Planning Meals

Category Meal Planning
Deciding what to have for dinner ahead of time can save you time and money. This page is about planning meals.


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September 1, 2010

Get Organized: I will first start in the pantry. I try to arrange all of my canned/dry goods in categories. I put all tomato based products together, canned veggies, soups, beans, etc.

Start The Inventory:I write down exactly what I have and the quantities of everything in my pantry, freezer, and refrigerator

Start Planning: Once I have my inventory I go through some recipe ideas I have on hand or look some up using a recipe finder online that allows you to type which items you already have then pops out a recipe.

Make A Shopping List: I may have 5 items but need two to complete the recipe. I create a list for the missing items so I am not buying too many things that are not needed.

Write Out A Calendar: You can schedule when you will prepare menu items or you can just make a list and cross them off as you prepare them.

By doing reverse menu planning you are saving money, using up everything you have, being more organized, and ensuring you are eating at home more often. With out a plan you are planning to fail.


By Misty from Aurora, CO

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When we were busy or had to work all at the same time, we had to prep for how we would all eat. There was no going to a drive-thru, because there was no extra money. We would think of dishes that would freeze well and make big amounts. Then we would put it in the freezer in smaller amounts. Most of the family liked pasta, sloppy joe's and soup. Sometimes, we would have toast and canned beans. We had baked goods that we put in brown bags and froze them. We would put sauces in canning jars.

When I was old enough to cook, I liked baking things and putting them in the freezer to be cooked, then put in fridge for all to eat in a couple days. I could put a complete dinner together. When the family would look for something they want to eat, they knew if they picked out the big bag with a name on it, they had my cooking and there would be a little more work to warm up to eat. Some days, every one got tired of the simple foods. I cooked for 3 to 4 people. The starter was a spicy cooked veggie wrapped in eatable rice paper, then a dinner, then a dessert, I would have written instuctions and a time line, so there was no guessing about it.

This idea of recycled, and conserving and composting, all coming back under new names. We all had to do preserving and reuse and and firment. Well, the things you see on ThriftyFun, and others like it, are old ideas refaced. I tell you that my great nieces (and great great or is it grand nieces) give me a strange look when I tell them how to get ahead. Cook ahead and only eat out when it is a special occasion. I told these young people to learn how to cook in many ways; collect ideas and recipes. Oh my! You would think I was suggesting they should jump off a cliff and try to fly. I say to teach your children to cook and put some away and eat leftovers.

Thanks for your time.

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November 29, 2015

Maybe most of you are already doing this, but I just thought of it a couple of weeks ago. I tell my family I don't mind cooking or cleaning up but I hate trying to figure out what to cook.


I got index cards, and wrote out a menu on each card including beverage and dessert.

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November 1, 2011

Whether you're short on time or money, preparing one large meal on the weekend and stretching it all week long is a cost and time efficient way of meal planning.

A ham sliced into slices.

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I have read many frugal blogs and sites. Many of them rely and support the idea of menu planning for cutting your grocery bill. Those who are supporters of this practice, say they look at the sale flyers and base their menu on the rock bottom prices.

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Menu index cards are great for when I can't think about what to cook. They have a whole menu, one menu on one index card. Since they are sorted into the index card file, I have them sorted by what types of meat (chicken, beef, ground beef, pork,vegetarian, etc.).

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I have a friend who budgets wisely every month. She has raised 2 children and gone back to school herself with what she saved. She owns her own home and about 4 acres of land.

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I'm starting to think about back-to-school tasks that must be done. Here is one that I thought up as I'll have four kids in school, as well as myself, so this year will be even harder to manage.

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January 31, 2006

To make my grocery list I then just need to check out the specials, go to my box and quickly choose what I'll cook for the next two weeks and write down what I'll have to buy...

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October 24, 2004

To help save money on groceries, start by making out a menu plan for the upcoming week. Once the menus are made, check your cupboards for the necessary ingredients.


Make a list of what you need to buy and stick to this list.

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March 14, 2001

Do you have a set of meals that you eat on a regular basis? Plan ahead at least a week in advance so you don't have to make too many trips to the grocery store. When at the store, buy extras of most often needed items (when on sale) so you will always have some in reserve.

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Ask a QuestionHere are the questions asked by community members. Read on to see the answers provided by the ThriftyFun community or ask a new question.

I am new here. I just quit my job to go to school full time and finish my degree. Anyway, I am looking for cheap and healthy meal plans. My husband and I work out a lot, so the healthy part is important. Would love any advice. Thanks!


