Wow! I cannot believe that I have not updated you on my monthly budget meal plan since February 2020. I had all the intentions to do it, and then, Coronavirus happened. In mid-March, our world was turned upside down by a pandemic that we are still trying to recover from.
As I look back at my monthly budget meal plan, I can tell you that March and April were a total disaster. Shelves at the supermarket were mostly empty, and meal planning became impossible. Even if I wanted to plan my meals, there was no way to stick to the plan because ingredients were scarce. We, just like most people in America, also panicked and bought whatever food we could find.
On Video: One Year Of Meal Planning
Monthly Budget Meal Pan During The Pandemic
Our March 2020 grocery bill was ridiculous. I am rather ashamed to admit it, but we spent about $1800. I know it’s an absurd amount of money spent on groceries in a month. We stocked up on whatever meat we could find, canned goods, and of course, toilet paper. What were you supposed to do when the shelves couldn’t stay stocked? I didn’t want to contribute to the madness, but we did.
In April, we also blew up the budget quite a bit, spending around $1,400. Now, that amount was not that crazy as my usual pre-meal planning would range between $1,200 and $1,4000. It wasn’t until May that I started consistently planning our family meals again and that the stores had the usual stock. Spending $1,000 per month on groceries became the goal and has been since then.
I acknowledge that we are very fortunate to have had enough money saved in our emergency savings account in addition to our spending cushion in our checking account to be able to afford March’s grocery bill. Many people are not in that situation and have to use credit cards to buy extra groceries, or just the average load, for their families. We certainly couldn’t have done that 12 years ago when the Recession happened, and we were broke.
The Financial Lesson We Ought To Learn From The Pandemic
Struggling through the 2008 Recession made me hit rock bottom and woke me up to the urgent need to make serious financial changes in our household. That meant budgeting, getting out of debt, saving for emergencies, and getting rid of credit cards.
By the way, if you want to learn how I budget my money, you can enroll in my free Budgeting 101 course. I use a mix of the cashless and cash envelope systems and have all of my recurring bills on automatic draft to my checking account. But there are a couple of crucial budgeting tips that I explain in this training that will make the difference with your finances.
The Recession twelve years ago was our wake up call. In hindsight, I can tell you that I am grateful for the Recession because it taught me how I didn’t want to live in fear of not having enough money. Of course, I couldn’t appreciate the lesson then. It took time, healing, and practicing better financial principles to realize.
Thanks to the money lessons the Recession taught me, we found ourselves facing the Pandemic in much better financial shape. I need to make this point because the 2020 Pandemic ought to be the wake-up call that every American, and every person on earth, needs to own their financial future.
Today needs to be the day you decide to stop borrowing money, start saving a serious emergency fund of at least six months of expenses and start making a top priority to pay off your debt as soon as this economy starts recovering. If you have lost your job or are facing a salary reduction, today is not the day to pay off debt. Wait until our economy and your income start improving, and then go all in getting out of debt.
My October 2020 Monthly Budget Meal Plan
I am proud of myself for getting back on track with my monthly budget meal planning. Since the summer, my meal planning has been going great. I am outlining my menus weekly and, for the most part, just going shopping once per week. I have also done a pretty good job of staying under my preferred grocery budget of $1,000 per month.
We shop for groceries using our debit card, and I keep the receipts organized in my “Groceries” envelope. I tried doing the cash envelope system for groceries but feel more comfortable paying with debit. Many stores were trying to minimize human contact during the Pandemic, and paying with debit worked better for me.
The advantage of paying with your debit card is that you have an electronic record of your transactions. Having that information can help you keep track of your grocery budget if you do not budget or do the envelope system. The downside of paying with cards, either debit or credit, is that you tend to overspend.
If you are a cash envelope spender, you know that there is only so much money available in your envelope. When the money in the envelope is gone, you are done spending.
October Groceries Spending
October 2020 was a typical month in terms of purchasing groceries. Because of the Pandemic, we have not been traveling, going to kids’ sports activities on the weekends, or eating out. So I have had to plan with my husband meals for the entire month. We don’t cook every day. Instead, we cook four or five hearty meals per week and make big portions to eat leftovers two or three times per week.
In October, I also separated my Halloween budget from my grocery shopping budget, so the candy purchases did not skew my grocery expenses higher than they were. I set a Halloween candy budget of $50, and like every year, we ended up with more candy the day after Halloween than we started with!
Setting A Monthly Budget For Groceries
As I shared with you on Our Family Grocery Expenses For February 2020, before I started meal planning, I used to go to the store with a grocery list as my guide. However, I would casually drop whatever stuff that looked yummy into the shopping cart. I am sure you know what I am talking about! Then I would get home and had no idea of what meals I could fix with those ingredients.
My grocery spending was always more than it needed to be. For years, on average, we spent between $1,200 to $1,400 on grocery store purchases per month for a family of two adults, two kids, now teenagers, and two dogs. Because I was spending that money at the supermarket, I wasn’t conscientious and justified the spending as a need. After all, most of that money was spent on food and toiletries, with the occasional candle, book of planner stickers, or new nail polish addition to my collection.
If you are trying to decide how much to budget for groceries, read “How Much To Spend On Groceries.” In this post, I break down my recommendations considering my training as a financial coach and the recommendations of the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Also, I compare those with my own family’s grocery spending and the expenses of many families that I have coached in the last two years to offer some insight.
Meal Planning Benefits
Thank goodness I realized that saving on groceries by meal planning would free up a good chunk of money for other financial goals. A big moment on my meal planning journey was realizing that using a grocery list was a waste of time and money. Because, as stupid as it may sound, a grocery list is not a meal plan!
