15 Meal Planning Tricks to Save You Time and Money

Maximize your time and budget with 15 Meal Planning Tricks to Save You Time and Money. Discover practical strategies to streamline your meal planning process, reduce food waste, and make the most of your grocery budget.

How to Meal Plan Every Week to Save Money
1. Meal planning helps save time, money, and reduces stress by providing structure and organization to your cooking routine.
2. Utilize batch cooking and freezer-friendly meals to save time on busy days and prevent food waste.
3. Plan meals around sale items and ingredients already available in your pantry to save money on groceries.
4. Make use of leftovers creatively by incorporating them into future meals to reduce food waste and save money.
5. Experiment with versatile ingredients that can be used in multiple dishes to diversify your meals and minimize food expenses.
6. Invest in quality food storage containers and meal prep tools to extend the shelf life of ingredients and maintain freshness.
7. Take advantage of digital meal planning tools and apps that offer recipe suggestions, meal scheduling, and grocery lists.
8. Consider dietary needs and preferences when planning meals to optimize nutrition and ensure satisfaction with your meal choices.
9. Stay flexible with your meal plan by allowing room for adjustments and not being too rigid with the schedule.
10. Involve family members in the meal planning process to ensure variety, accommodate preferences, and foster a sense of togetherness.

To further optimize your meal planning efforts, check out the busy person’s guide to meal planning or learn 15 simple tips for eating healthy on a budget.

Choose A Theme

If you’re feeling overwhelmed by meal planning options, choose one or two themes for each week’s menu and stick with it. For example, one week you might make Italian food, while the next you’ll put together a Mexican-themed menu. 

It doesn’t have to be anything fancy: tacos and tamales are simple favorites that any family can enjoy. 

A themed menu will also save time because all of your meals will work well together in terms of ingredients, cooking methods and presentation and they’ll probably cost less than if you bought everything individually at the store!

Building a solid foundation for meal planning is crucial to simplify your home cooking. Check out our comprehensive guide on The Ultimate Guide to Meal Planning – Simplify Your Home Cooking to discover effective strategies and make meal planning a breeze.

Choose A Day

Choose a day in your week that is convenient for you. For instance, if you have to be at work early on Monday mornings and your kids are home from school, then Monday is not the best day for meal planning. 

It’s also important to choose a day that is not too busy you want enough time to plan and shop without feeling rushed.

If you’re trying to stick with a budget, it’s also important not to choose days when there are special sales happening or holidays like Valentine’s Day or Easter when restaurants will be offering special meals at discounted prices. 

Finally, try not to plan on stressful days at work or in your personal life—this can make it more difficult for you stay focused on what matters most: good food!

Set Time Aside

Setting aside time to plan your meals is important, but it can be a time consuming process. A good way to make the most of your planning time is to schedule it in advance so that you know when it’s coming. 

If you’re like me and are always short on time, try doing all of your meal planning at once either in one morning or as part of an evening routine and then only worrying about shopping for ingredients later on. 

You can also spread out the process over several days if that works better for your schedule.

It’s important not to let yourself get rushed during this process; otherwise, all of those clever tricks will be wasted because they won’t have been put into practice effectively enough!

If you’re looking to incorporate meal planning into your weight loss journey, our Ultimate Guide to Meal Planning for Weight Loss has got you covered. Learn how to create nutritious meal plans that support your weight loss goals and maintain a healthy lifestyle.

Search Your Fridge

Now that you’ve done your meal planning, it’s time to start cooking! But before you do that, take a moment and look at what’s in your fridge. 

Really look at it. You may be surprised by how much good food there is just sitting around waiting for its chance to shine in a new recipe:

  • Search for leftovers or otherwise unused ingredients from previous meals and snacks.
  • If you want to make something new, now is the perfect time to see if any of those items would work well together.
  • Is there anything in there that needs using up? Your carrots might go bad soon; don’t let them spoil!
LeftoversUtilize leftover ingredients or meals stored in your fridge to create new dishes or incorporate them into your meal plan.
Meal Planning AppsMake use of meal planning apps like Mealime or AnyList that allow you to input the ingredients you have in your fridge and generate recipe ideas based on what you already have on hand.
Ingredient SearchUtilize websites or apps like Supercook or MyFridgeFood that suggest recipes based on the ingredients you currently have in your fridge.
Recipe SubstitutionsFind suitable ingredient substitutes for recipes using apps or websites like Substitutions or Cook’s Thesaurus.
Organized FridgeKeep your fridge organized and regularly check the expiry dates of items to prevent food waste and ensure ingredients are used before they spoil.

Plan Around The Season

Seasonal meals are a great way to save money and reduce food waste. When produce is in season, it tends to be less expensive because it’s more abundant. 

