The news has been hard to avoid: inflation has arrived. Many of us were already experiencing tight budgets and this increase in food prices will only make things more difficult. To navigate this challenge, it’s always a good idea to implement food budgets and meal planning. When it comes to grocery shopping, there’s no point in buying something on sale if it’s just going to wilt, unused, in your salad crisper! While many people think that cooking on a budget has to be boring and/or stressful, it doesn’t have to be either. Plenty of food bloggers are building recipes and breaking down the math for you.
5 Budget Food Bloggers
Here’s a selection of food bloggers that can be used to make the most of your budget, the food you buy and maybe even jumpstart some new ideas and approaches.
1. Budget Bytes
Budget Bytes has been around since 2009 when Beth Moncel was a recent graduate, trying to make ends meet and get a handle on her student debt. Since then, Budget Bytes has grown significantly, with hundreds of recipes on the website and appearances across various food, financial and lifestyle publications and mobile apps for iOS and Android.
Her website is great because it’s divvied up into various categories, from One Pot Meals to Slow Cooker recipes, and vegetarian and vegan options too. For those of us who are unsure about where to start or how to approach meal planning, Moncel has that covered.
One of the best parts about the website is that Moncel breaks everything down for us: how long each recipe should last for (if you’re looking to batch cook) and how much each ingredient/serving costs. Of course, depending on where you live, these prices will vary, but it does give readers a starting point to help guide their own budget breakdowns.
2. Jack Monroe
Jack Monroe makes no bones about what she’s about: making good food on a bootstrap budget. Also known as “Bootstrap Jack”, she started out documenting what she ate on £10 a week and trying to make her meals as nutrient-rich and fun to eat as possible. Since then, she’s put out several cookbooks, written about food insecurity and poverty in The Guardian, and put out a short series called “Daily Kitchen Live” with the BBC.
Monroe also talks about the way mental health and disabilities interconnect with both poverty and food scarcity. In fact, one of her cookbooks is about making good food for “bad days” (the quick and spicy salmon noodles are fantastic). She’s also not afraid to use her platform to call attention to inequalities that many others would prefer not to see.
Like Moncel, Monroe is one of the food bloggers that breaks down all her recipes (often with photos of her receipts) to show how much she spent. She talks about the trends she’s seeing in the grocery shops she frequents and will also compare prices from one shop to another so that others don’t have to.
3. Max LaManna
Although Max LaManna is less focused on the price of each individual item, he is focused on how to use all of each item. A vegan, LaManna’s cookbook is titled “More Plants, Less Waste” and features so many fun, new, inventive ways to use all the parts of your fruits and veggies. A large part of saving money when eating is about making sure to use up as much as possible, which can often be daunting or feel impossible.
His Instagram is full of videos of his recipes, with brief instructions on how to prepare each dish. And he’s got some super interesting ones! He’ll have you using banana peels (which are edible and using them helps reduce food waste) in vegan pulled pork and curry, swapping lentils for beef in tacos (one of the best sustainable food swaps), using oats in waffles, and trying something interesting and refreshing like cucumber gazpacho!
While there’s no price breakdown or explicit budget shown like with the other food bloggers, LaManna’s focus on beans and veggies often means that items are less expensive than meat-based meals. He’s also sharing new ideas and ways of seeing food, which means you’ll get more meals out of a single purchase.
Tracy Benjamin is another one of the food bloggers that’s a rich resource for new meal ideas. Benjamin’s meal planning in particular is inspirational and although most of us probably won’t be sitting down and creating art-covered grocery lists, there’s something to be said for taking a page out of her notebook.
As someone who spends a lot of time in her kitchen, Benjamin has shared helpful tips for staying organized and different ways to use seasonal fruits and vegetables. Benjamin also has recipes for pickling your own vegetables, including carrots and beans, which is a great way to keep vegetables around longer and use up extras if you can’t eat them right away. She’s also the queen of meal prepping and has broken down why and how she sets up her meal prep, which is always helpful, especially since it can often feel overwhelming.
Beyond that, many of Benjamin’s recipes are riffs on each other, meaning you make multiple meals using similar ingredients while still keeping it interesting. Here’s one example: you could make a sausage and white bean bake, and either use the leftovers for soup or turn it into white beans with roasted broccoli. While Benjamin doesn’t provide a breakdown of costs, her website is a great resource for making the most of whatever you’ve got in your fridge or pantry.
5. Thrifty Leslie
In the same vein as Bootstrap Jack, Thrifty Leslie is all about breaking down grocery lists and planning to make the most out of every dollar. She’s even created multiple weekly meal plans, including a meal plan if you’ve got no power at all or if you need to really make your money stretch.
Leslie also has a list of recipes for things you won’t have to buy again once you learn to make it, including homemade mustard! She’ll also help you cook and make a whole chicken last for a week, breaking it down in a way that’s accessible and giving other suggestions that you otherwise wouldn’t have thought of. She also gives a variety of recipes for leftovers and extras that would otherwise be thrown out, proving she’s one of the food bloggers that will help you make the most of everything in your fridge.
Apps to Help You with Meal Planning
Want some structured help with meal planning? Meal planning is not just a good way to save money, it also helps reduce food waste. Here are some tools to help you.
If you’re in the United States, the Jow app gives you recipe ideas and a grocery list you can link to your preferred grocery store, and they’ll shop and deliver the food to you! If you’re not in the U.S., you can still use the app for meal planning and creating a grocery list, you just won’t be able to use the delivery feature.
Many of the recipes share the same ingredients, meaning you’ll only have to purchase one item that will last multiple meals. Their meals are fun and super easy! Most of them take less than 45 minutes, start to finish and make enough for second helpings.
If you already have ingredients on hand and don’t know what to make, MyFridgeFood is an app that lets you input your ingredients, and then provides you with a list of recipes that contain them. Some of the suggestions can be hit or miss, but as a resource to give you meal ideas, it works well.
For those of us who would like to combat food waste and save a few dollars on items, FlashFood is an app that allows grocery stores to put food nearing its expiration date on sale. Customers can then buy it through the app and pick it up at the store. It may require you to keep a bit of an eye on it, but $5 boxes of fruit is well worth the effort! As a bonus, some community fridges use the FlashFood app as a way to get food donations, so you can use it for yourself and your community.
Lead graphic by Marta Sher/Adobe Stock.