBM Meal Planning Workbook pairs well with $5 Meal Plans.)
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 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.
I took time out in the beginning of the month to take inventory of my pantry, fridge, and freezer. Since completing the November Freezer challenge, I have learned to eat what I already have at home.
I have been meal planning for about a year, and one of the things that I noticed that saved me a ton of money was building my meal plan and recipes around ingredients I already have at home. I meal plan every week, but I take time during the beginning of every month to inventory what I have in my pantry, fridge, and freezer.
My inventory lists act as my quick reference guide when I am finding recipes online for my meal plan. By taking inventory of the food you already have, you accomplish three important things:
- You save money by utilizing the food you already have at home.
- You reduce food waste by becoming aware of your expiration dates and using the food that is about to expire first with your meal plan recipes. 3. You stop yourself from overbuying. It was really easy for me to forget about what I already had in my cupboard, so I would end up buying a lot of duplicates.
HOW I USE MY FOOD BUDGET
Since I only allocate $400/month for food, which includes eating out and meal planning grocery trips, the more we eat out, means the less money I have for grocery hauls.
Not splitting my Food cash envelope into two categories (eating out and groceries) has been the best decision. If I were to assign a limit for eating out every month, I know that my family would use the full amount. Having one Food envelope for both purposes allows me to say to myself, “If I keep my grocery trips low, I can eat out more.” or “We have eaten out too much this week, so we need to keep our grocery trip small.”
I am still utilizing my Instant Pot for every recipe. I can't function without my Instant Pot. It saves me so much time in the kitchen, and with my busy schedule, I can't live without it. Now that I have two liners (thanks to breaking my Instant Pot in September), I can now utilize my Instant Pot more than ever!
MAY BUDGET MONTHLY MEAL PLAN
Due to vacations, I only completed a meal plan for one week in May. The rest of the days were “making it work,” finding things to eat at home and a lot of eating out. Due to eating out a lot more, I ended up $38 over my food budget.
I made one large grocery trip for the full week that I was home. Total grocery trip cost = $61. This includes all food-related purchases.
I also bought non-food related items during the same trip to Walmart.
I also used my household cash envelope, which cost $12 and my beauty envelope, which cost $4 during the same grocery trip.
MAY (WEEK 13th – 19th)
- Oatmeal & Fruit
- 5/13: Buffalo Chicken Zucchini Boats
- 5/14: Honey Lime Chicken Thighs
- 5/15: Broccoli & Garlic Pasta
- 5/16: LEFTOVERS
- 5/17: Rice Bowl with Fried Egg & Avocado
- 5/18: EAT OUT
- 5/19: LEFTOVERS
I decided to keep breakfast simple. I use Quaker Oats, Almond Milk, and a variety of fruit for most of my breakfasts. It's a filling & quick recipe, which is perfect for my morning routine.
For lunches, I have been gravitating towards more Bistro Box style lunches. I can prep the fruit and veggies beforehand, and make the sandwich or protein the same day. These are perfect now that I am working from home full-time. I can grab and go or enjoy them at home.
I had two favorite recipes that I made in May. The Rice Bowls were terrific and very easy to make. They are healthy and are a fantastic source of protein. Surprisingly, this was my son's favorite recipe too!
I also tried a new recipe this month. The Buffalo Chicken Zucchini Boat recipe had to be altered to fit what I already had at home, but they still turned out great. Instead of using chicken, I used ground turkey. I also substituted the Buffalo Sauce with a Fajita spice packet.
Since May was all about eating food that you already have at home, I decided to make Banana Bread using some overly ripe bananas that I didn't get the chance to eat. You can find the recipe here.
TOTAL MONTHLY COST
I spent a total of $438 on food costs in May. $133 was spent on grocery trips, and the remaining $305 was spent on eating out. I could have drastically reduced my food budget if I planned better around my vacation time, which caused me to be $38 over-budget in May.
Keep in mind that I do make other purchases when I am at the store for my grocery hauls, but I always do a separate transaction for each of my envelopes. For example, if I buy shampoo during one of my meal planning grocery trips, I do a separate transaction, and I pull the cash from my Beauty Cash Envelope.
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!
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