And if you plan your menu around seasonal ingredients, you can make use of what’s available instead of being stuck with whatever happens to be on sale at the grocery store that week which means fewer wasted leftovers and more good food going into your body!

Below are some great meal ideas based around produce that’s in season right now. These recipes will help keep you full while saving cash (and time).

In a busy world, meal planning can be a lifesaver. Discover our Busy Person’s Guide to Meal Planning for practical tips and techniques that will help you save time, reduce stress, and still enjoy delicious home-cooked meals.

Create A List Of Go-To Recipes

To save time and energy, it’s important to have a list of recipes you can make in bulk. If you’re not already using one, I recommend creating a recipe box or book. 

A recipe box is essentially just a big folder with all your favorite recipes in it you could use anything as the container: a shoebox, manila envelope, large binder clip (the kind used for holding papers together), etc. 

You can store this on your countertop or in your pantry for easy access when meal planning.

If you prefer the convenience of an online database, consider creating an online recipe book on Pinterest or Ziplist (wherever else you might be storing your favorite recipes). 

The benefit here is that these websites have entire communities of people who share their own family favorites and make it easy to search through them by category or ingredient type if needed!

If neither of those options seem like something that works for you but still want to keep track of these types of things digitally (which would certainly make life easier), there are also plenty of free apps out there like Yummly which allow users to upload their favorite recipes directly into their phone so they can pull them up conveniently when needed.”

Ask What’s For Dinner

A great way to save time, money, and energy is to ask your family members what they want to eat. You can also have them help you make a list of what they like and don’t like eating. Then use this information when planning the menu. 

Once you have a list of possible meals that everyone likes, sit down together and go through each meal one at a time until you reach an agreement. Once this is done, it’s easier for everyone to know what’s for dinner!

New to meal planning? Don’t worry, our Beginner’s Guide to Meal Planning will walk you through the process step by step. From meal prep techniques to grocery shopping tips, you’ll gain the confidence to plan and execute successful meals.

Bulk Buy When Possible

  • What To Buy In Bulk:
  • Cereal, flour, sugar, cornmeal and other dry goods (in bins or bags)
  • Paper towels and toilet paper (in bulk is cheaper)
  • Dish soap (for a large family)
  • How to save money on your bulk purchases:

Buy in bulk at stores with coupons. For example, when you purchase two cans of soup with a coupon and buy three boxes of cereal at the same store with another coupon on top of that promotion (which saves you even more money), you’re saving well over 50% off what it would cost if you were buying these items individually from the food aisle! 

This can be difficult for those who don’t have access to lots of stores like Costco or Sam’s Club but there are ways around this! 

Make friends with someone who does have access to these places and ask them if they’ll let you come along next time they go shopping so that together they’ll get as much stuff as possible while spending less than either person would’ve spent alone.

Warehouse ClubsTake advantage of warehouse clubs such as Costco, Sam’s Club, or BJ’s Wholesale for bulk purchases.
Online GroceriesExplore online grocery options like Amazon Pantry or Walmart Grocery for convenience and bulk savings.
Farmer’s MarketsVisit local farmer’s markets to buy fresh produce in larger quantities at more affordable prices.
Meat WholesalersConsider purchasing meat from wholesalers like Omaha Steaks or ButcherBox for bulk meat discounts.
Pantry StaplesStock up on non-perishable pantry staples like rice, pasta, and canned goods when they are on sale.

Use Technology To Your Advantage

Use an app. Meal planning apps make it easy to plan out your week’s meals and grocery list all in one place. You can even sync recipes with your favorite grocery delivery service so you don’t forget anything at home, or even request meal kits from the comfort of your couch.

Cook multi-purpose meals that can be enjoyed during different parts of the week. Whether it’s leftover roasted chicken or a batch of homemade hummus, try making a few recipes over the weekend that can be used throughout the week (and save some time in the process).

Map Out Your Meals

When you map out your meals for the week, think about variety. You want to make sure that you’re eating a wide array of foods so don’t just make chicken and rice every night, or if you do, make sure that there are some other proteins and vegetables involved as well. 

The same goes for grains. While pasta is great, try to mix in another grain like quinoa or farro on occasion.

One thing I like to do is plan out my meals based on what I have in the house already; this helps me stay realistic about my meal planning I can only eat so many tacos before I get sick of them!

Supercharge your meal planning skills with our 10 Secrets to Meal Planning Like a Pro. Uncover expert strategies, organization hacks, and creative ideas to streamline your meal planning routine and optimize your time in the kitchen.

Cook En Masse To Save Time

Cooking en masse can help you save time and money. For instance, if you’re cooking your breakfast eggs in bulk on Sunday morning and freezing them for use during the week, you’ll always have a healthy breakfast option ready-to-go for busy mornings. 

