Can I share something personal? Due to some recent changes at my husband’s work, our income has dropped and we’ve had to make some big changes to our family budget.
We’ve had to learn new ways to budget our money, and we’ve gotten creative with using what we already have.
It’s not been fun, but it’s reminded us of what’s important and how faithful God is to always provide.
Is money tight for you too right now? Read on and be encouraged by what we’re learning.
5 Tips for Meal Planning on a Budget
With a family of six people, one of our biggest monthly expenses is food! That’s why we started by first strategizing on how to best stretch our food budget.
Overall, we’ve become more faithful in implementing some tried-and-true methods for food shopping on a budget that worked in the past. Here’s what’s working for us.
1) Create a Budget Using the Envelope System. Do you have a food budget? We’ve had one for years but realized that we’d been pretty flexible with the food budget for a while. It needed some serious tightening and accountability, so we faithfully began using the envelope system again.
In order for the envelope system to be successful, you have to stop spending money when you’re out of cash. When the envelope money is gone, so is the spending. Period.
And… that’s where the change needed to happen for us. It’s forced us to re-examine what we buy and to limit luxury food purchases.
2) Use Monthly Meal Planning and Once-A-Month Shopping. We’re a huge proponents of monthly meal planning. It not only saves us money (we try to make only one huge trip to the grocery stores), but it saves time because I don’t have to figure out what we’re going to eat each night!
P.S. I promise that monthly meal planning and once-a-month shopping is not scary! Once you start the habit, you’ll never want to go back! Here are tips to make it do-able.
3) Make Bulk Meals and Freezer Meals. You can plan an entire month of freezer meals or simply make two or three batches of the same dinner recipe. Not only does this save time, this saves money because ingredients are often cheaper when purchased in bulk.
4) Consider Other Creative Ways to Stretch Your Food Budget.
—Make enough of a particular recipe to last two meals. I often make dinner stretch by adding in side items such as a salad, bread or fruit (especially if those items need to be used up).
—Use leftovers in creative ways. We use leftover vegetables as ingredients for a frittata or leftover meat for a family-sized dinner salad like this one. If I notice that we have many unused vegetables, I make a slow cooker veggie soup.
—Every month, plan a few inexpensive meals such as beans and rice or even “breakfast for dinner.”
5) Limit Eating Out. Notice I said “limit” not “eliminate.” We’ve found it too extreme to say that we’re “never” going to eat out. However, having that little bit in the budget gives great comfort because when we do say no to eating out, we can confidently think, “I’m saying no now, but it’s because I’m using this money to go out at this future time.” I really think this mindset makes a world of difference.
5 Other Ways to Stretch Your Budget
Here are some other practical budgeting tips we’ve found helpful:
6) Use cash. We pull out cash every month for some of our budgeted items and place it in the envelope system, even if there isn’t a current “need”. For example, we don’t buy new clothes every month, but since we add money to that envelope every month, it’s awesome to know that there is money right there when we need it.
7) Maximize Coupons and Watch Deals. Shop outlet stores, buy what you can at discount stores, take advantage of special shopping days—you get the picture.
8) Eliminate Non-Essentials from Your Budget. No one but you can say what’s an essential budget item or not, but you know what I’m talking about. We’ve excused our family from several extracurricular activities during this season and are praying about whether or not we can take a (very small) family vacation this summer.
9) Re-Examine Other Big Budget Items. Perhaps you may need to consider moving because your rent or mortgage is simply too high. Or maybe you need to sell a car because the car payment is crippling your finances (been there!).
About 7 years ago, in an effort to become debt-free, our family replaced our leased one-year-old minivan with a paid-for eleven-year-old one. This took some adjusting (mainly to our pride!), but we quickly realized that our “new” eleven year old van did exactly the same thing as the other one did. Since then we’ve made it a rule that we only buy used cars that we can only fully pay for.
10) Just say no. We don’t like saying no in our society! We often go into debt purchasing items because we “deserve” them or “must have” them. As someone who is having to say no (a lot) right now, I can totally understand this concept. I wish there were a quick fix around this, but sometimes we just have to say no to something.
9 Encouraging Scriptures When Money Is Tight
None of this is easy, right? Thank goodness that God knows and understands this too!
He is so merciful to not only provide generously, but to comfort us as we walk the sometimes uncomfortable path of a limited budget.
If you’re also dealing with the emotional aspects of a tight budget (marital stress, fear, worry, etc), I pray that these Bible verses will comfort you!
“So if you faithfully obey the commands I am giving you today—to love the Lord your God and to serve him with all your heart and with all your soul—then I will send rain on your land in its season, both autumn and spring rains, so that you may gather in your grain, new wine and olive oil. I will provide grass in the fields for your cattle, and you will eat and be satisfied.” Deuteronomy 11:13-15
“See how he scatters his lightning about him, bathing the depths of the sea. This is the way he governs[a] the nations and provides food in abundance. He fills his hands with lightning and commands it to strike its mark.” Job 36:30-32
“You care for the land and water it; you enrich it abundantly. The streams of God are filled with water to provide the people with grain, for so you have ordained it.” Psalm 65:9
“He provides food for those who fear him; he remembers his covenant forever.” Psalm 111:5
“In the past, he let all nations go their own way. Yet he has not left himself without testimony: He has shown kindness by giving you rain from heaven and crops in their seasons; he provides you with plenty of food and fills your hearts with joy.” Acts 14:16-17
“Command those who are rich in this present world not to be arrogant nor to put their hope in wealth, which is so uncertain, but to put their hope in God, who richly provides us with everything for our enjoyment.” 1 Timothy 6:17
“Let them give thanks to the Lord for his unfailing love and his wonderful deeds for mankind, for he satisfies the thirsty and fills the hungry with good things.” Psalm 107:8-10
“The Lord does not let the righteous go hungry, but he thwarts the craving of the wicked.” Proverbs 10:3
“I sought the Lord, and he answered me; he delivered me from all my fears. Those who look to him are radiant; their faces are never covered with shame. This poor man called, and the Lord heard him; he saved him out of all his troubles. The angel of the Lord encamps around those who fear him, and he delivers them.” Psalm 34:4-7
You can do this! Blessings to you as you walk through this trial!