Mom Life

How I Save Money by Meal Planning

When I first got married in 2005, meal planning was a foreign concept to me. I would normally just run to the grocery store and buy what I thought sounded good at the time. My type B personality never thought to make a plan before heading to the store. This often left me running to pick up last minute items before cooking a meal. If I could go back and tell my 23 year old self how to meal plan, it would have been a game changer in our budget. {I would also tell 23 year old me to sleep while you can!}

Over the last seven years, I have upped my meal planning game, and I have realized how much it helps our family save money when I make a plan ahead of time. It’s insane to think that I spent about the same amount of money on groceries when there were just two of us as we do now as a family of six {technically the baby currently eats for free}.

In the last few years, I have really streamlined the way I grocery shop as well. Later this week I’ll share my grocery shopping tips and tricks to make the best out of that time at the store!

When it’s time to make my meal plan, I set aside some time {usually on Sunday afternoon} to plan our meals for the next two weeks. I grab my meal planner, my family calendar, and my Pinterest board for inspiration when I get stuck. Here are the four things I do to save money by meal planning:


  1.  I plan our meals based on what our calendar looks like. For example, Wednesdays we have lots of extra curricular activities. So Wednesday isn’t a great day to plan an elaborate meal that requires a lot of prep time. One of my girls has to eat in the car between activities, so we often plan something like grilled cheese sandwiches and fruit. Crock pot meals work great for us on Sundays. I can do all the prep work the night before, and turn the crock pot on before leaving for church. This saves us money by removing the temptation to eat out when we are tired and hungry after a long morning at church. Planning around our schedule has really changed the way I meal plan! 
  2. I plan meals so I use up all of my perishables to prevent wasting food. This means that if I buy fresh produce, I try to plan multiple uses for it. For example, when I make crock pot fajitas, I usually will make a meatloaf a few days later. Both meals require peppers and onions, and this plan makes the most of my money by using up all of the ingredients I purchased. Win, win!
  3. I make the most of leftoversOne of my favorite things to do is make a new meal from leftovers. I think I love it so much because it gives the illusion that I made two delicious meals {and worked harder than I actually had to!}. One way I do this is with my crock pot fajitas. There are often leftovers from this meal, but not enough to feed the whole family again. So the next day, I will turn my leftovers into tortilla soup! I can also take leftover roasted chicken and turn it into a casserole. You can save money just by being creative with your leftovers! 
  4. I save time and money by planning for two weeks of meals at a time. I do all of my shopping for two weeks in one trip. This is what has worked best for my family’s routine and budget. You have to do what is best for you and your family. Maybe you will plan for two weeks, and shop once a week. Maybe you are able to shop once for the entire month. Find out what works best for your family, and do what works.

For meal ideas, follow my Pinterest board here. Click here if you’d like to download my free meal planner tool. 

One thing I always remember is the plan isn’t set in stone. If you need to swap meals around because the day didn’t go as planned, that’s ok. Be as flexible as you need to be. {Sometimes you just need to order pizza, am I right?}.

So tell me…How do you plan your meals? Do you just wing it or plan out each meal? How far in advance do you make your plan? What has worked for you, and what would you change if you could?







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