Meal planning isn’t always easy, but it’s a great way to stay organized, save money and reduce your food waste. When I meal plan I feel like I’m more prepared and on top of the world.  These 6 meal planning hacks are sure to save you time and money and even your sanity. Meal planning doesn’t have to be difficult or a chore. Follow these tips to master your meal planning.

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6 Meal Planning Hacks to Save You Time and Money

1. Introduce themed dinner nights

This is my favorite. I do themed nights regularly and it helps me come up with a consistent and predictable, but not boring meal plan. Here is an example of themed nights that have worked for us:

Meatless Monday

Taco Tuesday (anything Mexican)

Crock Pot Meal for Wednesday & Thursday

Friday: Leftovers

Saturday: Breakfast for dinner

Sunday: Seafood

I like going by this schedule because it makes it easy for me to plan, but it doesn’t get boring either. You can easily mix these around. The reason I have seafood for Sunday is because that’s my grocery shopping day. I try to eat my freshest food first, then eat food that isn’t as fresh throughout the week.

I have an entire blog post devoted to this one hack if you want to learn more!

2. Write your meal plan out for the week

Make a weekly schedule or a monthly schedule. If you are organized enough to plan out your entire month, do it!

I’ve used this free printable planner in the past. You can download this printable here.

3. But don’t over schedule it- leave room for leftovers

Always leave a day for leftovers. If you don’t have leftovers, you can rely on your back up (see below).

It is better to stray away from the menu and eat what you already have made then to prepare too much food and then waste it.

4. Always keep a backup meal for emergencies

Your back up meal can be something as simple as frozen pizza, or it can be take-out. We try not to do take-out too often, but sometimes it is fun and completely worth it. Even if you want take-out to be your back up, I suggest always having a freezer meal or two on hand just in case! You never know when a random life event will have you out of the kitchen for meal prep.

5. Stay flexible

Be willing to switch things around if dinner plans don’t work out one night. There are many nights that I plan one thing and end up going a different route. As long as you use your food that week, you are doing fine!

6. Take inventory of what you already have before planning your meals for the week

You don’t have to take inventory of your fridge and pantry every single week. I do, because I hate to waste food, however, once a month works fine. You can even implement a fiscal fast where you don’t buy any new food and just clean out the fridge, freezer, and pantry every couple of months.

2 Extra Tips for Rocking Your Menu Planning

1. Let sales and fresh local food direct your menu

Even with themed nights, you can let grocery store sales and in season food direct your menu. You can save the most money by checking out the sales and buying food that is in season before you plan your menu.

We allow our CSA (community supported agriculture) share to dictate our menu for the week. It isn’t too hard to throw extra veggies into a Mexican dish or a breakfast for dinner frittata. We usually incorporate what we have into what we like. But sometimes we get something that we’ve never tried before and we google new recipes for it!

2. Stay consistent

If you get out of the habit of meal planning, it’s pretty hard to get back into it. Then you get back into the rut of trying to figure out what’s for dinner just a few hours before meal time. Don’t let that happen. If you skip a week, try to get right back into it the next week!

If you have to go out to eat, make sure to follow these tips from the Outnumbered Father. He shares great tips and tricks for dining with kids, as well as some great money saving tricks.

6 meal planning hacks to help you save time and money. Follow these tips for meal plan, meal prep and meal planning.


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6 of the best meal planning hacks of all time