How to Create a Meal Plan to Save Money

If you are trying to find ways to save money, one way to accomplish that goal would be learning how to create a meal plan.

Everyone knows that it is cheaper to cook meals at home, but we still eat out. When I work with a client to organize their schedule, our first step is to create a meal plan.

how to create a meal plan to save money

How to Create a Meal Plan to Save Money

The problem is not that they don’t want to cook at home…the problem is that they don’t know what to cook or they feel like they don’t have time to cook.

If you create a meal plan, it can make a HUGE difference in your eating habits and your bottom line. You and your family will begin to eat healthier meals and you’ll be saving money at the same time!

I’ll share with you the tips I give my clients when we sit down to create their meal plans.

  1. Think about the meals your family likes to eat. Jot down as many meals as you can off the top of your head. The goal is to come up with at least 25 meals. They don’t have to be elaborate meals either- hot dogs, crock pot meals, and sandwiches work well for those busy nights when you don’t have a lot of time to prepare a meal.
  2. Now grab your calendar and write down a meal for each day of the month. Spread the meals out to offer variety. For example, if you have 4 chicken meals, write one meal each week. (My calendar fills up quickly because I only have to come up with 4 chicken meals, 4 sandwiches, 4 shrimp meals, 4 meatless meals, 4 turkey meals, 4 beef meals and 4 fish meals.)
  3. Be sure to take note of your actual schedule to see which nights you won’t be home for dinner or those nights when you will be coming home late and won’t have much time to prepare a meal. Also,think about which meals can be prepared quickly and which ones need more time. Keep filling up the calendar until all the meals you’ve written down are gone.
  4. If you couldn’t think of enough meals to fill the entire month, you could repeat a few favorites or treat the family to a few, inexpensive nights out. Eating out a few nights a month won’t break the bank as long as you have budgeted for the cost.
  5. Look into recipe websites like or Better Homes and Gardens for inspiration for new recipes. You can slowly add new recipes you’d like to try into the rotation.
  6. Purchase a binder to store all of your recipes for the month. Label each section (chicken, fish, pasta, etc) to help you find and prepare the meals quicker. Pick out a pretty binder that coordinates with your kitchen.
  7. Once you have your calendar complete and your binder set up, you’re ready to go shopping. Jot down the ingredients needed to prepare all of your meals for the week and you’re all set!

The great thing about creating a meal plan is that you only have to do it once. Once you have your meals on the calendar, just keep moving them to the following month and you’ll always have an answer when your family asks “What’s For Dinner?”.

Do you currently use a meal plan? What additional tips would you like to add? Enlighten us with your comments below! 😉

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10 thoughts on “How to Create a Meal Plan to Save Money

  1. TeenyDot says:

    When I know I will have a busy work week, I like to make mason jar salads. I prep them on Sunday and then I just grab and go throughout the week. Or I will leave some in the fridge for days when I get home from work late so I don’t have to think about what to make.

  2. Prats @ the messed up home. says:

    Even I create a meal Plan for the whole week , I feel it relaxes me when i have things under control and not last minute chaos of what to cook or only to find I have run out of supplies , Creating a menu plan and shopping accordingly even Shopping by season helps you save a lot of money! keep up the good work Leigh!

    • SimpLeighOrganized says:

      I totally agree! It’s the worst feeling to start preparing a meal and realize you’re missing an ingredient! Planning meals in advance will definitely help. Thanks for your comment. 🙂

  3. Tierney says:

    This is very good advice – I started doing this a year ago and I just feel so much more in control and less stressed about “what is for dinner tonight”!

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