Meal Planning to Save Money and Effort

3 Mar 2012 by ZiggyD, 1 Comment »

Save money and Effort With Meal Planning and Still Eat the Things You Enjoy

Organising meals, especially dinner, has been a constant drain for my partner and myself. We both love to cook but actually thinking about what to make and then going out to get ingredients is pretty painful. We also ended up wasting a lot of food with many fresh ingredients going off because we never had a way to use them. The lackadaisical approach to meals just isn’t effective and when we moved houses we knew it was time for a clean start. We decided that we would have a set meal plan reduce wastage, save money and remove a lot of the effort of meal organisation.

It’s only been three days since we started our meal plan and we are already loving it. Right now I don’t know what is on the plan for tonight’s dinner but I am not worrying about it at all because I know that all of the ingredients are already there and all I have to do is get up, read the plan and make it. Since we made the plan out of our favourite meals I also know that I going to enjoy whatever it is we are having tonight.

Here’s a few tips on how to set up your own meal plan:

Making the Meal Plan Prominent and Easy to Edit

Dry erase whiteboard markers for meal planning.

You want to have your meal plan up where it’s easy to see so that it reminds you to stick to it. I chose to also have it up where guests can see it easily too so that they know what’s going on with our eating and so that they know that Saturday is our ‘splurge’ day (and be tempted to suggest a shared meal with us). The meal plan also needs to be nice and easy to get to and edit so that you can swap out meals every now and then and make other adjustments.

For ours I decided to use the side of our fridge and draw it up using whiteboard markers (pictured right). It’s prominent, easy to change and kind of fun! We ended up drawing all over our fridge in different colors before settling down and writing up the meal plan.

Ingredient Grouping

Grouping meals together that use similar ingredients is the key to minimizing waste and making shopping easier. I grouped the dinners based on their main meat ingredient as all other ingredients will either last throughout the week or are non-perishable. The way you group will depend on the meals you choose. The grouping sees tuna based meals together, chicken based meals together and bacon based meals together (our three favourite meats). Meals that use two of the ingredients (like chicken and bacon carbonara for example) create an overlap in the groups.

Here’s how we grouped our meals, not the overlapping groups in the green. Excuse the quality of the photo, I don’t have a camera at the moment and had to use my phone.

Meal Plan

Notice that we left saturday off. I think it’s important to have one day of creativity or to go out for dinner so we chose Saturday given that it’s the day we are most likely to go out to eat with friends (hint hint friends).

Swapping Out Meals

Becoming tired of the meals in the meal plan is the biggest cause of failure for most people trying to do a plan like this. To avoid this start out by listing your ten favourite meals and then using the top six or seven to make up your first week. If after a week you feel like a change swap out one or two of the weeks meals for ones that fit within the grouping. For example next week we may swap out tuna for lamb burgers and chicken stir-fry for satay chicken.

Frugality vs Enjoyability and Health

Good, tasty food is important and meal planning like this can still be quite frugal even with pretty decent food. We are going to start with this meal plan and then adjust it over the course of the next month to become cheaper and healthier until we reach a nice balance of cost vs ‘yum’ and health. A good step might be to replace the first of the chicken meals with a vegetarian option (we enjoy eating meatless meals on occasion). I recently had some felafal wraps which were pretty tasty…

The One Month Test

When trialling anything whether it be a meal plan, a fitness program or a new way of sleeping it’s important to have a decent trial period. A month is a great test of any program, if after a month it’s still not working for you then you can let it go and know that you gave it a decent shot. My partner and I will be trialling and tweaking this meal plan over the course of March. I’ll be sure to report back with my results.


Good luck to anyone who is considering trialling a meal pan like this, I’d love to hear back from you about how it goes. If you have used a meal plan before or if you are using one now please share your experiences in the comments section below!

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One Comment

  1. […] This is the fundamental challenge of a having balanced lifestyle. Time-efficiency techniques (like meal planning) are a good way to increase the amount of time you have each day and I will continue […]

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