So, what is a meal plan? Honestly, a year ago, I had no idea. But just like you are doing now, a little Googling here and there helped me understand. It merely means that you determine ahead of time the menus you will eat. Then you purchase those items and stick to the plan. In addition to the preparation, I believe that a good meal plan must have a grocery budget.
Advantages Of Using A Meal Planner Vs. Printable Templates
I like to plan my meals weekly, but some people do monthly meal plans. Weekly meal planning for me seems a lot more attainable. When I was getting started, I found some free online templates for meal planning. However, using a piece of paper for meal planning felt a lot like using a grocery list.
I wanted a planner to see the entire month on a calendar, consider family activities, and of course, set a budget for groceries. Also, I wanted weekly spreads to plan my meals and room to organize my grocery shopping list.
I looked everywhere for a meal planner that would fit those requirements, but I didn’t find what I was looking for. That’s when I had the idea of creating one. I printed the first version of my meal planner in October of 2019. Then, I used it for a few months and realized that it was too big, and the paper that I had chosen was too fancy because the ink would easily smudge.
So, I improved my design and printed the second iteration in April of 2020. This time I went with a smaller design of about six inches by nine inches. I also picked bond paper to avoid smudging and an Art Deco design for the cover that matched my financial planner and productivity journal.
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Finding A Tool To Help You Meal Plan
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Actual October 2020 Grocery Spending
So, let’s get down to the numbers of our October 2020 grocery spending as well as our weekly dinner menus. I will not list breakfast or lunch since we almost always have cereal, yogurt with fruit, or toast for breakfast. For lunch, most of the time, we eat turkey or peanut butter sandwiches and have fruit, crackers, or chips for snacking.
My kids are not crazy about school cafeteria meals, so they prepare their lunches at home, saving money. I keep a balance of about $25 in their school lunch accounts in case they forget their lunch at home, which happens with frequency.
Food Budget Vs. Eating Out Budget
My budget for food/groceries in October was $1,000. We decided that amount is reasonable, considering two adults, two teenagers, and two dogs in our family. Also, we don’t eat out very much. We’ll continue to budget $1,000 for groceries every month going forward.
As I already mentioned, we spent between $1,200 and $1,400 when I was not meal planning, so cutting down is a big win for my budget. I also include all my toiletries, cleaning supplies, and dog food needs in that budget.
We do not include eating out in the groceries or food budget. That has its category in our budget as “Eating Out.” I usually budget $100 for eating out, but we rarely use it, especially now with the Pandemic. I like to have it there, though, for those weekends when the kids have sports activities, and we can’t be home to eat.
I like to keep my groceries/food and eating out categories separated to remind me of my priorities. Going out to eat is convenient, but it is not a necessity. Purchasing food at the store to cook meals at home and save money is a necessity. I believe that it is crucial to distinguish between wants and needs to make better financial decisions.
Monthly Budget Meal Plan | October 2020 Spending
So, October was one of those months that had four full weeks and three additional days. Something to consider when budgeting. For that reason, I divided my budget of $1,000 between 5 weeks. That left us with a weekly budget of $250. We spent our money as follows:
- Week 1: $80.64
- Week 2: $56.22
- Week 3: $344
- Week 4: $233
- Week 5: $200
Total spent on groceries on October 2020: $913.86
October 2020 Weekly Dinner Menus
These are the dishes that we ate every day in October 2020. I find a lot of the recipes I try on Pinterest, so I will be putting them in this ¨My Meal Planning Recipes Pinterest Board¨ in case you want to follow it.
10/3: Domino’s Delivery (Restaurants budget)
10/4: Broccoli Soup + grilled cheeses
10/5: Broccoli soup + leftovers
10/7: Spaghetti with meat sauce
10/8: Italian sausage soup
10/10: Grilled chicken wings
10/11: Jalapeno chicken casserole
10/12: Chicken leftovers
10/13: Popcorn chicken
10/14: Ravioles with meat sauce
10/15: Minestrone soup
10/19: Lasagna leftovers
10/20: Meatloaf leftovers
10/21: Leftovers combo
10/22: Crispy tacos
10/26: Chili leftovers
10/27: Jambalaya leftovers
10/28: Chicken soup with hominy
10/29: Chicken soup leftovers
10/31: Tortellini casserole
As you can see, we only “ate out” once this month. On October 3rd, it was my daughter’s birthday, so we ordered pizza. Usually, on Fridays, we always eat pizza. We buy the kind they sell at Walmart that you take home and bake. That’s our Friday treat to avoid cooking. Honestly, the last thing I want to do on a Friday night is to spend time in the kitchen. Baking pizza at home is an excellent alternative to eating out, there aren’t many dishes to wash, and it is also cheaper than fast food.
Conclusion: Monthly Budget Meal Plan For October 2020
I hope this breakdown of my monthly budget meal plan helps you get your meal planning started. As you can see, meal planning is a great way to save money on groceries and time in the kitchen. But it requires preparation and implies more than just choosing your dishes. For meal planning to give you more benefits, you need to establish first a monthly grocery budget.
If you are looking for yummy, hearty, and easy recipes to cook, you should download my free favorite recipes ebook. I put together our seven favorite meals, with a shopping list and the budget per meal to help you start. Best of all, you can make all seven meals for less than $100. Incredible!
Recommended For You!
- Meal Planning for Beginners
- What Percentage Of Your Income Should Go To What?
- How Much To Spend On Groceries
- Our Family Grocery Expenses For February 2020
- Coronavirus And Your Finances
Questions or Comments?
If you have any questions, don’t hesitate to ask at the bottom of this post. I try to answer them as fast as possible. Also, let me know in the comments if you want me to keep sharing my monthly budget meal plans. And if you have a favorite recipe, please also tell me about it. I am always running out of ideas for what to cook at home.