How to Budget: Start Small, Think Big: Military Saves Week and Meal Planning

Military Saves Week - USAA Member Community


Military Saves Week takes place February 22-27 and seeks to motivate, support, and encourage military families to save money, reduce debt, set a budget, and build wealth. The campaign slogan, Start Small. Think Big, gives you the freedom to make some seemingly small money saving decisions and be surprised at the overall outcome they can have on your budget. I took the Military Saves Week Pledge to commit to saving this year and my family’s goal is to put more money into our mortgage. The idea of starting small on a big goal helped me believe it could be possible. The thought of paying off a 30 year mortgage is daunting. When you look into the numbers and see how much of your mortgage payments are going to interest and not to your principal loan amount it is easy to feel discouraged, but I keep repeating to myself “start small-start small”.


How do you take the first step to saving? I went to some of the savviest people I know, fellow military spouses, and asked what small changes made the biggest differences in helping them save money and their answer was consistent: meal planning. Groceries are something we all consistently spend money on and by following the steps below, you can make some small changes that will result in some big savings!


  1. Have a plan (This plan should include not shopping hungry- step away from the cheese dip!)
    a. Examine your current shopping habits.
    b. Know what you are going to serve at Breakfast, Lunch and Dinner for the week so you can buy all the grocery items while at the store and not end up at the corner store paying twice as much for the sour cream you forgot to pick up!
    c. The blog, We Got Real features an example of 3 meals a day for a family of 4 $80
    d. Check our Mom’s Bistro’s, A month of kid friendly meals on a budget (plus recipes and a grocery list)

  2. Buy items that are on sale
    a. Browse the Sunday paper for grocery specials and coupons.
    b. While you're shopping, look for short sales – items wtih the “sell by” date approaching. Find a really good deal on an item not on your list? Snag it for the lower price, freeze it and work it into your menu for next week!

  3. Be smart with your groceries and re-use or freeze items you would normally end up throwing away
    a. You need to buy ginger (or insert another obscure herb/veggie, etc) for a recipe and have a lot leftover? Freeze it (or make a delicious tea)! This works for many items, for example the bell pepper you didn’t use but paid 1.99. Chop it up, freeze and use it in a breakfast omelet or stir fry for another time.
    b. Re-use food items you normally throw away. The ends of onions/carrots can be used to make chicken broth along with the bones of the whole chicken you roasted, for a nice dinner. How about those brown bananas? Slice the bananas up and freeze them for a delicious addition to a smoothie or freeze them in their peels to use later for banana bread.
    c. Elizabeth from The Reluctant Landlord, has some helpful tips about making frozen meals for one so you won’t be tempted to eat out too often when your spouse is away.

  4. Pick your favorite herbs and if you have room, vegetables to grow at home. It is hard to beat paying $3 for a basil plant you can use repeatedly versus $3 for the bundle of basil leaves good for one recipe at the grocery store. I grow oregano, sage, parsley, basil and rosemary.



Please share some of your grocery savings advice in the comments and don’t forget to take the Military Saves Week Pledge!




228437 - 0216