Frugal Meal Planning: Hanging on to Dollar Bills, Part 2

Disclosure:  This post contains an affiliate link to Tina’s new favorite frugal meal planning tool.  

Last month, I shared some favorite grocery apps that can help save money.  Served for today’s special is a side dish of Menu Planning!  My hubby and I enjoy helping families learn how to budget, live within their means, save, and be good stewards of the resources God has given them. We are often asked for ideas on how to save money while getting out of debt.  My hope is that these tips will be helpful for your family as well, in any stage of life.  Today, I’ll share easy meal planning ideas to help save time, money, and sanity!

Meal Planning is a big deal. It’s time-consuming and if we don’t plan well, it can be more expensive than it should be.  

(If you missed Part 1 about ways to save money on groceries, here it is.)

Hanging on to our hard-earned dollar bills a little longer means not only finding ways to cut back on grocery spending, but also having a plan for that spending.  Here are a few helpful ideas for frugal meal planning:

 

Create Your Own Frugal Meal Planning Menu Planner

If you’re crafty and have the time to make it, a Hanging Menu Planner is the way to go.  Here are some options:

Cork Board Menu:

If you’re like our friend Tia, you might get one made for you! Our friend Kayla made this cute board for Tia’s birthday.  She bought a half cork/half dry-erase board at Walmart and decorated it.  Tia can hang her eMeals recipe print-outs (more on eMeals below) and write notes for her kids on the other side.  Tia says the best part is her kids no longer ask, “Mom, what’s for dinner!?”  I love it!

Magnetic Board:

I love the one from Megan at The Homes I Have Made (http://thehomesihavemade.com/magnetic-menu-board-2/).  She sells customizable templates for $6, so you just have to gather the supplies, print, and create.  I’m working on creating mine!

Pinterest has an overwhelming supply of ideas and options, so just pick one you like and go with it.

 

Use a Frugal Meal Planning Menu Program

If you’re not so crafty or don’t have time to create, there are another gazillion time-saver menu planning ideas out there.  I’ve tested several subscription and non-subscription online, downloadable, and app-based programs.  Here are my favorites:

 

Pinterest “Weekly Meals” Locked Board:

I have a locked Pinterest board that I call “Weekly Meals.”  This is the cheapest plan (free), but I do have to make my own grocery list and decide which day to make which meal.  First, I pin a recipe to one of my other boards (faves, sides, sweets, etc) and then re-pin the recipes I want to make in the current week to the locked board.  (This was not my original idea, I learned it from another blogger.  Kudos to her, because it’s one of my favorite options!)

 

eMeals (My Highest Recommendation!):

Do you want to save money, time, eat well, and not waste food?  Or maybe you don’t know how to cook?  Then eMeals is for you!  It’s by far my favorite of all the online planners.  When my husband and I were getting out of debt, we actually saved $200/month on groceries by using eMeals!  That’s just for two of us–we’ve heard of families saving a whole lot more than that.  They have a wide variety of plans for different diets (classic, gluten-free, diabetic, vegetarian, paleo, budget friendly, simple gourmet, etc).  They plan the meals and shopping around sales at your local grocery store.  When they have you buy an ingredient for one meal, that ingredient will be used up in another meal, so it limits waste.  (Is there anything in your fridge right now that you bought for one recipe, and haven’t used it since? Then you really need to check this out!)

Even paying $5/month for a one year subscription, which includes a free phone app, we still saved $200, and I no longer stressed about what to cook or how to cook it.   Back to our friends, Kayla and Tia.  They both started using eMeals for their families this month.  Neither of them had previous experience with cooking much more than frozen pizza, but with this plan, they can cook!  Shopping is made easy with a categorized grocery list; recipes are simple and easy to follow.   You can occasionally find a Groupon to reduce the cost even further. Here’s one for a 6-month subscription: https://www.groupon.com/deals/emeals-12-little-rock. I can’t say enough about it!  Here’s the link to eMeals website – there are free sample menus you can print & try it out!  http://emeals.com/

 

Plan to Eat (My New Favorite):

I can save my pinned Pinterest recipes, edit and rate them, as well as any recipe I add via online or hard copy.  The menu planner is stellar and the grocery list is superb.  These guys have really thought of everything.  Their pricing is reasonable too.  Oh, and if your friends use it too, you can share any recipes you’ve uploaded or keep them in your secret recipes box.  SO fun!  My goal is to use Plan to Eat with my new Magnetic Menu Board to complement each other!

