Meal Planning – yes or no?

No there is not a meal plan here.  Everything I read about spending less on food says you have to have a food plan!  If you don’t have a plan you will just spend too much money and end up wasting food.

I do want to save money, but I am SO anti menu planning.  Every time I try to do it my head just starts to spin.  I have become quite used to (in the last few months) buying only produce that is on sale, buying from the farmer’s market, and buying at Costco – trying to keep it at just what we need and what makes sense, like meat, eggs, fish, coffee.  Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t.  But for the life of me I cannot fathom sitting down, planning every meal (what if I don’t feel like having spaghetti on Tuesday?!), and then making my list and trying to get what I need and hope for a good price.

I have been pretty good about just looking in the fridge and cooking something with what is there, instead of getting an idea of some meal in my head that we just don’t have the ingredients for.  I would end up going to the store and probably buying more than what is needed, when there was perfectly good food to cook at home!  I still end up at the store more than twice a week usually, which probably isn’t good.

I guess my question is do you plan meals?  Do you make a shopping list based on meals, or what is going to be on sale?  Are you like me and just cook what is there?  And how do you save money on food groceries if you aren’t meal planning?!


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  1. I plan meals for about a month. I hate the planning, but love not having to think for the rest of the month. I don’t assign meals to any certain day so I have flexibility with how I am feeling (ex: tacos=easy/quick night, lasagne=time consuming/energy night). I try to plan around the season of produce, knowing I’ll most likely get something in the co-op basket or on sale at the store. I’ve been co-oping so long now that I have a huge binder full of recipes for all types of produce, but I still will google for new ones to try. I’ll get all the meat for the month and any non-produce items. Then I just get my co-op baskets and get dairy products 1xweek with any small items I may need.

    • Wow, planning for a whole month?! I cannot even imagine that 😆 Is it just stuff you know you guys like and eat regularly then? I haven’t been doing the co-op for a while, opted more for the farmer’s market. Now I have a bunch of stuff canned, a pantry full of grains, beans, and flour, and not a lot of fresh produce to go with it, except onions and squash 😆 Maybe I should get back with the baskets.

  2. I always “plan” on meal planning, and a few times, I have actually sat down to figure it out, but never once have I followed through with a plan. When I plan meals in advance, I have the tendency to plan nice meals that take plenty of preparation. I mean, what kind of wife would plan to have frozen pot pies for dinner? But I invariably never feel like cooking what I’ve planned. So now I just don’t do it.
    We save money on groceries by buying inexpensive foods and knowing what we like to eat on a regular basis. I buy ground turkey instead of beef. I don’t buy breakfast cereals or any quick breakfast anything. Instead, I make a package of Jiffy Mix at night, and send a muffin with my husband to eat on his way to work in the mornings. Sometimes my son and I will have muffins or sometimes I will just make us oatmeal. We don’t buy bread, but make it instead. (I cheat because I use a bread machine though.) And once or twice a week, we will eat ramen, pot pies, or cheap party pizzas for dinner. Canned soups are also a favorite for dinners around here. For lunches, I almost always eat a homemade burrito or some sort of super cheap pasta, like macaroni noodles with a can of tomato sauce or cream of chicken. My husband always eats a sandwich and a package of peanut butter crackers for lunch. Sad to say, I don’t cook nice meals very often, but we almost never spend more than $50/week on groceries!

  3. I often plan suppers for a week or so on the day I go to the grocery store, just so I’m sure I have the right stuff. Although that’s less important, and happens less, during the growing season when we’re eating from the CSA box and the garden — the question becomes less “what’s for dinner?” and more “what needs to be eaten and how can I make that dinner?”

    I do plan all meals for the next day the night before. This was hugely important to my recent weight loss and helps some with the need to eat stuff before it goes to waste — I can often think of a lunch idea that works for that when it’s too small an amount for a supper.

    If you’re not wasting food, I’m not sure you would see that much savings with meal planning over your current method of shopping sales and seasonally. For me, the best skill has been developing a couple of dishes that will use up anything in the kitchen that needs to be used up — a stir fry and a veggie pasta.

  4. I have a fun idea to plan meals… I haven’t implemented it, but I’ve been thinking about it for a few years now (if I did the cooking I would do it hehehehe).

    Write all the meals you regularly make on those small index cards that you can get (for example: meatloaf, potatoes, greens; spaghetti bolognese; whatever). Include things you eat often, but also things that you eat once in a while. Put them all in a bag and then once a week pull out 7 and voilà (yes, this is the correct way to spell that word :)) you have your meal plan for a week without the headache of sitting down and thinking about it. You can of course adapt this or exchange something. I think this would be a fun way to do things and you can just use this as inspiration or stick to it.

    And now I’m going to read the other comments 🙂
    Cheers, Eva

    • Sounds like it would be a blast! I’ll have to try it soon.

    • I have done something similar, used random numbers to pick pages from cookbooks and plan for whatever we landed on. It’s a good way to try new things!


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