Use These Tips to Save Money by Meal Planning

Wondering how meal planning saves money? I know I was quite amazed once I found out how much meal planning could help my budget. In fact, once I started meal planning, I was able to cut my grocery bill in half! It was even the first week I tried it! And I’ve been able to keep it up consistently since starting to meal plan!

It truly is amazing how meal planning saves money.

First Things First, What is Meal Planning?

What is meal planning? It’s as simple as it sounds. It’s simply planning what meals you are going to eat for the week. Just as you would plan your week so you know what activities are happening, what important meetings you have to attend and what time you have to be ready each morning. When you meal plan, you’ll know exactly what meals you’ll be eating for the week as well as what groceries you’ll need to buy.

Getting Organized at Home Means Spending Less Money at the Store

Meal planning helps you know what you’re doing before you step a single foot in the store. When you take the time to make a menu, you’ll know exactly what to buy, when to buy it, and what store to buy it at.

When you have your menu planned out, you can know exactly what you need and can find sales at nearby stores. Or better yet, plan your menu around the sales that are already going on! Also, you can plan for cheaper meals when you know a more expensive meal is looming or it can help you cut your food budget when money is tight. 

Basically, when you have a menu planned and organized, you are in control of what you spend, allowing you to save even more money.

These easy tips will help you save more money by meal planning. They're simple and easy and you'll be amazed at how much you save!

Learn How to Create a Meal Plan to Save Your Budget

So how exactly do you plan cheap meals? Or shop around sales?

First, it does take a little bit of patience. When you have time to do your meal planning for the week, take a couple of moments and look through the local grocery store ads. See which foods are on sale and where. Then you can plan meals that incorporate those foods.

But, just because something is on sale doesn’t make it a good price or a cheap meal. Fresh shrimp on sale is still going to cost way more than frozen chicken, so plan accordingly.

Also, after you do your shopping, keep your receipt and compare with other weeks. Pay attention to where things are cheaper, even when not on sale. Also consider that something only being $.30 or $.50 cheaper might not seem like a lot. You might think it will  make much of a difference.

But when you can save $.50 on several items, it can add up pretty quickly. 

When you take the time to make a proper meal plan, you’ll shop intentionally and have more control over the money you spend. Or should we say, the money you save?

You Can Use Ingredients You Already Have on Hand

When you start planning your menu make sure to clean out your fridge so you know exactly what you have. Then plan around those ingredients. 

Use leftovers for lunches or future dinners. Have leftover broccoli? Make sure to use that in your menu this week before it gets old. This will not only save you money, but it will also cut back on waste and keep your fridge from getting over packed. 

Make a List of Everything in Your Pantry, Fridge and Freezer

While cleaning out your fridge, make sure you make a list of everything in your fridge, pantry and freezer. This will lead to more savings and less waste.

You can use these ingredients you already have for your weekly menu or you can save things in your pantry and freezer for future use or emergencies. This will also give you a clearer idea of what you do or don’t need at the store. You’ll also know what spices and condiments are getting low. 

In The Meal Planning Binder, I’ve made sure to include an ingredients tracker worksheet so you can easily know exactly what you have on hand.

Keep Your Ingredients and Your Recipes Simple to Save Money

It can be fun to try new recipes and to have big nice dinners for your family, but at the end of the day, remember, you can have nice dinners, but try and keep your recipes as simple as possible. The fewer the ingredients in the recipe the less you will have to by and the more money you will save.  

Try to stick to recipes you are familiar with, as well. That way you won’t spend money on a recipe only to find out you don’t even like it.

Stick to Familiar Meals, and Only Try Something New Once or Twice a Week

Personally, I love trying new recipes! It’s fun to spend my evenings looking through Pinterest or cookbooks for something new and exciting. But honestly, many new recipes don’t always turn out, causing me to make a second dinner or a last minute expensive choice.

