The most important thing when it comes to meal planning and food budgeting is your store cupboard and freezer. How often do we pack our cupboards and forget what's there and end up buying duplicate items at a later date? A boring task but one that needs to be done is an inventory, write down everything you have in your cupboards, pasta/rice/tinned items/herbs & spices etc. Then start on the freezer. You should then have a clearer idea of what you need and don't need.
Its surprising how many meals can be whipped up from random bits and bobs you have floating around. I will be posting lots of recipes in the future which I call my Store Cupboard Meals!
Herbs and spices are indispensable when it comes to meal planning. They can turn any meal from mediocre to scrummy in seconds!
Here is a list of what I think/believe every store cupboard should have:
Chinese five spice
Stock cubes - chicken, beef, veg
Oils and Vinegars
Cinammon sticks and Ground
Self Raising Flour
Strong bread flour
Caster sugar/Granulated sugar/brown sugar
There are lots more but these are the items I use the most. Obviously if you don't have any of these it would be very expensive to buy them all in one go, so just buy them at your own rate, whatever will fit into your budget. Sometimes in supermarkets they have value or own brand versions of the spices. These are a lot cheaper and in my opinion there is no difference in taste. I have value mixed herbs/curry powder etc and they are fab.
Now you have your inventory you can start meal planning!! :)