Menu Planning 101

I know, I know, this sounds boring as all get out! Positively dreadful!

I can already hear you thinking:

  • “I have to sit down and decide tday what I am going to want to eat on Thursday? 
  • How will I know what I’m in the mood for then? 
  • What if I don’t feel like cooking on Wednesday? 
  • That’s going to take soooo long!” 

And on and on and on…

And how in the world is this menu plan actually going to save me money? 💰

One way that we have saved a TON of money over the years is by menu planning.

Let’s look at those objections. 

What if you have pasta planned for Wednesday, but you just had spaghetti for lunch and really don’t want it again for dinner? 

Your menu is not set in stone — swap it out for whatever you had planned for Saturday. It really doesn’t matter what day you eat which meal, what really matters is that you have all the ingredients you need on-hand to make everything that is on your menu.

The reality is, that sitting down and planning out a menu DOES take time. And the first time you do, it seems to take FOREVER…

But look at the amount of TIME that you actually save: instead of having to figure out what you are going to eat on Monday night, you now look at your menu and see that you have scheduled “tacos” for dinner. 

Great! You just saved yourself 15 minutes of indecision and searching to see what ingredients you have on-hand. Oh, and you can add in the 30 minutes it takes you, to go to the store and pick up the ground beef and the cheese that you need for tacos, but don’t have. That’s just for one day! 

Now Tuesday comes around, and you once again save 15 minutes of trying to think of what you might want to eat, searching for what you have buried in the freezer or the pantry, then saying forget it, and ordering a pizza that takes another 30 minutes to get to your door.

And the second and third time that you plan out your menu?? It’s even quicker — because now you have a list of meals that you can easily pick and choose from. We ended up with a list of ~15 or more meals that we all liked and we would rotate through them.

Have a broader palate? Great, have a longer list.

Hate spending time in the kitchen after work? No problem, come up with “quick” meals that take a minimum amount of time to put together. Or teach your kids how to make certain meals (I highly recommend this!!).

The cold, hard reality: thinking that menu planning is going to be so time-consuming is a cop-out. It actually takes you much less time to plan out your menu, make a proper shopping list, go to the store ONCE and have everything available for the week, than it does to NOT have a menu planned.

So if you accept that it actually takes less time (and if you don’t believe me, give it a try — you WILL save time!), now you are wondering how it saves you money.

The number one reason we always found ourselves going out to eat was because we didn’t know what to make, or we didn’t have what we needed on-hand (if you have to run to the grocery store, you might as well just get dinner out, right?). It doesn’t take a genius to know that eating out costs substantially more than making dinner at home. 

Let’s say you started menu planning and by doing that were able to cut out one restaurant dinner. Let’s say by eating at home you can save $50 for your family of 4 (this is on the low end, but plus or minus, the absolute number doesn’t really matter); at the end of the month, you’d have $200 “extra” and by the end of the year: $2600+. And that’s just one meal a week!

How is that menu planning sounding now? Think you could find another way to use that $2600 (or more)??

I share a bunch more tips for shaving money off of your grocery bill in my 7 FREE Budgeting Tips (along with some other great ways to find “extra” money without having to give up your morning coffee).

Let me know what holds you back from menu planning in the comments below…


If you have menu-planned before, give us your best tip to make it easier for someone to start.

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