in the kitchen

11 Reasons to Meal Plan Every Week

Meal plan weekly

The biggest saver of money in our food budget doesn’t include clipping coupons or buying in bulk. It only takes 10 minutes or less to do and involves a quick view of our week ahead and checking what I already have at home. It’s not a secret and it’s easy to do. With regular weekly meal planning, you’ll save money  but you’ll also save by making fewer trips to the grocery store and it will help in reducing food waste. Anytime I can save on money, time, and resources in our monthly budget, I do it.

Meal planning made simple

11 Reasons to Meal Plan Every Week

  1. Have a plan: by writing down what to make for dinner and having a meal plan, I base what I am going to buy on what I know I have in my refrigerator or freezer and what is on sale and then  make my grocery list from the meal plan.
  2. Post it: by posting our meal plan on our refrigerator everyone (my kids and husband) can make dinner without me having to be at home to tell them what’s for dinner. There’s also no one asking me, “What’s for dinner?” because they just look at the dinner menu.
  3. Keep it simple: elaborate dinners are for special occasions and our daily meals taste great but are not elaborate. By keeping the plan simple, making dinner takes 20-30 minutes from start to finish and that’s without a microwave oven.
  4. Buy what’s in season and on sale: buying what’s on sale at the store by reviewing the newspaper ads allows me to purchase fruits and vegetables that are on sale. These are usually the same ones that are in season. By listing “vegetable” on my meal plan, I can take advantage of what’s fresh and on sale.
  5. No-frills grocery store: by doing the majority of our grocery shopping at a no-frills store where I have to bag the stuff myself, I’m getting the best prices without the hassle of coupons. No coupons for this frugal gal!
  6. Prevention: meal planning keeps me from having to go to the grocery store at the last minute or at the dinner hour when the store is at its busiest.
  7. Save money: because we have a plan  for dinner, we can avoid  going  out to restaurants or picking up fast food. While I wish for a scullery maid to clean-up after me when cooking, it’s one of those jobs that gets done quickly once you get started. It’s also more enjoyable with a glass of wine and someone to visit with while cleaning up!
  8. Keep it healthier at home: by cooking at home, we’re able to avoid processed foods and we eat much healthier meals than if we ate out all the time or bought pre-packaged foods.
  9. Work the leftovers: meals can incorporate leftovers easier when they’re planned for. By cooking one night, the next night often times mean a simpler version or variation of the previous night’s dinner. If the diner tasted great the first night, it will taste even better the second night because no one needs to cook!
  10. Keep track of kids cooking: If you have kids , around 6th-grade (or when you’re about 11 to 12-years old) in our family, you earn the privilege of cooking dinner once a week. You also clean-up after cooking. The only way I can keep track of when my kid’s are scheduled to cook dinner is when I write it down on our my meal plan. (I wish I could tell you that my kids want to cook dinner every week or that they remind me when they haven’t signed up to cook their meal for the week but that’s not true. They are usually trying to get out of it or hope that I somehow forget!)
  11. Reduce food waste: by only purchasing the food I know we’ll eat for the week and utilizing our freezer, the amount of food we waste is almost non-existent.

11 Reasons to Meal Plan Every Week

Meal planning every week saves our family money but it also saves me in trips to the grocery store both in time and resources. Anytime I can save on money, time, and resources in our monthly budget, for a 10 minute investment, I do it.

A PDF version of our weekly meal plan is here: Dinner Menu print on the both sides and you’ll get 4 dinner menus for each sheet of paper.

Do you meal plan or just wing it? What’s your method?

Go Gingham related links:

National Match-Up Day: A step-by-step on how to clean and organize your food storage containers!
Grocery shopping from the bulk bins and food storage containers
Reusing glass jars and how to get them ready for re-use
Frugal grocery shopping – without coupons!

10 thoughts on “11 Reasons to Meal Plan Every Week

  1. Hi Sara! I do a lot of the things that you have listed, with a few changes.

    Without a car, I can only manage bi-weekly trips for groceris, so planning is especially important! We don’t have a no-frills store within a 2 hour drive, but I do save money by shopping at Grocery Outlet. And, I’ve recently started using price matching at the second store that I use. My first attempt at it saved me $54 at check out!

    I do plan menus, but have to be flexible because of my fibromyalgia and other pain issues. I usually make a few dishes in advance and freeze them for those days when I just can’t manage to cook. Things that my son can easily pop into the oven.