The same goes for any other meal: once you’ve figured out the perfect recipe for your favorite chili or soup, make a double batch and freeze it to enjoy another day!

Meal Prep SundayDedicate a specific day, like Sunday, to prepare and cook multiple meals in bulk to save time throughout the week.
Instant PotUtilize the time-saving capabilities of an Instant Pot for efficient cooking of large portions in a fraction of the time.
Tupperware Meal Prep SetsInvest in meal prep sets from Tupperware or Rubbermaid to conveniently store and organize pre-portioned meals.
Slow Cooker Freezer MealsPrepare freezer-friendly slow cooker meals in advance, allowing for effortless cooking and minimal cleanup.
Cooking AppliancesUtilize cooking appliances like air fryers or multi-cookers to cook larger quantities of food efficiently.

Hold The BBQ Sauce For Leftovers

If you’re a BBQ sauce fan, try doing this: instead of buying a bottle for your next cookout (which can be expensive and packed with sodium), make your own! You can easily buy the ingredients in bulk and store them in the fridge until you need them. 

Plus, since your homemade version is free from preservatives and other additives, it’ll be healthier than store-bought varieties.

Save And Store

Store leftovers in the fridge. If you have enough room, this is the best way to keep your food fresh and prevent freezer burn.

Store leftovers in the freezer. You can also freeze leftover portions of meals so they’ll be ready when you need them.

Store leftovers in a lunchbox with ice packs. You don’t even need to put them directly in the microwave! Just remember that if you’re going to carry around a hot meal at work or school, make sure it’s safe by packing it up with some ice packs first—and maybe even an extra one just in case!

Make It Easy

When you’re planning your meals, make it easy on yourself. Choose recipes that don’t require a lot of prep time, cooking time or cleanup time. 

You’ll need to have the ingredients on hand and be able to do the prep work (cleaning vegetables and chopping them up) before you start cooking.

You also want to make sure that when you’re choosing recipes for your meal plan, they are ones that don’t require a lot of time in the kitchen getting everything prepared before cooking begins. The less active time spent prepping food means more active time with your family which is always good!

Use Meal KitsSimplify your meal planning with convenient meal kits from HelloFresh, Blue Apron, or Home Chef. These services provide pre-portioned ingredients and recipes delivered to your doorstep.
Slow CookerTake advantage of the time-saving benefits of a slow cooker such as the Instant Pot or Crock-Pot. Set it and forget it while your meal cooks slowly throughout the day.
One-Pot MealsSave time on cleanup by preparing delicious one-pot meals that require minimal effort and use just a single pan or pot.
Freezer MealsPrepare freezer-friendly meals in bulk and store them for future use. This allows for quick and easy meal preparation when you’re short on time or energy.
Pre-Cut VeggiesOpt for pre-cut vegetables or pre-packaged salad kits to cut down on preparation time and simplify meal assembly.


Meal planning is not a chore, it’s a lifestyle! You can make it work for you by following these simple steps. 

Remember that meal planning isn’t a one time thing; it requires some time and effort. But the payoff is worth it: you will save money on groceries, spend less time cooking and cleaning up after meals, and eat healthier food all week long with less stress about what to eat next!

Further Reading

Here are some additional resources to explore for further reading on meal planning, budgeting, and time-saving techniques:

10 Tips for Planning Meals on a Budget – Learn practical tips and strategies for meal planning on a budget to make the most of your grocery budget while still enjoying delicious and nutritious meals.

10 Practical Tips for Saving Money When You’re Meal Planning – Discover money-saving techniques specifically tailored to meal planning, including how to make the most of sales, use pantry staples, and reduce food waste.

Save Time and Money with a Menu Plan – Explore the benefits of menu planning and how it can save you both time and money. Gather tips on creating a menu plan that works for your lifestyle and helps you stay organized.


Here are some frequently asked questions about meal planning:

What are the benefits of meal planning?

Meal planning offers several benefits, including saving time, reducing stress, promoting healthier eating habits, and helping with budgeting and grocery shopping.

Can meal planning help save money?

Yes, meal planning can help save money by preventing impulsive purchases, reducing food waste, and allowing you to take advantage of sales and discounts.

How do I start with meal planning?

To start meal planning, establish a schedule, gather recipe inspiration, create a meal plan, make a detailed shopping list, and prep ingredients in advance.

How can I incorporate dietary restrictions into my meal planning?

Consider your dietary restrictions when selecting recipes and ingredients. Look for alternatives or modifications to accommodate your specific needs without compromising taste or nutrition.

Can I freeze meals as part of my meal planning?

Yes, freezing meals can be an effective strategy for meal planning. Cook larger batches and freeze individual portions for future use. Ensure proper labeling and storage for easy retrieval and reheating.