How to Meal Plan and Save Money on Food Bills

We hear a lot about meal planning but what is a meal plan and how can it help you save money?

A meal plan is a plan of what you’re going to eat throughout the week. How you do the meal plan is up to you. Some people just plan for dinner and are more ad hoc or spontaneous with their breakfasts and lunches, whereas other people plan for every meal and snack. It would be worth experimenting and seeing how it works for you.

Having an idea of what you’re going to eat can save you money because you’ll have had a good look in your cupboards, fridge and freezer and will be making your meal plan around what you’ve currently got in stock. You won’t end up randomly buying items to make meals with or buying random items with no end purpose in mind, so not only should you save money but you should also save time and energy too and the amount of food you waste should decrease.

Some people have a four-weekly meal plan so they always eat the same thing on the same day of their four-weekly cycle, thus taking out the need to keep thinking of new, delicious ideas, whereas others prefer variety and have a weekly menu instead

meal planning

Do a stock check

Have a good look in your food cupboard or pantry, your fridge and freezer and write down the key things you have available to you. For things that are perishable (mainly the things in your fridge) write them down in date order, with the thing that needs using up first at the top of your list.

Next think of what would go with that item, so if it was diced chicken for instance it could be a casserole, a curry, a pasta bake, fajitas, stir fry or a chicken pie. When you look at what’s available in the cupboard and the freezer you should be able to figure out what to do with it. Maybe you’ve got a jar of curry sauce that needs using up and some rice on the shelf of your cupboard and some frozen peppers and peas? If so curry it is!

When planning meals, consider how much time you have available that day

Write this down as whatever meal you’re planning on using it for. When trying to plan meals think about what else is happening in your day that day. Sometimes we’re busy at work and then have to take the children to their swimming club so you wouldn’t have time to cook an elaborate meal, whereas other days you might have a day off and more time and no where that you need to be in the evening. Plan the more elaborate dishes for these evenings.

Once you’ve taken stock of what is in your cupboards you can fill in the Meal Plan Sheet

I have created a free, downloadable  Meal Planning sheet which is available here for you to print off at home.

When planning meals always consider what you could do with leftovers

Could you make a pasta salad out of leftover pasta or arancini out of leftover rissotto? Or maybe you could reheat thinly sliced pieces of the meat saved from the Sunday Roast, covered in gravy in a lidded dish in the oven and have it for Monday’s  tea with some chips and peas? Or maybe you could cook an extra jacket potato and take it to work to have for lunch tomorrow? Using up leftovers reduces food waste and saves you money buying lunch.