Cheap Meal Planning 101: The Planning

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Meal planning seriously improves my quality of life – sounds dramatic, but it’s true! I love love love cooking but I am also guilty of not going to the store for weeks on end. Then I wait until I’m hangry to actually plan dinner and then….it’s takeout again. I’m working hard to not let this happen to me because eating at home is WAY cheaper and obviously way better for you. I know a lot of people struggle with meal planning, so I’m going to put together some tips here for how to meal plan and how to do it on the cheap. This is part one – stay tuned for part two tomorrow!


1. Have a list of go-to meals at the ready. Each week I try to do 1-2 staples and 1-2 new recipes. Since it’s just my husband and I, I don’t have to cook every night and we usually have plenty for leftovers for the week. If you have more people in your family you might to adjust your meal planning schedule for a few extra meals. Here are some of my inexpensive go-to meals (add fruits and veggies as sides where applicable!)

CLICK HERE for a printable version you can hang onto!


2. Use the internet – there are TONS of awesome freezer and meal planning recipes out there. One of my favorites is Once a Month Meals – each month there are menus for all kinds of scenarios (Diet menu, Paleo, Vegetarian, etc), all with great recipes. If you’re really organized, the website is set up so you can do all your cooking for the month in ONE day. I tend to use it just to gather up my recipes. Then I make my grocery list based on the recipes and save each one in my browser in my “meals for the week” folder. Pinterest is great but it’s easy to get overwhelmed and/or forget about things. Saving the recipes on my browser makes it really easy for me to reference once I’m ready to cook!

Some other free meal planning resources I love:

3. Do your meal planning BEFORE you go to the store and have a list. This kind of goes without saying but make sure you have a list ready before you hit the store and don’t stray from it! Don’t forget to check for pantry staples, spices, etc.

4. Keep inventory of what’s in your freezer – One time I had four bags of corn in the freezer at once, simply because I kept buying it at Aldi not realizing I already had some. Oops. Now I try to keep a notepad on the fridge that has a running list of what’s in the freezer so when I’m not sure what I need at the store, I always check the freezer. I also make sure to check the freezer for leftovers that we can eat that week.

Phew – not enough info for you yet? Click here for part two!


17 thoughts on “Cheap Meal Planning 101: The Planning

  1. Meeaaaall planning (read begrudgingly, that’s how I said it) lol. Josh and I just started meal planning. I even purchased a book to record my meal plans. It’s working out just ok. It is difficult to get a grasp on. I’m going to have to look into meal planning recipes. Thanks for these tips! 🙂

  2. My hubby and I hate meal planning. We are tempted to just go to the grocery store after work every night to pick up fresh ingredients for one meal. We eat lower carb and pretty healthy, so our veggies and fruits are eaten up super quickly!! Great tips, though!
    Amanda |

  3. love this! i keep canned sides and pasta sauce and whole wheat noodles on hand at all times. The only thing you have to be careful of is making sure there isn’t that much sugar in it. Right now I’m on a kick with one from whole foods that has <1 gram sugar per serving size and it tastes great. I also freeze my chicken right when I get it. Some of my go to meals are pad thai, zuccini noodles with my spiralizer, and baked chicken + rice + green beans!

    I usually work dinner by the fly, but meal prep all my breakfast smoothies and lunches the sunday prior.

    Love this post 🙂

    Southern Elle Style

  4. I totally get this and LOVE it! I go for months without going to the grocery store and then I finally go and end up spending like $200. I hate it!!! And then it is just me here so all the food goes to waste! I love all of these recipes and they are so simple and easy!!

    xoxo Amanda

    The Miller Affect

  5. I LOVE this post! As a college kid who tries to eat well as often as she can, I definitely love the meal planning idea and am hoping to really get into it once I’m out of a dorm! Great tips!
    xx, Victoria

  6. These are honestly such great tips that we TRY to do every single week (insane I know) but it’s so hard with long hours, social lives, 2nd jobs/hobbies, and the likes. We start off well and then fall off towards the end of the week. If only eating out were cheaper! xx

  7. Ohhh I Needed some new ideas.. thank you! Meal planning is so worth it but sometimes can be so stressful haha

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