What Are the Best Tips for Dinner on a Budget?

Amanda R. Bell

Creating a healthy, easy dinner on a budget can often seem daunting for single people and families alike. Some of the best tips for doing so include creating a meal plan, shopping sales, and using coupons. It can also be helpful to utilize leftovers for a different meal the next night and limiting meat or replacing it altogether.

Coupons can be used to save money when making dinner on a budget.
Coupons can be used to save money when making dinner on a budget.

Putting together a meal plan before shopping can be a great way to prepare a delicious dinner on a budget. By deciding exactly what meals will be eaten during the week and only purchasing what is needed, a household can eliminate many last minute trips to the grocery store, which typically cost more than one single trip. This can also be a good way of using up food items already on hand, which is helpful when following a grocery budget. Meal planning can take as little as 10 to 20 minutes per week, and can often cut a grocery bill in half.

Local restaurants, fast food stops and casual dining restaurants often have mailing lists for discounts and coupons.
Local restaurants, fast food stops and casual dining restaurants often have mailing lists for discounts and coupons.

Looking at the circulars for local stores each week while making a meal plan can also be helpful. While it is often tempting to simply go by cravings or what sounds good at the time, planning meals around what is on sale that week can be an easy way to make dinner on a budget. Following sales at the sales can also give a person the opportunity to stock up on good deals, making cooking dinner on a budget easier in the future.

Budget-conscious shoppers sometimes turn to warehouse stores for discount produce and other groceries.
Budget-conscious shoppers sometimes turn to warehouse stores for discount produce and other groceries.

Clipping coupons is a method used by many consumers in order to save money each week. Usually in the Sunday paper, there are several different coupon books included that provide many different bargains. While planning meals and following the circulars, the grocery buyer should add in coupons to save even more money. Checking the grocery store's coupon policy will also help, as many allow double coupons or stacking, which is adding a manufacturer coupon along with a store coupon for the same item, allowing for maximums savings.

Cheaper cuts of meat like rump roast can provide multiple meals.
Cheaper cuts of meat like rump roast can provide multiple meals.

When meal planning, it can save time and money to work leftovers into the dinner plan. Many leftovers can be re-purposed into other meals, limiting the waste of food while still providing a completely different dish. For example, the leftovers of grilled chicken and vegetables can be turned into quesadillas the next night with the addition of tortillas and cheese.

Leftovers can be re-used in a second meal as a casserole.
Leftovers can be re-used in a second meal as a casserole.

Another good tip for making dinner on a budget is to limit high-priced items like meat. Making dishes that contain a small amount of meat, such as casseroles and stews, can stretch further. It can also be helpful to choose one or two nights a week to feature other proteins, including eggs, beans, nuts, and fish. Increasing the amount of grains and vegetables may also reduce the cost of the meal.

Sometimes it is more budget sensible to make a larger meal that can be eaten multiple times thanks to leftovers and resealable containers.
Sometimes it is more budget sensible to make a larger meal that can be eaten multiple times thanks to leftovers and resealable containers.

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