    On good days, I also tend to make other things in advance. A big pot of marinara sauce; a batch of snack mix; a double batch of muffins, polenta and/or hummus, etc. The past several days, I’ve been preserving the last of the harvest (given to me by neighbors or picked up at the local food pantry) – carrots, apples, sweet potatoes and pumpkin. Dehydrated carrots are great in soups, stews, muffins, etc. Chunky applesauce is wonderful in oatmeal & muffins, or with pancakes. Sweet potato strips can be frozen for fries or casseroles. And pumpkin made into pulp or butter.

    I buy very few processed foods and am definitely thankful for my small chest freezer!
    Oh, and I love your blog 😉

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    1. Hi Cynthia,
      First off, I love that your neighbors share with you the bounty of their harvest. Very nice!
      What you whip up and put away sounds great. The freezer is such a great tool to use.
      Do you have a dehydrator? I’ve often considered buying one when I see them at garage sales/estate sales but I’m afraid I wouldn’t use it enough to justify it taking up the space. We have a very small kitchen and while I have a large basement, it’s best when I don’t plan to store things down there… 🙂
      Thanks, Cynthia, for leaving a comment and for your nice compliment.

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  2. Oh Sara, you know how I envy your meal planning! I want to do it. I really do, but then don’t get around to it. Or I don’t stick to a plan. The busier the kids (and I!!!) have gotten, the less we are able to sit down to dinner together and I feel terrible about that. There is probably a way to plan my meals – even if it is just “pasta and bell peppers” – to get into the habit of it. Your post makes me want to try again – thanks for the reminder!!!

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    1. Annie, do try! I know we’ve talked about this before and really it’s a good for kids, too. They can start cooking if you’re not home and you walk in the door to finish – or sit down and enjoy!
      Now the meal planning is a part of my weekly routine. It works best if I do it Sunday night right after dinner is finished. That doesn’t always happen so Monday AM it is! The plan keeps me from scrambling and gives me an idea of what to shop for.
      If you have a method that works or are feeling overwhelmed then don’t worry about it. It should be something that helps you and not stress you out even more – 🙂
      Thanks for leaving a comment, Annie!

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  3. Getting there! For the past month we’ve been making a dish every Sunday that we know will last us through at least part of the week. (Yesterday’s was chicken soup; last week’s was spaghetti sauce.) We use it for lunches or for dinner when some event throws the planned-for meal out the window. I’ve also started having a bit of the best of both worlds; when I know the afternoon/evening calls for heavy commitments of some sort, I plan to eat out, rather than feeling guilty when it happens because dinner becomes too much. Being realistic about what I can and can’t (and will and won’t) do reduces my stress–which is certainly a good use of resources!

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    1. Rita,
      This is key:
      “Being realistic about what I can and can’t (and will and won’t) do reduces my stress–which is certainly a good use of resources!”
      If meal planning adds to your stress then it’s not a good plan. It sounds like you have a good idea of works for you and your family.
      Great! Loved your post about your grandmother’s sweater!

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  4. I wing it. I hate my kitchen, and I dislike cooking even more. So, to make life feel less like I am a drudge in a 1920’s kitchen, I live life on the edge by winging the cooking. My family does not like what I cook anyway, so why spend more time planning something which will result in constant complaints? I open the fridge and what falls out gets cooked…..or something to that effect.

    I gave up on coupons. Food spoils, what’s advertised isn’t always tasty, and they generally don’t have coupons for the things I normally purchase. Seems like most of the coupons are for boxed “food” — which really isn’t food.

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    1. Sue, I agree with that coupons aren’t available for what I purchase either. Once there are coupons for fruits, vegetables, and generic or bulk-bin items, I’ll be all set.
      Thanks for leaving a comment, Sue!

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  5. I plan … somewhat … for our meals, but I also tend to keep a variety of menu basics in my pantry/freezer so I can throw together a meal with what I have on hand. Too much structure makes me feel grouchy. I like to have the freedom to change my mind. I guess it’s the rebel in me coming out. 🙂

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    1. Kris, you are such a rebel! 🙂 And, we certainly don’t want you to be grouchy. It sounds like you have found a nice balance of what works for you.
      I agree with that having a meal that can be tossed together quickly is key to feeding a family, at home instead of heading out to eat. I like to do that with lunches – especially on the weekends when there are 4-hungry mouths to feed! During the week, it seems like my husband and I just lunch on whatever is hanging around the refrigerator.
      Thanks, Kris.

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