8 Easy Steps to Successful Meal Planning


A while back, I was asked about Meal Planning, and how I do it. That is the area I want to cover today! It just follows the budget planning, to me!

How many of you actually Plan Your Meals each week?

I have planned my meals for years! I have always put together a calendar with scheduled meals on it, each week. Some people schedule their meals a month in advance. I, personally, do not like to do it that far in advance, because I like taking advantage of the sales that take place each week in the grocery stores.

So, how do you Meal Plan? There are tons of ways that you can plan your meals each week. Some use fancy little meal planning charts, while others just use a piece of notebook paper! It can be as sassy as you like, or as simple as you like! It REALLY IS up to you! It doesn’t have to be time consuming, at all! It just has to fit your family, and your budget!

Your budget is a HUGE reason WHY meal planning is a great idea! The more you plan, the more money you will save! So what does planning look like to me? This is how I do meal planning. There are tons of other ideas that you can find online, on YouTube, etc.

Step One: Start by making a list of you and your family’s favorite meals. Decide if you want to plan with a theme night, or just use your Favorite Meals list.

Some people choose themes for each night:

Monday-Italian Night

Tuesday – Mexican Night

Wednesday – Burger Night

Thursday – Chinese Night

Friday: Out to Eat / Leftovers

Saturday – Pizza Night

Sunday – Chicken Night

I usually do not plan by theme nights. I plan using my favorite meals list. And I always plan one night a week for Leftovers, which I call Y.O.Y.O. Night (You’re On Your Own)

Step Two: What is in your freezer and pantry?

To be successful with meal planning, you have to utilize what you already have on hand first; and shop only for what you need!  So how do you know what you need? You start by making a list of everything that is in your freezer, cabinets, refrigerator, and pantry. Yes, at first this is very time consuming! But, trust me, it’s worth it in the long run! Each week as you use an item from your Inventory list, you deduct it from your list. Each time you grocery shop, you add those items to your inventory list. Try to use what you already have on hand FIRST!!

Step Three:  After you know what you have on hand by creating your Inventory List, then you start writing down the meals you want to have for the upcoming week. You take things from the list and create you list of meals.  If there is a meal on your list that you do not have all of the ingredients for, then you add it to your grocery list.  You only have to create 5 to 6 meals a week, because you have one night for leftovers, and one night for eating out IF you want to eat out! If not, then you will plan for six meals.
Step Four: Now you will take your grocery list and go through the sales papers. What is on sale this week? This is where you may want to tweak your meal plan based on what is on sale that week! Nothing wrong with having to tweak as you go! But it is very important to watch your pennies, so the sales flyers are your FRIEND!!

Here is how I create my Weekly Grocery List: I take a piece of notebook paper, and create columns based on the stores that have sales that week:

Column 1: Walmart

Column 2: Festival Foods

Column 3: Aldi’s

Column 4: Pic N Save

Under each column, I will add the items that I need, and the price for those items at each store, IF it’s on sale at that store that week. So here is what it will look like:

Item Needed Walmart Festival Foods Aldi’s Pic n Save
Chicken 1.99/lb 1.98/lb 1.79/lb 2.29/lb
Red Potatoes 5# . 99 1.75 1.29 2.39
Milk (Whole) Gal 2.95 3.29 2.98 3.35
Bread (Wheat) 1.28 1.79 .99 1.79


From here, I draw out my shopping trip. Of course, my grocery list will be much longer than this example. But, I look to see who has the best prices on the most items; and then I reorganize my list by which store I will shop at, and which items I will purchase there.  We actually had a Pastor suggest this to us when we went through pre-marital counseling. I thought it was the craziest idea ever! No way, was I going to go from store to store shopping! It would be too time consuming! But, after I tried it a few times, and I could clearly see how much money it was saving me, I soon changed my tune! Now granted, there may be times that it just wouldn’t be worth it to make a trip to a different store, especially if there is only 1 or 2 items on your list, and it will only save you a few pennies. You’ll waste more gas getting there than you will save! So think about it before you decide to go to different stores.

Step Five: Are there any store coupons?  If so, attach them to your grocery lists. Don’t do like I do sometimes and forget to take them with you!! Haha!

Step Six: By now, your budget has already told you how much you can spend on groceries this week. So, to make your trip successful, take out that much cash for groceries and leave your debit card at home! Take a calculator with you!! As you shop, add up your numbers on your calculator. Trust me, this WILL teach you to stay within your budget!! AND it will make you PLAN successfully!

Step Seven: SHOP ONLY FROM YOUR LIST!! Don’t fall into the temptation of “oh yea, I forgot to add that to my list…and this….and this…and this…and this.”  It is too easy to do that! Especially if you shop without a list! So don’t ever shop without your list!!!

Step Eight: NEVER SHOP WHEN YOU ARE HUNGRY!!! That one is self-explanatory!

These 8 steps will help you not only save time, but it will help you save money! It will keep you organized, and intentional about staying successful with meal planning.  Meal planning does not have to be complicated! Once you get into the habit, it will be like second nature to you, and you will see how much time, and money you have left over. Even if you work outside of the home, this can be done successfully!

Plan Your Work … Work Your Plan!

For future reference, I have listed below a link from Pinterest that offers Free Meal Planning calendars that you can print off if you don’t want to use notebook paper. Like I said, it’s all about what YOU want to do with your meal planning, and how much time you have to put into this! It’s truly YOUR choice!

FREE Meal Planning Calendars on Pinterest

You can also find TONS of Meal Planning information on YouTube! Check it out, too.

I hope this helps you with your meal planning success! It may seem very overwhelming, but I promise you, once you start doing it and putting your plan into action, you will see how convenient this really is; and how much time and money you will save by Meal Planning!

If you have any questions at all, please don’t hesitate to ask in the comments section below!

Until next time, be blessed!

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