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Hacking the Meal Plan To Match Your Budget

This week I went to Aldi with $40 in my pocket in cash. With no shrimp on the meal plan, I knew I had a good shot at getting below my target. Spoiler alert: I was close.

First up was Walmart on Saturday. I spent almost $5 here. Yuck, I know. I needed some low carb bread and a jar of cilantro base. I don’t want to keep buying fresh cilantro, so that “stock” is a great way for me to get more servings for about the same cost.

Hack #1: cost should be thought of as “price per serving;” choose things that let your money go far.

$2.16 for a jar of cilantro base with 30+ servings is a huge PPS over $1.99 for fresh cilantro. Mind you, I’m not making pico de gallo with puréed cilantro… but I’m also not eating tortilla chips with MacroEd!

Anyway, off to Aldi I go on Monday after my CrossFit WOD. Armed with my shopping list and the remaining $40 of my $45 budget, I conquered the aisles and arrived at the checkout line with a plan. Food gets scanned in order of importance. Ground beef: really important. Pork rinds: really important but completely unnecessary.

Foods to be scanned in order of importance for my meal plan and budget.

Hack #2: tell your checkout person that you’re on a budget and be sure to watch your total as the products get scanned.

The guys and gals at my local Aldi know me and my budget shenanigans. We make it a game. We stop when I run out of money! Big bucks, big bucks, no whammys, annnnnnd STOP! Confession: this week I set my budget and decided to blow it. I just really, really wanted those pork rinds. That’s not the point for this week’s post, but in the future I’ll discuss this concept. Sometimes you just gotta have fun food.

44 servings! 32 if you don’t count the snacks…

Choices this week:

  • Taco Soup!!
  • Freezer Meal: World’s Best Chicken + Cabbage
  • Hash brown egg stacks
  • Cheeseburger Quesadillas
  • Sweet Potato Boats
  • Paninos

Hack #3: double up on some recipes when possible and keep some as a freezer meal.

Remember the World’s Best Chicken from last week? I doubled the recipe because I had enough ingredients to make two batches. Pop one in the freezer and it’s ready to add with the leftover bag of cole slaw from last week, too. The Panera soup copycat used only half a bag of slaw; don’t let that food go to waste!

Meal prep match: receipts, meal choices, and servings.

How did I do on my budget goal? I wanted to spend no more than $45 total. Between Walmart and Aldi, I dropped $45.54. The starred and circle items were extras I didn’t truly need, but I like snagging a few basics at a time just in case.

Hack #4: if you see a MacroEd “basics” on sale… snatch some up!

Diced tomatoes, Greek yogurt cream cheese, Kerry Gold butter– those are my favorite things to stock up on when they are on sale. You will usually find 8 of each in my kitchen. Note about stocking up: I am not giving you permission to go to Sam’s Club and by an industrial tub of mayo. Just… no.

Price per serving (PPS) breakdown:

I calculated PPS using the $45.54 total and again using $42.33 (sans “extras”).

  • $45.54 for 44 servings = $1.04
  • $42.33 = $0.96

I then calculated PPS for just the meals; snacks not included.

  • $45.54 for 32 servings = $1.42 PPS
  • $42.33 = $1.33 PPS

You think it was a win this week? You think you can use one of my meal plan hacks? Drop me a line in the comments or on Facebook! I’d love to hear from you!

-Meghan

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