how to plan your meals to save money

In this current economic climate, almost everyone I know is tightening their budgets. Some are cutting out their daily lattes or personal trainers, some are on a total spending hiatus, and others are simply trying to decrease their grocery bills. The question is, how can you save money on groceries—particularly if you, like my family, eat healthy, organic and local foods? Here’s how: meal planning. We are a family of four, and I spend $150/week on healthy, organic, unprocessed food.

There are loads of great resources on the Internet about how to save money on groceries. You can become a coupon queen {I don’t have the time for this}, you can go store to store in search of sale items {I don’t have the patience for this}, you can grow and preserve some of your own food {I’m working on this}, or you can use a meal plan. With meal planning, you take inventory of what you already have on hand {in the pantry, fridge and freezer}. Based on the items that you’d like to use and your schedule for the week ahead, you plan daily meals. Additionally, meal planning helps me save time by just going to the grocery store one time per week. No running to the store every afternoon for something for dinner that night and no resorting to takeout on the way home from work.

Every Sunday evening, I take a look at what I have on hand and what we have going on that week, and I develop a meal plan. For example, if we have a lot going on one day, I will stick to something relatively easy and quick for dinner that night. The next step is to consider your grocery budget for the month. Split the monthly total into weekly increments and budget your meal plan around this amount. The best way to stick to a grocery budget is to go to the store with just enough cash; leave the debit and credit cards at home. This will prevent impulse buying that does not fit into your meal plan.

The other challenge: family members with different diets or preferences. For example, my husband likes to have meat or fish at least once a week, my kids love pasta {and could eat it every night if I let them}, and I could live on green juices and smoothies {with the occasional bowl of popcorn}. I try to incorporate a variety of things each week so there is always something that we will all eat and love. And yes, my kids {ages 2 and 6} love green juices and smoothies. {Our favorite juice combines apple, cucumber, spinach, lemon, parsley and ginger; our favorite smoothie is a blend of blueberries, spinach, banana, almond milk, and ice}.

Take a few minutes this weekend to create a meal plan for the week ahead. The payoff? Calmer, more focused meal preparation, healthier meals, less money spent on last-minute, last-ditch takeout, and more time to actually enjoy meals with your family.

Here’s a sample of a weekly vegan dinner meal plan that is simple and affordable: Pasta salad with grilled vegetables
Tuesday: Veggie & bean fajitas with homemade salsa and guacamole
Wednesday: Spinach quesadillas with avocado & tomato salsa, fresh cilantro from garden, and black beans
Thursday: Whole-wheat angel hair pasta with fresh tomatoes, spinach and basil and a big green salad {from the garden}
Friday: Quinoa veggie salad
Saturday: Avocado, lettuce, spinach & tomato sandwiches on sprouted bread and leftover quinoa salad.
Sunday: Tofu & veggie stir fry with brown rice


Breakfasts—green juices and smoothies, homemade granola, zucchini bran or blackberry vegan muffins, Kashi cereal w/ almond milk
Lunches—leftovers from dinner the night before, salads, green smoothies, almond butter & banana sandwiches on sprouted bread
Snacks—fresh fruit, carrots and hummus, non-dairy yogurt, almonds, green juices and smoothies, dehydrated fruit, Kookie Karma cookies
Treats—raw coconut cacao shakes and homemade popsicles
Drinks—water with lemon, tea, sparkling water with lemon & lime, organic red wines

My weekly shopping generally includes the following:
Bok choy
Mixed greens
Red pepper
Snap peas

Items I generally keep stocked in my freezer or pantry:
Frozen fruit
Sprouted bread
Oat bran, oats, flaxseed, whole-wheat flour, coconut oil, agave, etc. for baking
Whole-wheat pasta, quinoa pasta, quinoa, brown rice, beans, canned tomatoes
Almond butter, homemade jam, almonds, nuts, almond milk, etc.

Entrepreneur Jenny Newcomer, owner of, uses her weekly Feed ME meal planner to plan meals for her family each week. The Feed ME notepad is available at or at The Container Stores nationwide.

2 thoughts on “how to plan your meals to save money

  1. Thanks for sharing! I actually started a series a couple of weeks ago that goes in depth into the way we do things in our house. The last 5 posts are all about food! :) Here is one about our food shopping with receipt and shopping list:

    And my latest post is on what we eat for snacks and dessert:

    Thanks for all the great ideas!

  2. Interesting, thanks for that. My son has a total aversion to eating fruit , so I made it into smoothies for him and then he can’t get enough of it! I also found some great smoothie recipe here and thought I’d share – lots of other great ideas there.

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