Posted on April 8, 2021

Try these tips for meal planning on a budget

From our experts: Jessi Holden is a registered dietitian/nutritionist at Mary Free Bed.

From panic-buying groceries amid pandemic fears to ordering takeout to support local restaurants, our budgets have felt the brunt. It’s time for a refresher on budget-friendly meal-planning success. If the following five tips feel like an overwhelming amount of “to-do’s,” then pick one. The most doable and sustainable change is what we want to focus on first!

  1. Add it up: Not sure what your budget is? Want to spend less on food? Start by adding up what you spend for one month on groceries, takeout, coffee, gas station snacks and restaurant meals. Now, subtract $25 from the total for a goal to spend that much less next month. You’ll have to choose from which area (grocery, takeout, etc.) it’ll be easiest to spend less. In a year, you’ll save $300! Want an extra challenge that results in even more savings? Take away $50 from your monthly food bill!
  2. Consider a meatless Monday: This is a fantastic way to vary your protein intake and spend less money. Look for recipes that use beans, lentils, tofu or quinoa. A couple of favorites of mine are lentil sloppy joes and this recipe I created for roasted verde veggie enchiladas (pictured above). And it doesn’t have to be a Monday – you can do this any day of the week!
  3. Meal-plan from your kitchen first: Go through your cupboards and freezer, and take inventory of what you have (yes, all the way in the back!). Try to make at least one or two meals with what you already have. This helps prevent you from buying five cans of beans because they’re on sale only to find you already have five cans at home.
  4. Fridge Forage/Encore Night: This is a night during the week where everyone either fends for themselves, uses up produce or eats leftovers. Add a veggie from one you have in your freezer or pantry for a little extra fiber, and you’re good to go. Check the fridge for any produce that needs to get consumed or frozen to avoid spoilage.
  5. Batch-cook a grain or protein: Grains and proteins are great options for batch cooking. A large batch of brown rice could be used for stir-fry, added to a canned soup, thrown on salad or used as a base for burrito bowls.

Which tip resonates with you the most? Remember, pick one to get started and then challenge yourself to add another. In no time, you’ll be saving money, spending more efficiently and meal planning while wasting way less food.

Mary Free Bed offers outpatient Nutrition Services with registered dietitians available to help you build sustainable, doable and individualized goals. Contact us for one-on-one nutrition therapy or if you’re interested in our Weight Management Program. Call 616.840.8908 or email