As a single parent working to get by on a tight budget, you need to be careful with every dollar you spend. One of the best ways to cut back on overall spending is to re-examine what you spend on food each week, because that's where a large portion of your monthly income goes. For this reason, it's important to be intentional about planning out your family's meals and learning how to effectively use resources like your grocery store's weekly flier to plan ahead and save money
on groceries. Begin saving money on your meals with these cost-effective meal planning tips:
1. Save Money on Groceries By Using Grocery Stores' Weekly Circulars
Arrange your main meals each week around what happens to be on sale at the grocery store. For example, if chicken thighs, pork roast, and breakfast sausage are all on sale, your menus might include chicken fajitas
, pulled pork sandwiches
, and an egg and sausage casserole
. Challenge yourself to save money on groceries by coming up with as many meals as you can using what's on sale
. In addition, while you're at it, take note of what snack and breakfast items are on sale, too, and stock up on them while you're there.
2. Plan Your Meals Around the Use of LeftoversOnce you have an idea of what meals you're going to be making during the week, plan them out according to when you anticipate needing leftovers. For example, make a large casserole (or double a recipe) on Monday if you know that you'll be late getting home on Tuesday. This way, you won't be stuck with peanut butter sandwiches, or wind up ordering take-out food on the night you'll be out late. In addition, planning out which days you intend to take leftovers to work in lieu of buying lunch will help you save money on groceries.
3. Develop a System for Organizing Your Recipes
In order to best take advantage of these money-saving strategies, you'll need to have a bank of recipes at your fingertips that you know your children will eat. When all of your recipes come from different sources, though, it can be hard to keep track of them all. One tool that can help is Meal Planner
, a free meal planning service from About.com and Campbells. It allows you to search for recipes and save them on a calendar according to when you plan to cook them, and then print them out as you need them.
4. Save Money on Groceries By Planning Meals With Common Ingredients
Organizing a set of most-used recipes will also make it easier for you to lump together meals that have common ingredients. For example, plan on making spinach salad the same week that you make another recipe that calls for croutons, such as Garlic Meatloaf
or Swiss Chicken
. That way, you're more likely to use up all of the croutons, rather than have them go stale in your pantry. Think of other recipes that your kids love that use slightly less common ingredients, and consider how you can prepare them along with other recipes that call for the same items as a way to save money on groceries.
5. Keep Your Pantry Stocked With Ingredients for Last-Minute Meals
Finally, make sure that you keep your kitchen stocked with items you can use to make last-minute pantry dinners
, such as tuna casserole, tortellini pasta, or homemade macaroni and cheese. Prepare them alongside garlic bread and a fresh salad, and you've got a complete meal you can put together at a moment's notice.