Before I started meal planning, my home was always stocked with more food than we would ever eat. We’d buy whatever sounded good at the time and pay no attention to what we already had in our home. After months of doing this, we’d end up with spoiled veggies in the back of the fridge and rotting potatoes in our pantry. We would waste hundreds of dollars each week just throwing out food that we didn’t eat, and we’d never know what was for dinner each night.
Meal planning can save you both time and money, but it can also help you stick to eating what you bought. After years of meal planning, I have put together a list of some of my best hacks to help you save both time and money while meal planning!
7+ Simple Meal Planning Tips That Save Time And Money
1. Keep a list of meals you eat regularly
In your meal planning binder or wherever you keep your recipe list, keep a running list of all the meals that your family loves and eats regularly. When you are short on time or need a crowd- pleaser, add a few meals from this list. These are the meals that I turn to when I’m out of ideas and need some quick inspiration.
2. Start with food items you already have on hand
Shelf cooking will save you so much money because you won’t let the food you already have at home go to waste! Whenever you make a meal plan, try to aim for 2-3 meals that you can create using just what you already have at home. You may have to get a little creative, but I’m willing to bet you already have enough food for 2-3 meals with just what you have at home.
3. Implement theme nights to make meal planning easier
Instead of trying to think up a new meal for each night, have a theme night to make meal planning faster. You could have Crockpot Saturdays, Taco Tuesdays, Stir Fridays, or any number of theme nights to help make planning your meals easier. This will limit your choices and help you plan out your weekly list of meals faster.
4. Stock up on staples and add it to your meal plan
Stocking up on food items that your family uses regularly will make meal planning easier, but will ensure that you never run out of the things your family uses the most. You can search for the best deals and replenish your stock whenever you find the best deal. To ensure there’s always room in my grocery budget, I add it to my meal plan so I won’t forget it!
5. Meal plan for a whole month instead of week-by-week
Planning your meals for the whole month might sound daunting, but this can save you a lot of time in both grocery shopping and planning! You can implement theme nights or add the same 10-15 meals to your meal plan and spread them out over a month! When you shop for your meals, you can take advantage of bulk savings and leftovers to help you stretch your meal plan through the month.
6. Use tools to help you make new meals
Whether you opened a can of tomato paste and didn’t use the whole thing or don’t know what kinds of meals you can make with the oddball ingredients in your home, there are several ways you can find new recipes using the stuff you have at home! Sites such as Recipe Puppy can help you find meals by searching by ingredient! If you’re in a pinch or just looking for a way to use one ingredient, you could also search Pinterest for inspiration.
7. Use your weekly ad to help plan meals
Once you’ve exhausted the items you have in your home to make meals, it’s time to turn to your weekly ad. This is going to have all of your store’s best deals and specials to help you determine what to buy. Try and build an additional 2-3 meals from the items you find in the weekly ad. You might not be able to create a full meal using the ad, but if you can get huge saves on chicken or pork, the rest of the items might be things you have at home or that you can find for cheap at the store.
8. Make room for leftovers
When you’re making a meal plan, it’s important to make room for leftovers. To make sure that we don’t let food go to waste, we have one leftover day every week. All of our meals are centred around eating leftovers. If we have no leftovers, this is our meal out day. This inspires us to eat the meals we planned, and if it was good, we don’t mind eating it a second time or repurposing it into another meal!
Whether you are new to meal planning or just looking for some extra tips to help you maximize your next meal plan, I hope these tips helped! These hacks are ones that I use every time I meal plan to make sure I’m saving money and time!