Meal Planning on a Budget – Simplifying Dinnertime Series: Part 1

Do you struggle with managing a chaotic dinnertime hour? Start simplifying this part of your day by meal planning on budget!


When I took a critical look at my day-to-day with the kids, I determined that the dinnertime hour is the most difficult part of our day.  No question. Everyone is tired, hungry and irritable. The kids are extra needy while I’m desperately trying to produce a healthy (ish) meal.  They start crying because I won’t give them a snack and my husband comes home to find total chaos. Does any of this sound familiar? So I’m on a mission to simplify dinnertime and calm the chaos. And it starts with carefully prepared grocery lists and meal plans!

Do you struggle with managing a chaotic dinnertime hour? Start simplifying this part of your day by meal planning on budget!


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A HUGE stress point for me is figuring out what I’m going to make for dinner. It’s way more stressful than actually cooking dinner. I go from slightly frustrated to full on resentful that I have to come up with a dinner plan every single night for the rest of my life. UGH. (Not my proudest moments.)

Dinnertime goes so much better when there is a plan made ahead of time. And since we’re still paying off student loans, I gotta do the meal planning on a budget.

Grocery shopping and meal planning are the first line of defence when it comes to handling the chaos the dinnertime. If you know ahead of time what you will be cooking and that you have all the ingredients you need, you will be much less stressed.

Meal Planning on a Budget

Meal planning and grocery lists go hand in hand, so I’ve created free printables to help you (and me!) with both!

Planning meals on a budget starts with carefully reading the weekly flyer and finding which meats and other proteins are on sale.  Jot those down on your handy meal planning cheatsheet!

If the sales aren’t great keep in mind that these proteins are often the most frugal options: Pork, beans/lentils, eggs, canned tuna.

If you want the full scoop on how I save money on groceries, check out this post: How I Save 28% on my Groceries Every Week

Next you’re going to want to come up with some simple meal ideas based on your choice of protein.  (I’m gonna help you out with that in a future post..stay tuned!)

Go through your recipes and determine if you are missing any ingredients, add those to your cheatsheet.

It’s always a good idea to plan for leftovers too, especially if you find a really good sale on meat.  You can easily double up the recipe and either freeze the second portion for a rainy day or have it for your lunches for the week.

Find out how to simplify your meal planning and grocery shopping!

Save Time with an Organized Shopping List

Grocery shopping with kids in tow is not for the faint of heart.  So stream-lining the process is a great sanity saver!

An organized shopping list will save you time and stress.

The grocery list printable has been divided into sections corresponding to the most common grocery departments.

That way you won’t be worrying that you forgot something in produce while you’re already in the dairy aisle.

Plus you won’t have to run back to get something you forgot while you hold everyone up at the checkout.

Grocery Shopping on a Budget

Take out your shopping list printable and add all the items from your meal planning.

Then carefully go through the store flyer to complete your list with the week’s sales. My rule of thumb when it comes to grocery shopping on a budget is to NEVER buy anything unless it’s on sale.

Then I dig through my coupons and go through my rebate apps, Checkout 51 and Caddle, to see if I can score any more deals.

If you sign up for Checkout 51 through my link, you’ll get a $5 bonus when you upload your first receipt!

If I find a really good sale, I will often stock up on that item.  It saves me money in the long run plus I hardly every run out of anything by buying ahead.

Fill in the section of coupons & rebates so you don’t forget anything when you’re at the checkout.

You don’t want to be that person in line whose desperately searching through the bottom of your purse for a long lost coupon that has probably expired while you’re kiddos start fussing and everyone else in line gets impatient. I’ve been her.  Never again.

Say ‘NO’ to brand loyalty! There are many products that are exactly the same whether they are the name brand or the store brand.  Purchase the store brand or the name brand that’s on sale when you can as this will save you money.

Don’t forget to check the sale section of your store for deals that are not advertised in the flyer.

Grab Your Free Printables

Click here to have your free printables sent straight to your inbox!

I hope that helps get you started on this mission to simplifying dinnertime!




  1. I’ve been in a total dinner rut, and it’s because I’m way too exhausted to even think about cooking when I get home from work. I need to get on board with the meal planning thing – it will help with better meals AND save money. Thanks for the tips!

    1. Oh I hear ya on the exhaustion thing! Cooking dinner is basically the last thing on the planet I feel like doing after a long crazy day! I’m compiling a list of quick meal ideas for another post, so make sure you check back!

  2. Dinner time is a struggle here, too. I have been able to find several of our pantry staples at Aldi now and that has saved us a lot! Making a meal list of 10 easy and well liked meals to always have a few of on hand is one thing I’ve found that helps us. If I could just grocery sop without the kids so it is easier to stick to the list 😉

    1. We don’t have Aldi where I live, but I hear good things about it! There is a discount grocer nearby but I find I don’t often have much time for shopping at multiple stores. Having a ‘best of’ meal list sounds like a great idea! Maybe I can incorporate that idea into this series!

  3. This is just what I needed! Lately it seems like I’m in a total dinner rut and all too often I end up feeding my family an unhealthy meal because it’s fast & easy. Can’t wait to check back for more of the series!

  4. This is such a good read, my dinnertime are becoming the busiest part of my day too and I love your money saving ideas I will try to incorporate some in my shopping. thanks for sharing.

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