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How Can I save Money with a Meal Plan?

Paulla Estes
Updated Jan 25, 2024
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A meal plan is a regular, organized arrangement for budgeting, grocery shopping, cooking, and serving meals in a family or household. Many people find that having a designated meal plan helps them stick to their monthly grocery budget, and it saves time in preparing the household meals. Designing a meal plan depends on several factors.

The first step in making a meal plan is for the person or people who do the cooking to write down all the meals that can be prepared. Depending on the creativity or motivation of the cook, this may be a long or short list. When the list is complete, keep it in a handy place, so new recipes and meal ideas can be added to it as the need arises.

The next step is to consider your grocery budget for the month. Split the monthly total into weekly increments and plan the meals for your meal plan around this amount. The best way to stick to a grocery budget is to go to the store with just enough cash; leave the ATM and credit cards at home. This will prevent impulse buying that does not fit into your meal plan.

Next, plan the grocery shopping for your meal plan. If you go once a week, look at your meal plan list and decide which meals the household will eat during the given week. Then do a bit of kitchen inventory and make a grocery list to include everything you will need for each day. Be sure to include all meals: breakfast, lunch, dinner, snacks, and meals that will be packed up and taken to school or work. The meal plan will include every bit of food eaten by the household during that week, including any invited guests or special occasions. Also consider keeping a running grocery list on the refrigerator door, so that regular household items can be added to the list as they are consumed.

After you finish the grocery shopping for your meal plan, store the food in your cupboard and refrigerator or freezer in the order that you will prepare the meals during the week. Although meals can be swapped around during the week depending on household preferences, organization will make food preparation easier. Lastly, the cook or cooks in the household might consider checking the weekly meal plan each night before going to bed; this way, meat can be thawed in the refrigerator, or other items prepared in advance. The household will be surprised at all the time and money saved thanks to a meal plan.

As a final tip, you can leverage online tools to help you save money with online purchases like grocery shopping. In our Wikibuy Review, we discuss how you can use one of these tools to save hundreds of dollars a month.

WiseGeek is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
Paulla Estes
By Paulla Estes
Based in Maine, Paulla Estes is a freelance writer and website editor with a B.A. in English Literature from George Mason University. With over 15 years of experience in the field, Paulla appreciates the flexibility and consistency that comes with contributing to WiseGeek. She relishes the opportunity to continuously learn new things while crafting informative and engaging articles for readers.
Discussion Comments
By Georgesplane — On May 19, 2011

@ Amphibious54- I have never thought about creating a weight loss meal plan. Are there any books on the subject that will help me create a healthy and balanced meal plan? I think more than anything does, I do not quite understand how to create a plan that is nutritious and balanced. The new food pyramid seems complicated, and the old one is outdated. I do not know how much of each essential food group I should be getting every day.

By Amphibious54 — On May 18, 2011

@Valleyfiah- Actually creating diet meal plans are an excellent way to lose weight. It is the same concept as those meal package diets where the company sends you food every week. The beauty of creating a diet meal plan is you can spend about an hour a week putting together a menu. As long as you stick to your meal plan and watch portion sizes six days out of seven, you will lose weight.

I made a meal plan for weight loss and ended up losing about twenty pounds over the course of a year. I have since kept it off, and I go back to making meal plans when I notice that my diet is lacking in healthy foods or fruits and vegetables. The meal plan is a good way to make healthy eating a normal part of your day. It also forces me to slow down and enjoy my food because I am not eating on the run any more.

By ValleyFiah — On May 16, 2011

Unless I am dieting, I find that creating daily meal plans are life-planning overload. I live in a family of great cooks, and one thing that I cannot do is plan every meal before my mood and tastes dictate what I should make. I usually go to the grocery store three times a week, so i can buy fresh meats and produce to prepare in various meals.

I find that I save plenty of money by purchasing raw goods that actually have to be prepared. The cost of god calories in prepared and processed foods is much more expensive than the equivalent calorie in a raw good. If I cut out all of the filler foods and buy plain rice or pasta, fresh dairy products, farmers market produce and gods, and local meats, I can eat very good for the same price as buying Kraft, Nabisco, and Nestle.

I spend more time preparing food, but it prevents me from overeating. It is not as easy to find an unhealthy snack when you do not keep prepared foods in the house.

Paulla Estes
Paulla Estes
Based in Maine, Paulla Estes is a freelance writer and website editor with a B.A. in English Literature from George...
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