 

Combining money-saving apps with a meal plan, is a sure way to hang on to those God-given dollar bills a little longer.   Next time:  Hanging on to Dollar Bills by Yard Sale-ing & Yard Selling!
I’d love to hear how you do meal planning!
Comments ( 33 )
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  • Justin

    Thank you so much for this! As someone on a tight budget, this will come in rather handy!

    • Tina P

      My pleasure, Justin! I’d love to hear your success with it! 🙂

  • Kay

    Thanks for sharing your ideas!

    • Tina P

      My pleasure, Kay! Thank you for reading!

  • Danielle

    What a well thought out way to plan meals!

    • Tina P

      Hey Danielle! I love it! Thanks for reading!

  • Brianna Leigh

    I’ve saved so much money by planning meals and sticking to a shopping list in the grocery store! These are some great tips.

    • Tina P

      Thank you, Brianna! You make a great point – sticking to the shopping list is key! Thanks for reading!

  • Susan Evans

    I love how organized the cork board menu is. Then you know exactly what you are going to cook.

    • Tina P

      Hey Susan! I agree! Kayla did an amazing job making that one. Thanks for reading!

  • Andrea

    and using coupons to save on the stuff is a big help also 🙂

    • Tina P

      Yes, Andrea! I LOVE coupons!! 🙂

  • Rachael

    These are wonderful tips! I’m always trying to save money at the store!

    • Tina P

      Thanks, Rachael! If you haven’t already, check out Part 1 of this series – I’d love to hear your tips for the store, too!

  • Caroline harries

    You are so organized! We eat what we can find in the fridge. I really wish I had it all together!

    • Tina P

      That used to be my method, too, Caroline! And sometimes still is -especially when I don’t make it to the store on time, lol! I started out small, planning just 1-2 meals per week, and gradually grew into it. Start small & ease into it! 🙂

  • Brittney A Moses

    Thank you so much for sharing this! Im deciding to prepare a menu for my household very soon and these tips are helpful!

    • Tina P

      My pleasure, Brittney! I’d love to hear how the menu planning goes for you! 🙂

  • Kelly

    Your boards look so much more artistic than mine, lol! Great ideas. Planning makes such a difference.

    • Tina P

      Thanks, Kelly! I’d love to see a pic of your board – I bet it’s great! Kayla gets all the credit for the cork board. Thanks for reading! 🙂

  • Jennifer DeFrates/Heaven not Harvard

    Meal planning is such a great budget friendly tool! When we don’t do it, our grocery bill gets WAY out of budget, but when we have a plan and only buy what we actually need, we end up saving lots of money! Thanks for the tips.

    • Tina P

      The same thing happens with us, Jennifer! We have to stay on top of the planning so we don’t overspend. Thanks for reading!

  • Karen Grosz

    That board is awesome. No place to have something like that, but I am trying to be better about writing my meals down. Plan to Eat sounds interesting.

    • Tina P

      Hey Karen! They offer a free trial month! I’d love to hear how you like it! 🙂

  • Sandra Shaffer

    I have used the e-Meals service and love the list they provide and use it when I go shopping! So smart to keep organized and know in advance what to cook. I need to get back to planning our meals ahead of time!

    • Tina P

      Sandra, I’m so excited to hear you’ve use emeals! I hope this encourages you to get back to planning. 🙂

  • De Bolton

    Meal Planning is essential in my house for my budget. I am so glad that you shared this so it can help other properly plan too!

    • Tina P

      Thank you De! Hearing that you guys plan meals encourages me to keep going when I want to slack off! 🙂

  • Michelle Marine

    Great post! Meal planning and then sticking to the plan is a fabulous way to save money for sure!

    • Tina P

      Thank you, Michelle!

    • Tina P

      Thank you, Margie! I’d love to hear what you try and how it goes! 🙂

  • Sarah Jane

    Thanks for these tips!! I find that I’m able to drastically cut the cost of the grocery bill more when I meal plan.