Tips To Save Money: Meal Planning

They say if you fail to plan, you plan to fail.  I’ve found meal planning to be one of the best money saving tips out there for young families trying to stretch their dollars.

Knowing in advance what you are going to eat for dinner can save you from many impulse visits to your favorite restaurant or fast food chain, as well as those last minute trips to the grocery store when you don’t have anything left in the cupboards.

Tips to Get Started With Meal Planning

Start the meal planning process by making a dinner list.  I recommend matching the length of your list to your payday cycle.  If you get paid weekly, plan for 7 dinners, if it’s bi-weekly plan for 14 dinners.

I get paid monthly and plan for 30 nightly meals (seriously).  Put your list up on the fridge, this will help you remember to take the chicken out to defrost.

Take stock of what’s already in your fridge, freezer, and cupboards.  From there, use your dinner list to make your shopping list.

I make a list for shopping at Costco (meat, dairy, vegetables, other staples), and Safeway (whatever else I require that doesn’t need to come in size XXL).  For further money saving tips, try and hit Safeway on 15% off Tuesday (1st Tuesday of the month).

Related: How To Save Money On Groceries

I split up the meat into smaller portions and use our deep freeze to store it for the month.  Some people buy a side of beef and freeze it, which they claim can save money vs. buying retail.

This takes a fair bit of organization but since we started meal planning along with tracking our monthly expenses we have saved about $250/month.  We often end up with leftovers to use for lunch, which saves us even more money.

Not only that, my wife and I have lost weight, tried and fell in love with new recipes, and have actually become really good cooks.

Stay flexible.  Although meal planning sounds quite rigid, we switch meals all the time based on our schedule, what the weather is doing (for BBQ’s), or what might spoil in the fridge if we don’t eat it right away.

Related: 35 Ways To Save Money

The point isn’t to live like you’re in the Army.  Use these money saving tips to eat a little bit healthier, and enjoy more time with your family.

Print Friendly, PDF & Email


  1. Financial Cents on August 18, 2010 at 7:59 am

    Well said. We meal plan as well – at least my wife does 🙂 We’re only two, but we feel this saves us time and money. We enjoy good quality meats, cheeses and fresh foods, etc., so planning affords us to buy “the good stuff” more often than not. We also waste very little when we plan. Good reminders Echo!

  2. Tiny Potato on August 18, 2010 at 9:14 am

    Wow, planning for 30 nights is impressive. On a related note, having a plan allows you to plan grocery purchases in advance to take advantage of bulk purchasing or promotions such as bonus “points” (which are in effect further discounts since you can exchange the points for free groceries).

  3. Echo on August 18, 2010 at 9:40 am

    @Financial Cents – thanks, I find that we are eating a lot healthier and enjoying good quality items too, rather than pre-packed ready made dinners

    @Tiny Potato – Yes, 30 meals can be a little much, but I agree that you can really take advantage of the bulk savings. Gotta love PC Points!

  4. Tim Barnes, CLU on April 3, 2011 at 11:44 am

    My business deals with insurance plans for retirees. I love any tips that will help retirees make their life savings last longer.

  5. Witty Artist on August 1, 2011 at 2:05 am

    Wow, I think planning for 30 nights seems a little too much for me – because it does sound a bit like being in the Army. :))) I plan for a week, two at the most. Of course I also do the shopping in bulks – especially the main ingredients such as the meat – and put it in the refrigerator. It’s true that this is a plan good both for our health (not grabbing some fast food) and for our wallet.

  6. April on August 26, 2011 at 6:59 pm

    That’s well written and valuable article. I like to know how you do the 30 nights meal plan?(Seriously):))
    I starting a family and my husband I always eat out or mess up our budget. A good read pal,thanks!

  7. King Magan on October 3, 2011 at 2:38 am

    I recently been married this past month with a lovely wife. This article really helps a lot with newly weds. 🙂

    We will implement this with our plans and hope will be effective. I know it is. 🙂

    Thanks so much

  8. Ortavia on October 27, 2011 at 11:49 am

    Great post! I can’t wait to start implementing this in my new home.

  9. Leslie on November 14, 2011 at 4:15 pm

    We have a meal calendar too. I have about a months worth of different meals that I rotate through and change up for the in season items. Saving money has just been a bi-product of this much needed time saver not only from a grocery perspective but from knowing what we are doing each day and typically the next days lunch. It works well and keeps me sane.

Leave a Comment

Join More Than 10,000 Subscribers!

Sign up now and get our free e-Book- Financial Management by the Decade - plus new financial tips and money stories delivered to your inbox every week.