Menu Planning: A Budget Saver or a Headache?

Hi everyone!
I told y’all that here at The Thrifty Groove, we are tightening our money belts and organizing is our keyword for 2012. Well, menu planning is a big factor in both these areas.
I have been a slacker in these past few months regarding menu planning. But, that has to change.
I know, many of you are digging your heels in and saying in your mind, “Noooo! I don’t wanna do meal planning!”. Unless you are a Foodie and cooking/baking is your favorite hobby, planning out meals is a chore. Right? And you are thinking that you have tried this before and things were going along just fine and then for whatever reason, you blow off the scheduled meal. So, you start thinking, “What’s the point?”.
Well guess what? That is totally normal. Life happens, things change all the time. But, there is a POINT. And the point is, that it will still save you time, money and stress. You don’t have to beat yourself if you do not follow your meal planning to the letter T. I rarely do. I may have Wednesday’s scheduled meal on Friday instead or I see that tonight’s meal is beef stroganoff and I think to myself, “I am just not in the mood for that right now” so, instead I make grilled cheese sandwiches.
Like  I said, this is okay. What having a planned menu does is it frees up having to think about what to have for dinner. You know you already have all the things needed to make that meal. You don’t have to waste money running out to get things for dinner or run to a fast food restaurant. You can do some of the dinner prep work earlier in the day so you don’t have to do it all later. These are just some of the reasons meal planning works and helps.
I’m not going to give you my menu for the week in this post. This post is to offer up some tips that have helped me in the past. Because, let’s face it, the easier it is, the more likely we are to do it!
Here are some ideas that I try to do:
  1. Keep an organized pantry. Knowing what you have is half the battle
  2. Keep your pantry stocked with Loss Leaders and deep discounts and or coupons.
  3. Plan you meals around what you have on hand and what is on sale that week.
  4. Keep a list of what you and your family’s favorite meals are.
  5. Include some quick and easy meals. Every meal does NOT have to be a new recipe or a gourmet meal. Soup and sandwich nights are just fine.
  6. Get in a habit of creating a Master List of meals that you can refer to when planning your menu. You don’t always have to start from scratch each month.
  7. Try to cook one meal that can be turned into 2 meals. One for now, one for the freezer.
  8. Plan your leftovers.
  9. Have a C.O.R.N. (Clean Out Refrigerator Night)
  10. Have other members of your family add their ideas and let them cook one night.
So, lets not make Menu Planning a much dreaded chore. We are not going for perfection! We all have real lives and things are always changing. But, let’s create this as a habit. In the long run, it will become a very helpful tool to keep our lives running just a little smoother.
To get you started, here is a great site that offers lots of free downloads (PDF) for menu planning.
Simple Organized Living
**Next week I will post some fun and easy ideas and tips on saving money and enjoy eating at home!


  1. I think having a menu plan is a great idea and even though I don't have a family to feed anymore I still go with the basic plan. For years and years I've had Sunday roast day, Mondays with leftovers, Tuesdays- pasta, Wednesdays, breakfast for dinner, Thursdays-soups or stews, Fridays as fish days and Saturday - sandwiches. It is basic but it includes a lot of different things.

  2. I also started using coupons, you really can save alot of money!
    -Kim :)

  3. good advice, I try and then slack off, now with only two of us in the is kind of like hmmmm last minute. LOL poor husband

  4. When my boys were little we had Boy Scouts on Thursday nights so Thursday night dinner was frozen pizza so we could eat and run. They haven't been Scouts for years but Thursday is still pizza night.

  5. I typed out two menus. One for the fall/winter months and another for the spring/summer months. Than I put some pretty stickers and had them laminated so that they will last. I put it up on the fridge. Like you, if Tuesday is chicken wraps and we are not really in the mood for that, than I cook up something else. Having this menu though frees me up. I don't have to keep thinking..'what are we going to eat'. It also helps me with the groceries. It has helped those spur of the moment, "we have nothing to eat, let's order out"...

  6. One of the best things I have done for our home is not so much meal planning as writing a list of our favorite food dishes...then making sure all ingredients are in pantry..right down to the spices needed..that way we never have a night of "what to cook" some meals are easy 30 minute meals some are crock-pot meals..either way we save by having the pantry full of food we use and love... also since there are just 2 of us I use Amish canned beef, pork, turkey or chicken...found at Wal Mart for $6.98 a can..which is 2 meals and very handy to have on hand.
    ~~peace & love & joy & blessings~~

  7. I have always done menu planning. It is a huge time saver and saves me money at the grocery store. My husband gets paid twice a month so that is how I grocery shop. I recently discovered using coupons which is saving us a lot more money. I have so much stockpiled now that I think I could go a month without shopping, except for perishables.

  8. Menu planning is so freeing! When I menu plan, I never have to think about dinner during the day as I know there is something waiting to become dinner. I just list out 5 possible meals and choose one of them depending on my mood or what is left from the list. We usually have leftovers so can eat them the other two nights. Sometimes meals will get pushed into the next week due to life happening.

    It is important to plan reasonable meals for the time you have available. I think sometimes people plan what they would like to make rather than what they realistically have time for. That kind of planning can add a lot of stress to your meal. Your tip #5 is a great one.

    I also visit a meal-planning party link on occasion to get new ideas for meals when I'm stumped. I find that viewing what others are making leads me to some new and exciting recipes for my family to try; several have become family favorites.

    Great post, Diann!

  9. When my kids were at home I always tried menu planning. It helped in the grocery shopping and when I got home from work it wasn't now what is there to eat?? We seldom had fast food and that in itself was much healthier. Now that there is only the two of us I only 'sorta' plan meals. Maybe I should try it again and see if it helps trim the budget some more! hugs, Linda


Thank you for taking the time to comment! I love to hear your ideas. If you ask a question, I will answer it here in a comment back to you. Please check back! Thank you for visiting and have a wonderful day! Diann :)