Save Money by Menu Planning


When I was in college, I lived in an apartment with 6 other girls. Though many of us had limited skills in the kitchen, we decided to set up a cooking schedule. This was my first experience with menu planning for a household. Making the necessary preparations to cook a meal once a week for a group of college students is not quite the same as planning a meal every night for a family of six, but it was a good starting point for me. Even now, I’m still learning as I try out new recipes, introduce new foods, and save money along the way.

I would say that we are spending less on groceries today than we did 10 years ago when I was just cooking for two. One of the ways we’ve been able to reduce our expenses is by menu planning. But frugal menu planning isn’t just picking recipes out of a hat. If your goal is to save money and reduce waste, you want to plan your menu in conjunction with current sales at your grocery store and a quick inventory of your pantry and refrigerator.

Every Friday, I plan my menu for the next week and write out my shopping list at the same time. Here’s what I did last Friday.

20140421-095015.jpgAfter a quick look in my fridge, I noticed some heavy cream and parmesan cheese that will soon be tossed if I don’t find a way to use them. In my freezer, there’s a package of meatballs and pork ribs. The store ads showed that chicken breasts are on sale. So, by checking these first, I was able to come up with a menu for the week and just needed to get a few items at the store.

Monday: Pork Ribs – I found this recipe online and decided to try it because I already had all the ingredients on hand.
Tuesday: Chicken Makhani (Indian Butter Chicken) – I will use the cream for this.
Wednesday: Fettuccine Alfredo
Thursday: Leftovers – At this point, I will not cook another dish until we finish all our leftovers.
Friday: Teriyaki Meatballs – If we don’t finish our leftovers on Thursday, I will hold off on cooking the meatballs. By finishing everything before making a new dish, I can eliminate having to throw out spoiled food.

When you plan out a menu for the week, you will less likely eat out. Let’s say we’re out, running errands, our stomachs are saying “feed me”, and my husband turns to me and says, “You wanna grab something to eat?” As much as I want to sink my teeth into that Bacon Insider at Jack in the Box, my response would be, “I already have something planned to cook tonight.” After all the effort you put into planning, shopping, and cooking that meal, you wouldn’t want it replaced by some greasy, over-priced burger, would you?

What’s on your menu this week?


17 thoughts on “Save Money by Menu Planning

  1. I love menu planning! I admit, I do need to do a better job of using what’s in the pantry as I plan, but overall we do a pretty good job of sticking to the menu. And I totally hear you about it helping you not eat out! We plan to eat out once a week, and rarely stray from it unless there is an unavoidable situation.
    This week we’re having (I’ll just list the main dishes, not the sides): Cheese Manicotti, Vegetarian Chili, Bean Burritos, Pizza (yeah, frozen) ๐Ÿ˜› Tacos, Leftovers, and eating out once. ๐Ÿ™‚

    1. I always have a frozen pizza for emergency purposes. I think sometimes we have to take a different route going home, just to avoid some of our favorite places to eat. ๐Ÿ™‚

  2. I’ve always done menu planning since learning it when I lived in a shared house as a student – same as you! Some times I’m better at it than others, but I recently found a great ‘Budget Menu Planner’ on netmums that I’m really liking. I had the same scenario as you the other night. My husband suggested a take away. Tempted as I was I said, “It’s okay. I’ve already got tea sorted.”!! ๐Ÿ™‚

  3. I’ve always planned our menus and very carefully followed a budget-until now. My Little Cottage School has taken a lot of energy and planning has gone by the way side. I have spent so much on groceries lately that I am now trying to get back into the planning routine. I love the using what you have on hand idea and am really trying to do a better job at it. Thanks so much for the great post!

    1. I’ve had seasons of being really good with meal planning, and times when I’m always calling my husband to bring some pizza home because I didn’t have time to cook. It’s a balancing act, right? I think that when I start throwing food out that has gone bad, it’s a good visual for me to start tightening up on the planning.

    1. You’re welcome! When I’ve been good about sticking to the menu and we haven’t eaten out in a while, it’s nice to splurge a bit with dinner out, get a break from cooking, and not feel like we’re going over our budget. Sometimes dinner at a restaurant tastes better when you’ve been saving up for it. ๐Ÿ™‚

  4. I need to get back to doing this again. I would much rather come to your place though, dinner looks amazing! ๐Ÿ™‚

    1. Thanks for the compliment! I’m really not that good of a cook, which is why this is not a food blog. ๐Ÿ™‚ I’m more of a quick-fix, 30-minute meal kind of a girl. I will probably do a post on the Indian Butter Chicken, if time permits, because it’s one of our favorites (well, not the kids … but me and my husband).

  5. Love this! We try to do the same. I’m just not as disciplined as you always…if my hubby offers sometimes I say “Yes” to the greasy, overpriced burger. Thankfully he doesn’t like burgers much;)

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