Are you looking for the best way to plan family meals without breaking the bank? Use these meal planning template tips to make the most of your sales flyers and monthly food budget.
Maybe you’re tired of scrambling to figure out dinner every night. Or perhaps you’re trying to stretch your food budget but still put tasty meals on the table.
With some organization, local supermarket sales flyers and a simple meal planning template, you’ll soon find yourself creating customized, budget-friendly meal plans for your family. Use these actionable tips to start with meal planning to make your life easier and your wallet happier.
Make checking sales flyers a habit
Grocery store sales flyers are treasure maps to save money. To make the most of these deals, make it a habit to look through these flyers regularly — either physically in-store or through their online versions.
In addition to meats and produce, look for sales on long-shelf-life staples to flesh out your pantry with easy-to-heat cans of soups or stews. These can be a lifesaver for days when you don’t have a meal planned.
Why shop the sales
According to Harvard University, meal planning and prepping can help with weight control, eating a more balanced diet and also help save money and time. This is especially true when you can buy the ingredients for your upcoming menu at sale prices.
Making shopping sales flyers a regular habit helps you to spot deals on food items that you can add to your breakfast, lunch, dinner, dessert and snack lineup.
It also helps you to find hidden deals. While some items are always affordable, sales flyers highlight discounts you have yet to discover.
Shopping the flyers online or in print shows you the current seasonal sales. In-season produce costs less and may taste better than canned or frozen fruits or vegetables.
However, before you stock up on fresh tomatoes, for example, make sure you know how to preserve tomatoes for later use so you don’t end up tossing your sales finds. Or brush up on how to freeze blueberries to enjoy this late summer harvest right through the winter.
Best of all, you can use sales flyers to create a customized frugal meal plan that suits your family’s preferences and wallet based on your dietary preferences and local sale items.
Bulk buy when your favorite items are on sale
A certain satisfaction comes with snagging a good deal on items you love. Don’t hesitate to buy in bulk when you see those items in the sales flyer.
Steps to bulk buy effectively
Plan ahead when bulk buying. Use these tips when you buy in bulk for meal planning and preparation.
1. Check expiration dates: Make sure items won’t expire before you can use them.
2. Storage space: Ensure you have adequate storage for the items.
3. Rotate stock: Use the older items first to avoid waste.
“Grocery store sales circulars have replaced meal planning for me to a large extent. I buy the loss leaders or whatever the store promotes at a deep discount that week and create a dish using what’s on sale. I’m not fussy, and this method keeps my freezer and pantry well-stocked for less.”— Jennifer Osborn, Kitchen Serf
Meal planning template: Your secret weapon
A free meal planning template can guide you to organizing meals based on what’s in your pantry and on sale. Here’s how to get started.
How to create a simple meal planning template
Follow these steps to create your own meal simple meal plan template. Then, make copies to use each week.
- Take a sheet of paper or open a digital document.
- Make seven columns, one for each day of the week.
- Under each day, make rows for breakfast, lunch and dinner.
- As you go through the sales flyer, list meal ideas under each day based on discounted items.
You’ll also find free meal planning templates online to download and print. Websites ending in .gov or .edu often provide reputable resources. For example, the USDA has a comprehensive guide on meal planning.
Plan around staple ingredients
When reviewing paper or digital sales circulars and supermarket flyers, look for versatile staple ingredients for multiple meals. For example, use chicken in stir-fry, chicken salad and quesadillas.
Buy rice, beans, legumes and pasta as a base for various meals. Invest in your favorite dried spices when they go on sale to add flavor variety to your meals. Remember to freeze fresh meat, poultry, fruit or vegetables for later use. You may want to learn new preservation methods, such as fermenting vegetables to keep your food lasting longer.
Keep meal planning flexible
Don’t set your meal plan in stone. Always leave room for flexibility. Your main ingredient may sell out, or you may find an unexpected deal on a different item. Your meal plan should allow room for adaptation and substitutions.
Meal plan and prep as a family
Make meal planning and preparation a family affair. Planning meals together allows you to teach children valuable lessons about budgeting, healthy food choices and meal preparation.
When everyone contributes to planning, preparing, cooking and serving, the responsibility of feeding the household gets shared. Some family members may find they enjoy meals more when they’ve had a hand in planning.
How to get the family involved with meal planning
Here are three simple steps to involve everyone. Do this each time you set up a new meal plan.
- Hold a short family meeting to discuss meal preferences and ideas. Match these preferences with items on sale as per the sales flyers.
- Use your meal planning template to pencil in the next week’s meals.
- Delegate tasks based on age and skill level. Younger children may help set the table while older kids assist in cooking.
- Go shopping and track your savings. Record your savings and plan your meals around sales.
Planning meals as a family may make the process of meal planning and prep more enjoyable.
Meal planning on a budget doesn’t need to be solitary or tedious.
Use these strategies — regularly checking sales flyers, bulk buying, using a meal planning template, planning around staple ingredients, maintaining flexibility and involving the family — to make meal planning a rewarding and economic activity. Your family will enjoy tasty meals and gain valuable life skills along the way.
Sarita Harbour is a homeschooling, homesteading mom and a long-time business and finance writer. She created An Off Grid Life to help people become more self-reliant. Sarita and her family live off the grid in Canada’s Northwest Territories.