UPDATED JANUARY 2020! I’ve combined all 9 weeks (and added a 10th week as a bonus) into one MEGA post so you no longer have to hunt down all the weeks! Here they all are with updated recipes. These are perfect for frugal meal planning on a budget!
I am super excited to provide you TEN weeks of easy meal planning using frugal recipes. I usually find that the best tasting recipes are the ones without complex ingredients and meticulous instructions. Nope! The best tasting ones usually just have a few ingredients and they don’t require you to spend an arm and a leg!
Where these meals REALLY stretch the dollar is in the amount that they make. I usually have enough for leftovers for the next day, which helps me save money.
Reasons to Meal Plan with a Budget
I always seem to overestimate how much time I’ll have to cook each night. In my head, I will stand in the kitchen, making a delicious meal while my son does his homework and the house is nice and peaceful. Notice that I said “in my head?” Reality is a lot different. I am always running him to sports, scouts or heading to the store for one thing or another. Needless to say, I don’t have a lot of extra time to make dinners, so I have to be smart.
That is where frugal meal planning comes in.
- Meal Planning Save Time. Instead of frantically putting together meals each night, I spend Sunday morning putting a list together of the meals I want to make for the week. I then go to the grocery store, prep as much as I can and get myself ready for the week’s meals.
- Meal Planning Saves Money. Before I started meal planning, I would pick up convenience food at the store or just order take-out. Those costs added up really fast and my wallet was not happy with me. Planning ahead lets me find recipes that are tasty and won’t break the bank.
- Leftovers. Even with a teenage boy, I end up with leftovers from dinners. I pack them into meal prep containers and send them with my husband for his lunch. Winner winner!
- Meal Planning Reduces Waste. No matter how hard I tried, I ended up throwing away groceries that I wasn’t able to use. It was my Saturday-Refrigerator-Clean-Out-Day. Everything I threw out was money I wasted. Yikes! With frugal meal planning, I got much better at using everything I bought and eliminating the waste. Woohoo!
Organizing Meal Plan Recipes
I’ll call out the nights on the meal plan that fit into a category (e.g. Meatless Meal, One Pan Meal, etc.). You can just pick and choose from those if you’re using this as a starting point for your own meal planning.
I know you guys are interested in serving tasty dinners without totally blowing your budgets even though you don’t always have the time to cook!
That’s why in each frugal weekly meal plan, you’ll find the following:
- One Slow Cooker recipe
- One Pan/ Oven-Baked /Skillet meal
- One Meatless recipe
- One meal that is ready in 30 minutes or less
- As a whole, the meal plan will be frugal. Great food doesn’t need to cost a lot!
At least two nights a week, you will get a break in the kitchen, but you’re family will still gett a home-cooked meal on the table.
Also – remember to scroll down to the end of the post for the free printable meal planner!
How To Use Weekly Frugal Meal Plans
Before you jump in, there are a few tried and true things that will make this successful. Jump over to Six Kitchen Printables! These are also new and combine EVERYTHING you need to get a jumpstart into meal planning.
- Print off the Pantry Inventory and assess what foods you have. Write it all down. Do not trust that you will remember everything you have stocked in your pantry. I use this as a checklist to make sure that I don’t duplicate anything at the store.
- The Freezer Inventory provides a thorough listing of what you have in the freezer already. My favorite meal is a free meal! Use one that you already cooked.
- Print the Refrigerator Inventory and give a good cleaning of the fridge and see what is good/not good and start from scratch.
- The Weekly Menu Planner is a nice printable that provides space to write out what is on the menu for the week. We have a few different ones on the blog, so you can check them out here and here if you don’t like the blue that matches the Six Kitchen Printable set. I wouldn’t suggest you print off the Monthly Menu Planner until you have conquered a weekly one yet. Just go one week at a time until you know what you can do!
- Now look through the ten weeks provided and come up with a match of seven dinners that can match your planned week’s schedule. Don’t be overly adventurous the first week. Stick to things that sound like they are easy for you and your family. Remember, you are stretching yourself here and trying something new. I want you to succeed at this and the best way to do that is to take it one step at a time.
- Take the Weekly Menu Planner and sit with your personal planner or calendar on your phone. Spend 10 minutes and look over what the next week has coming up. You are trying to make a match between how much time you will have to prepare each meal. Is it crazy soccer week? Then, maybe pull all the slow cooker recipes and use those. Do you have time on Sunday to do a pretty good meal prep? Then use that time to prep a couple of sheet pan meals to toss in the oven in between getting home and getting back out the door.
Out of any tip/trick, this is the most crucial! If you don’t do this, you will buy food you don’t have time to make and you’ll end up in the drive thru line. I’ve been there and done it enough times to tell you that you need to match your personal home planner to the menu planner FIRST!
FREE Tools to Meal Planning Success
I love free printables. I use them all the time. I put together this short list of the best tools that will help you organize your cooking life. Give them a shot. I promise you that they will make a big difference, especially if you have a busy lifestyle.
- Printable Menu Planner
- Printable Weekly Menu Planner Pink
- Printable Shopping List
- Printable Planner (if you don’t use one already, print one off here)
- Printable Blank Calendar (if you don’t use one, print one off here)
- Printable Pantry Inventory
- Printable Freezer Inventory
- Printable Kitchen/Jar/Pantry Labels (coming soon)
- Printable Editable Freezer Labels
- Kitchen Conversion Printable (coming soon)
Use this free printable meal planner to plan the week’s meals!
When you are ready for more ideas outside of this MEGA LIST, here are a few frugal dinner ideas to fulfill your cravings!
20 Slow Cooker Freezer Meals these are tried and true recipes from fellow bloggers that have been around FOREVER! This means fans love them and they work!
20 Breakfast Freezer Meals this is one of my all time favorite posts! Breakfasts are hard as we all wake up and do not want to deal with the day. These recipes allow you to pull breakfast together on the previous weekend and then just do a quick GRAB and GO and get out the door.
Freezer Pasta Meals for 24 Cents most likely my second favorite post! I love that for less than a quarter, you can make a meal! We all need cheap eats like this in our life!
21 Easy Slow Cooker Meals another great collaboration of slow cooker meals to continue to add variety to our lives. If we keep eating the same old thing, we tend to want to eat out and spend money. This one will help keep us in check.
19 Creative Black Bean Dinner Ideas-this is a great tool to have in your toolbox if you are trying to eat frugally! Black beans are heart and filling so to use those in your recipes when one can is under $1, this is a true win for your budget.