Another issue is that if I try a new recipe, the chances are, I don’t have the ingredients I need on hand. Then I end up spending a bunch of money on spices or ingredients I’ll never use again.

Now, I’m not saying to never try anything new! It’s a good idea to expand your menu a bit, but just make sure not to make every dinner a new recipe. Try to cook a new recipe once or twice a week at the max! (And make sure you have leftovers in the fridge on standby, just in case! Wink, Wink!)

When You Shop, Stick to Your Grocery Shopping List

After you make your menu for the week and have done all your sales research, make your list and stick to it! Veering from your list can cause, excess waste, which is essentially excess spending. 

Veering from your list will also cause you to lose track of what your budget is. You won’t have a set menu matching what is in your fridge and all your hard work will be for naught.

Another tip worth mentioning is to never go shopping on an empty stomach! It doesn’t matter how strong willed you are, shopping for a week’s worth of food on an empty stomach can only lead to unneeded spending. 

Plan a Few Meatless Meals Each Week

Skipping the meat for a few meals each week (even once a week) is sure to save you menu on your menu plan. I know not everyone is a fan of eating beans and rice, but truthfully, with the right spices and seasonings, you can make pinto beans taste like taco meat and black beans taste like a hamburger (black bean burgers are actually pretty good, if you ask me!) 

Don’t be afraid to try meatless options here and there and you’ll really stretch your grocery budget.

Meal Planning Will Help You Use Up the Ingredients You Bought, Which Means Less Waste

We all have those days, where we have dinner planned and everything already bought, but the meal on the menu just doesn’t sound good.

Good news!

With meal planning you’ll always have the flexibility to switch things around. I do that all the time at our house. Anytime within the week you can flip flop meals, but just make sure to use the meals you planned at some point during the week.


Because you already put in the hard work to plan them! And besides, you’ll save yourself money by not letting that food go to waste. Just don’t keep putting off a meal until the ingredients go bad. Make sure to use up all the ingredients you buy.

Be sure to incorporate anything you have left over, whether it be vegetables, sauces etc. into dinner next week. This can save on waste, time and money.

Also, if there is a dinner you just know you’re not going to eat this week or next week, cook it up and throw it in the freezer and save for another day. Most meals can last up to six months in the freezer! 

Use the Most Perishable Ingredients First to Avoid Waste

Some ingredients definitely last longer than others. For example cream cheese, sour cream, crackers, and other ingredients like these can all last for weeks or longer.

However, lettuce and other vegetables last no longer than a week, with some ingredients lasting even shorter (a perfectly ripe avocado can last only a day or two at a time, for example.)

So make sure you know which ingredients are needed for each recipe and which ones need to be made at the beginning of the your meal plan and which can be saved until the end.

Shop the Produce According to the Seasons

The price and quality of produce can change drastically throughout the year as the seasons change. Try and plan your menu around seasonal produce.

This will not only save you money but these fruits and vegetables will have a better and richer flavor making your dishes that much more enjoyable. Use this helpful guide to find out what’s in season in your local area.

Instead of Tossing Leftovers, You Can Use Them in Your Meal Plan

Leftovers are one of my favorite parts about meal planning. You can do so much with leftovers. Leftover dinners can be used for lunches or dinner later in the week. They can be frozen to keep on hand as a last minute dinner.

Leftover fruits and vegetables can be used as sides or snacks and leftover meat can be seasoned and used in new ways for different dishes. Don’t consider leftovers a waste! Instead come up with a clever way to use up everything you’ve got! The money you’ll save will be worth it!

Buy in Bulk and Combine Recipes that Use Similar Ingredients

Bulk shopping can save you a lot of money! But only when you actually use everything you buy. This is where meal planning can help.

Pick recipes that use similar ingredients so that you can buy in bigger quantities and save, with no waste left over. Also frequently used pantry items such as spices and seasonings in bulk. Since they can last for months, they won’t go to waste.

The important thing when you buy in bulk is to remember to cycle through these items and don’t forget they’re there. (It’s easy to do!)

