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Budgeting and meal planning

One of the best ways you can start to eat well and pay less is with meal planning. We show you ways to save money on food by planning your meals.

Shopping on a budget isn’t always easy. If you don’t know what you’re planning to buy, you can quickly find your trolley gets filled with convenient but expensive food. Meal planning on a budget takes a little extra planning and a few clever tricks, but you can make some significant savings along the way.

What is budget meal planning?

Budget meal planning is just what it sounds like—planning your meals on a limited budget! The exact amount you set for your budget will depend on your household, but the steps are pretty simple:

  1. Set a food budget for a set period of time—most commonly people budget their food expenditure for a week or a month.
  2. Decide on the meals you want to cook.
  3. Write a shopping list for the ingredients you need with their prices, to make sure they fit within the budgeted amount for that period.

For example, if you’re planning for one week, your budget meal plan will usually cover at least dinner for the next seven days. That said, when you’re aiming to save money, it’s a good idea to include breakfast and lunch in your meal plans, so every meal is accounted for. This saves you from buying fast food on the go, or having to stop into the supermarket for extra ingredients or convenience foods.

Meal planning is a bit different to meal prepping. Meal prepping is about preparing or even cooking your meals in advance so you don’t have to spend your evenings cooking. It’s a great accompaniment to meal planning, but not essential.

Why plan your meals?

Meal planning is a great idea for anyone looking to save money on groceries by cooking at home more often. Here are just a few reasons we love meal planning:

1. Stress less about dinner

Meal planning helps you start the week with confidence that every meal is accounted for. No more wondering what you’re going to cook for the family—or yourself—at the end of a long day. 

2. Spend less on groceries

It can help you save money. By planning your meals around shared ingredients, you can ensure costs stay down. Planning ahead will also help you spend less on groceries because you’ve purchased what you need in a single shop—especially when you visit the supermarket armed with a shopping list for your planned meals—and you’re not visiting the grocery store several times a week to “grab a few things”. (Those ad-hoc visits really add up.)

3. Spend less on takeaways

Having a meal plan also makes you less likely to splurge on takeaways, saving you money and calories. While one family trip to a fast food chain could cost over $30 for a single meal, your money goes a lot further with a meal plan.

4. Reduce your food waste

Lastly, effective meal planning helps you reduce food waste by ensuring you’re using every last bit of your fresh produce and meat—and prioritising fast-perishable ingredients first, then longer-life ones later, as we do in our budget meal plans. 

How to approach budgeting when planning meals

One of the best things about meal planning is that it’s very flexible. A realistic meal plan budget comes down to a few different factors.

Ask yourself:

  • How many people are you feeding? How far ahead are you willing to plan?
  • How much can you afford to budget?
  • Do you even want to meal prep?
  • Our budget meal plans

    To help you spend less and eat well on a tight budget, we’ve put together the above easy, family-friendly meals made up of affordable, accessible ingredients.

    Our one and two week meal plans will feed either three adults or two adults and two small children, plus more plans for smaller households of one or two people. We’ve also included a shopping list with every meal plan to help you buy only what you need and stop wasting money. Keep in mind that these low-cost meal plans and accompanying shopping lists include pantry items like soy sauce and vinegar, which you may not need to buy. 

    When your food budget allows, it’s a good idea to purchase pantry staples in bulk and take advantage of grocery specials. Don’t worry about them going off — pantry staples almost always have a very long shelf life.