This year has been a hard one. Many of us have had to make adjustments to everything from our family life or work life– to our lifestyle and budget. Food prices and availability have changed across the world. Now more than ever, we need help planning for budget meals for the 21 Day Fix!
There is plenty of advice out there for eating on a budget with a regular All-America diet. But not all that much for eating a more healthy lifestyle on a budget. Let me take you thru a simple list of things that can help you make budgeting easier.
I am going to drop links all the way thru this post. Budget shopping ideas and fellow blogger’s money-saving recipes along with mine.
Ways of planning for budget meals on the 21 Day Fix
#1 Start by shopping at home. Go thru your pantry/fridge/freezer and make a list of every food you have available in your house already. That 1/2 package of brown rice can become part of your meal plan. If you find a random cucumber in the fridge and only have 1 onion they can become a quick pickled veggie salad. A tiny bit of cheese can be added to an omelet. List your staples too. There is nothing worse on a budget than buying something you already have enough of like oatmeal, cereal, or pasta. Take this “HAVE” list and go to the next step.
#2 Find your store ads. You can find most of them online or a newspaper will usually have them and food coupons on Wednesdays. Jot down on your “SHOPPING LIST” the things on sale and that you are going to want to buy because they are good deals. I will shop in 3 or 4 stores sometimes, shopping for only the things they have on sale. If I can I stock up on something that is a great price. For example, I found chicken breast on sale for .99 a pound one week and bought 10lbs for my freezer. Which should be enough to last me until it comes back on sale. I can’t resist a beautiful hunk of beef at the right price!
Now you have to think!
#3 Plan your meals. Use those 2 lists you just made and try to plan as many meals/dishes you can with them. Remember our example: You had brown rice already. There is a 1/2 jar of salsa in the fridge. More of that 1 onion you found and a little bit of cheese. The local store has chicken breast on sale at a great price. So combine all that stuff with some spices and have a Spanish rice bowl.
Plan leftovers on purpose. I will often eat leftovers from supper for lunch the next day, again to keep waste and the budget down.
When I get the chance to go to an Aldi’s or Kroger grocery store, I stock up on things I can’t always get. Aldi’s chicken sausages are an example of something I will buy only for me…Hubby won’t touch them. But I am only going to eat them one at a time because of the sodium. So I just break them down into single-serve size and freeze them individually.
Let’s keep going on with planning for budget meals
#4 Finish your shopping list. Any staples you need to replace or ingredients to make a meal go right on the list of the things on sale. I have to cook for a family not on the 21 Day Fix with me. There is no way I can cook 2 different meals all the time and keep to a budget. My answer to that problem is to cook the same protein for us both and maybe tweak my plate with extra veggies or a side salad.
I only buy 1 of certain categories of things. We have a list of 5 different natural sweeteners. When I am being extra strict I only buy 1 at a time. First I buy honey and when it is gone…then I buy maple syrup. I keep white sugar for my family but I can use it too. I do the same thing with oils and with salad dressings too, using up one before buying something new. Bread and cereal products? Same only one or two kinds at a time.
On the 21 Day Fix, we can count some non-meat options as proteins. Yogurt is cheaper than steak and eggs are cheaper than chicken. Make some of these non-meat options into full meals, like having breakfast for supper! Cottage cheese and ricotta give you a 3/4 cup of CHEESE to work with! I stuff a baked potato with them and add some flavors like garlic, onion, jalapenos, or chives.
A few last tips
#5 Eat in season. Be careful to plan foods that are in “season”. If you plan for strawberries in December you are going to pay dearly for them. Instead buy the frozen version and wait to buy fresh ones in the spring when the price drops down.
#6 Watch for clearance sales. The produce department is a great place to find markdowns. For example, if I was going to buy regular bell peppers but there were mini bell peppers marked down I would buy them. Again, be careful of doing this if the produce looks “sad” looking. I would only buy the mini bell peppers if I was going to use them before they go bad. I found approved turkey bacon one-time clearance down to .99 a package. (The store was remodeling and needed to empty all the coolers.) I bought every package they had and put them in my freezer.
#7 Only try one new recipe at a time. Nothing feels worse than buying everything to try 3 or 4 new recipes and then you don’t like any of them. If I have to buy 1 unusual ingredient then if we don’t like it I haven’t blown our budget! I call this “building my pantry” For example, I might want to try an Asian dish and buy coconut aminos for it. I will try to start using the aminos in my normal meal plan with more than one recipe that uses them.
Stocking a “budget” conscience pantry
A pantry is just a fancy word for how you store your food. It can include your cabinets, your fridge, or your freezer. So when I am talking about “stocking your pantry” I will mention all 3 areas.
When you first start on the 21 Day Fix it feels like you might spend a small fortune on “new” ingredients. The example of real maple syrup is a good one. OMG! Sometimes one bottle can be really HIGH priced. But once you buy it and realize that you are counting it by the teaspoon and is going to last for 3 months, then it doesn’t seem to cost as much. Another way to save money is to consolidate your grocery list.
I had a conversation with my Hubby about some of the things he was going to see me buying and asked him if he would switch to some of them. For example, real butter- “Will you eat real butter with me, and then we can stop buying both butter and margarine?” That one question lowered our grocery bill, but I named everything bread, pasta, no-salt canned goods, more fresh stuff. One by one my grocery list shrank!!
He didn’t agree to every change though. He won’t eat whole wheat pasta and the only shape he will eat is spaghetti. So I buy the biggest package of his noodles as I can find, because it is cheaper that way, and cross his off my weekly list. I “stock” my pantry. Building up enough reoccurring ingredients that pulling a meal together in a hurry is almost easy! I am going to give some examples of “pantry building” with this list.
A pantry list for planning for budget meals
Keeping this short list of budget conscience ingredients handy can set you up for success in building basic meals.
Cheese: Block cheese is cheap by the pound than pre-shredded. The pre-shredded doesn’t melt right either because it is made with an anti-sticking agent for packaging. A simple box grater or food processor grating blade will do the job quickly!