Double Your Recipes to Save Even More Money

Doubling your recipes can create simple leftovers with very little extra cost. As I mentioned before, buying bigger quantities can add to extra savings (if none is wasted) and leftovers can be frozen for future dinners.

Think about making dinner every night this week while also stockpiling a week’s worth of dinners in the freezer at the same time. Just make sure to mark when each meal was made and frozen and when it needs to be used by. 

Commit to Following the Meal Plan to Save Money

Meal planning really can save money, keep you from running to the store so often, and create less waste, to name a few ***benefits of meal planning. But it only works if you really stick to it.

Starting the week off with a plan and then not following it doesn’t do you much good. It’s like deciding to start waking up an hour earlier every day this week but then staying up past your bedtime. The idea is golden but the execution is everything.

It doesn’t matter how good the sales were, how inexpensive your planned out meals are, or pretty your meal plan works, if you decide on a last minute run to McDonalds instead, you’re just wasting food, time and money. (And isn’t the idea to save money, here?!)

Don’t do that! Commit to the meal plan and stick with it!

Plan for a Week at a Time and Limit Your Trips to the Store

There’s no need to get over zealous and plan a month’s worth of meals at a time, although it certainly is doable. Plan one week at a time and see how it goes. My guess is that you’ll be so excited about the money you save, you’ll wanna keep perfecting your skills! 

Equally important is the warning not to plan for less than a week (no fewer than five days). Meal planning doesn’t do you much good or give you the same benefits if you’re still going to the store every other day. Limit your store runs to once a week. This will help prevent excess spending. 

Once You have Several Weeks of Meal Plans, Rotate the Menus and Tweak Them to Save More Money

As you meal plan, you will find there are menus and recipes that seem to work well with your budget. Keep those menus written down somewhere so that in a month or two you can go through them and use them again. You’ll have a menu and grocery list ready for you, making meal planning even easier and quicker.

Since you’ve already used these menu plans once, you can begin to find ways to cut down on the cost of each menu. Keep tweaking them until you’ve tailored the menu to fit your budget.

Use Your Local Grocery Pickup Service

Grocery Pickup services are amazing for saving time! I can do all my shopping online Friday night while we watch a movie and then pick it up Saturday morning and have all my prepping done before noon.

See what stores near you offer these services. There are even some stores that will deliver right to your door with little or no extra charge. If there isn’t grocery pickup near you, don’t worry! Unless you live in a very rural place, the chances are, it’s coming to your area soon!

Make it a Habit to Plan Your Menu on a Regular Basis

Like everything, meal planning is a force of habit. It can make your life so much easier but it also takes time and attention until you get the hang of it and it becomes second nature.

So make sure you’re planning your meals on a regular basis. Try to meal plan at the same time every week until you get into the habit. Once you start meal planning you’ll never want to stop!

If for some reason life happens and you didn’t get to meal plan one week, just make sure to do it the following week and quickly get back into a regular schedule. 

Use the Meal Planning Binder

The most important thing about meal planning is staying organized. There are a lot of steps to becoming a successful meal planner. But no worries!

That’s why I put together The Meal Planning Binder! Not only does this meal planner have a place to write down recipes for the week and the ingredients needed, but it also a place for a list of the ingredients in your pantry, fridge and freezer so you can plan meals around what you already have!

It also has places to record dietary needs, locals sales you want to remember, a calendar where you can write down all the busy things going on in the week and more! 

Definitely click this link and check it out! 

You don’t wanna miss it!

Other Related Meal Planning Articles:

Wanna get started meal planning right away? Grab your FREE copy of the Meal Planning Binder mini pack. It’s quick, FREE, and easy! Click on the picture below to get yours!

What ways have you been able to save money by meal planning? What ideas would you add to this list?

These easy tips will help you save more money by meal planning. They're simple and easy and you'll be amazed at how much you save!


20 Ways to Save More Money {With Meal Planning}