Five tips for successful meal planning on a TIGHT budget

I know as a nation our belts are as tight as they can get. Many of you have eliminated luxuries like cable, cell phone plan extras, date nights and movie rentals. If you budget down to the penny and the last penny gets stretched till Abe starts screaming, you're not alone. 

So, I wanted to talk about menu planning when you're on a  tight, tight, tight budget. Trust me this will save you tons of time and TONS of money. 

1. Plan the main dish around the sales.

Each week I grab my local sales flyers (they come in the mail here) and go through the sales flyers, I see what's coming up on sale and I plan our meals accordingly. 

Even if you don't get the paper there are tons of sites like Southern Savers where you can look at flyers. Also, you can visit the grocery store's website. 

A couple weeks ago Winn-Dixie had their whole roasting hens on sale for $.99 a pound. 

That meant on Monday we had a roast chicken tacos. Tuesday we had chicken and rice casserole and Wednesday we had chicken pot pie. $12 for all three meals. And I am sure I could have done this much cheaper. But there were a ton of leftovers, and it all came out to $1 per serving once the leftovers were accounted for. 

Three days of meals already planned. 

2. Plan side dishes around your stockpile.

Rice, pasta, and frozen vegetables are often on sale. When the prices are particularly low I buy several of these items and put them in the pantry of the freezer. 

It helps to keep a list of what is in your freezer or pantry so meal planning can be extra simple. You can click here for a FREE PRINTABLE to keep your pantry organized. 

Remember those chickens I talked about? Those went right into the freezer. 

3. Cook once, eat twice.

Monday night I made a lasagna casserole. For around $10 I made two casseroles, including the meat (which I purchased for $2.99 a pound). Since I can usually get six servings per lasagna that is $.83 per serving. 

I cut my meat in half and divided it among both casseroles. That is a big savings. 

4. Plan a meatless meal.

The meatless Monday trend is growing. My husband doesn't always stand for this, so I don't always tell him. ;) But you can make things like red bean burritos for around $.65 per serving. Other great ideas are spinach and cheese quesadillas or breakfast for dinner on a Friday night. 

5. Have a list of go-to recipes you know how to make.

Here is a list of every recipe on this website. Many, many of them are around $1 - $2 per serving. 

What about you? What tips do you have for quick meal planning?