Menu Planning on a Budget - Making a List of Easy Meals

Is it just me, or is the first thing that you try to cut back on when doing a budget the grocery money?  It seems like that is the only flexible account.  You have to pay a certain amount for electricity and heat, sure you can try and cut back on those with energy saving measures, but the place that we seem to constantly cut back the farthest is the grocery budget.

Yesterday I mentioned that I keep a list of easy, go-to meals in my Home Management Binder.  It has been a godsend over the past several years while we have tried to cut back the grocery budget.

When I think about meal planning on a budget, I immediately think about coupons.  But, since we really only have one local grocery store, couponing doesn’t work for me the way that it does for other people.  Instead, I have to think of other ways to reduce our expenditures at the grocery store.

One way that I have done that is to create this list of meals that I can make from things I typically have on hand.  What are these magical ingredients that I typically have on hand? 

Dry beans

I challenged myself to come up with a list of meals I could make so that it would be easier to meal plan.  I have a hard time making a list of meals for the week and sticking to it.  I think part of the reason is because I like to use what is in season, and often times I don’t know exactly what will be at the farmers’ market when I go.  Plus, I don’t like to put myself in a box when it comes to dinner!

I wanted something that was flexible.

Now, I realize that not everyone likes to cook.  I’m pretty bad at following recipes, which means I tend to make things up as I go.  If you like to follow a recipe, you could certainly use this method by putting together a list of easy, tried and true recipes that your family loves.

chili - recipe

What I did was take meals that my family enjoys (or will at least eat), and list the meal with whatever ingredients I would need to use.  Then, when I am stuck on a meal for the evening (I am always stuck on what to make for dinner), I can look at my list and make something relatively easy.

For example:

Meal : Fried Rice
Ingredients needed : rice, eggs, tamari, sesame oil, frozen veggies (whatever is on hand)
Meal : Chili
Ingredients needed : black/pinto beans, crushed tomatoes, frozen corn, frozen peppers, frozen onions, garlic, spices
Meal : Frittata
Ingredients needed : eggs, milk, veggies, cheese (if we have it)

None of these meals are super expensive, and they are all quite filling.  I also tend to make large amounts of these meals, so they can do double duty either by serving as lunch the next day, or dinner again later in the week.

Do you have a list of easy meals that you can make on the fly?  Do you make a more detailed menu each week?  Do you like to follow a recipe, or wing it like I do?


  1. Great post - and like you, we focus on easy, bean/egg/veggie meals as staples to get us through the Winter, er - the year actually. I love that they are economical and healthy! These days I wing it more than ever - who has time for a recipe!

  2. Thank you for sharing. I also love to cook and as much as possible plan the right meals for my family even with limited time. It helps also that I rely on for meal planning information and meal planning menus that compliments my budget and my family's health.


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