Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Meal Planning / Budgeting for Groceries

(also known as, how to eat better than the top-ramen-diet 
when you move away from home!)

I frequently see meal-planning/grocery budgeting listed as a suggestion for YW activities, but I had a hard time finding any basic information for how to present this to the girls. Most of the sites I looked at were just plans for make-ahead freezer meals (or they were trying to sell me some software program for meal-planning). 

What I want to teach the young women is how to feed themselves on a limited budget when they move out on their own, go to college, or go on a mission. The same general principles will apply when they must budget for meals for their household as a wife and mother, so building on these basic ideas will benefit each young women's future family as well. So while it might seem like a stretch, I am including this as part of my "Divine Nature" theme activities because nurturing a family (one of the divine attributes specifically listed in "The Family, A Proclamation to the World") includes providing for their needs.

When I moved away for college, we didn't have a cafeteria on campus. My idea of meal-planning was to plan what I wanted to eat and then buy it. And then eat it. It did not go well.

It took me a while, but I finally 'got it'....You can stretch out your grocery budget by using the same ingredients for multiple meals. Like when you buy a whole chicken to make enchilades, then you use the other 1/2 of the chicken to make soup the next night. And then use the rest of the tortillas for bean burritos the next night. And so on. Otherwise you can end up with a fridge full of leftover ingredients that are wasted.

So I compiled a list of cheap meals. They are a step above Top Ramen, but they aren't exactly fancy or the best possible nutritional choices (i.e., white tortillas aren't as healthy as higher-cost whole wheat tortillas would be). There is not a lot of meat involved, but there is a good amount of other protein sources like beans, cheese, and eggs. Most of these meals aren't exactly gourmet - they're more the kind of thing that I would have made in college or on my mission. But I tried to combine things with like ingredients so that everything gets used. Of course you could change the meals to other things, these are just suggestions.

I think that before we talk about this meal-plan, I will talk to the girls about the ingredients and ask them to think of ways that they could combine them into different meals. You could also make a trip to the grocery store and see if you can get all of the ingredients for less than $20.00. 


Buy 18 meals worth of groceries for $20.00

Grocery list with approximate prices:
Loaf of bread @$2.00
Can of tuna (in water) @80 cents
Package of spaghetti noodles @$1.00
1 can of tomato (or chicken noodle) soup  @75 cents
1lb brick of cheese @$3.00
1 can of refried beans @$1.00
1 jar of salsa $2.00
1lb of rice @$1.00
1 can of spaghetti sauce @1.00
1 dozen eggs @$2.00
1 package of tortillas @$2.00
1 can of kidney beans @$1.00
1 small bag of frozen broccoli @1.00
1 green pepper @50 cents
1 tomato @50 cents

Meals You Can Make: 

Grilled Cheese and Soup  CHEESE, BREAD, CANNED SOUP  (2 meals)

Sandwiches  BREAD,  TOMATO,  TUNA (2 meals)

Beans and Rice  KIDNEY BEANS (CANNED), RICE, SALSA (2 meals)


Spaghetti NOODLES, SPAGHETTI SAUCE (2  meals)




Omelette EGGS, SALSA, CHEESE (4 meals)


Quesadillas CHEESE, TORTILLAS (2 meals)





UPDATE: When we did this activity, I wanted it to be a little more interactive, so I considered bringing in each of the types of foods that we would be talking about, but after I pictured having to make 10 trips to the van with all the stuff, I decided to just use drawings instead. I just drew these by hand on white paper, but you could also find clipart or magazine clippings to use if you have the time to do it. 


When I talked about using what we already have on hand to create meals (instead of buying all new ingredients for every meal), I set out several random pictures and challenge the girls to think of what they could make with them. This was their favorite part of the activity. 

PURPOSE: Help the girls recognize how they can save money on food by planning meals before shopping.


  1. Perfect! Thank you so much! This was just what I needed for my Laurels!

    LynnEl in Illinois!

  2. Thanks! I was just going to go over meal planning (been doing it myself for 2 years almost) but I love the game idea! going to do that first, then dive into having them create their own meal plans!

  3. Thank you so much! This is exactly what I was looking for to do tonight with my Laurels!

  4. This is perfect for my young men's activity!!