By Jessica from UT


July 18, 20100 found this helpful

One side dish would be sweet potato fries. Cook them in the oven instead of deep frying them. I don't know how good they are but I think they sound good for something different. Several years ago I had a young boss that mentioned having them for supper one night, she cooked them in the oven instead of deep frying them.

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July 19, 20100 found this helpful

At the moment I am using quinoa as a substitute for pasta, rice and potatoes.
It is the ultimate superfoood,containing far more protein and less carbs than all the above, it also has some really important amino acids and other trace elements that apparently can help prevent conditions like cancer. There are plenty recipes on the net and on Thriftyfun. There was a great one last week.

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July 20, 20100 found this helpful

I think the cheapest things I make are soups. A chicken noodle soup that I just made used $1.21 piece of chicken. It made 5 large servings. You can use leftover chicken too. Any vegetable scraps you have (save little bits in a container in the freezer until you make your soup) can be added. I used green beans, onions and kidney beans in my last soup, but any vegetables are good. I make a good hamburger soup that has the same basic ingredients as any vegetable soup but add some canned tomatoes.


I think it is easy to eat a lot of starchy food when you are trying to save money, but I personally don't think that is healthy. Sure pasta is cheap, but as a diabetic I limit carbs.

A chicken can stretch a long way.
First night: baked chicken
2nd night: chicken in salad, sandwiches, etc.
3rd night: soup
Freeze the rest of the soup.

I also find that the less food is processed, the cheaper it is. No soda, limit junk, & buy a few treats.
Good for you for going back to school. Good luck.

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July 22, 20100 found this helpful

Thanks for all the help. It gave me some great ideas!

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June 4, 2005

Tips to help with meal planning. What do you do to make your meal planning easier and more cost effective? Post your ideas.


June 4, 20050 found this helpful

Plan your meals so you can cook several items at a time, while using the same temperature. While baking tonight's pizza, have a casserole ready to bake for tomorrow's lunch and maybe a few baking potatoes for tomorrow's breakfast home fries. Not only will you be saving energy on your power bill, but time you can spend with your kids or that good book, you've just started.

By Terri

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By bron (Guest Post)
June 7, 20050 found this helpful

I do a monthly menu on a calender-
I select a catergory for each day of the week (eg. monday is meat & vege night, tuesday is chicken & rice night, wednesday is vegetarian night, thursday is pasta night, friday is burger and home cooked chips night, saturday is soup night & sunday is roast night) I then go through my favourite recipes and select appropriate ones for each night of the week. I note the recipe book & page no (if req)on the calender as well. Also as I go I write up my monthly shop menu (or you can do it in weekly lots) so I can buy everything I need for the month.

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My trick to avoid eating out is planning! I have a magnetic white board with each week's menu at the top and a spot for requests at the bottom. The kids love making requests and sometimes we do fun theme weeks like "Family Favorites" where each person gets to pick dinner for a night. This gets my kids involved in meal planning and knowing they sometimes get to pick reduces "complaints".

Tuesdays and Thursdays are allocated left-over nights, because my oldest son has football practice those nights. I find we often avoid fast-food temptation purely because we know the marinated meat for broccoli beef is waiting in the fridge and needs to get eaten up or it will go to waste. I make sure to plan crock-pot meals or frozen casseroles for nights we have a late event and might be tempted to grab something on the way home. With three kids, we just can't afford to eat out and I find that I enjoy it more if it's a very special event anyway.

This method has helped me avoid food waste because I only shop for what I'm cooking, and I actually have all the ingredients I need on hand which has reduced emergency trips to the pricier store nearby. I put the menu on the back of my shopping list so if there's a great sale I can adjust it as needed. I only shop for groceries once a week and make my list as I move items from requests to the menu. It's much easier to add items to requests as I think of them, than it was to brainstorm five meals at once, plus this way I know my husband has really been craving homemade pizza.

I save time too, as knowing what's for dinner allows me to prep over the weekend or the night before. Since I work late, the menu means my husband can start dinner while I'm on my way home (I stick the recipe cards for the week on the board with magnets). Anyhow, I've tried several systems, and this has worked the best for me. I stole the idea from the kid's lunch menu :)

By Stephanie from Hillsboro, OR

White board being used to list a weekly dinner menu with an area for requests

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January 17, 2018

You can save time and money by making two or more meals at once. Large cuts of meat can be divided and used for several recipes. This is a page about make two meals at once.

potato casserole

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February 17, 2017

Meal planning allows you to eat a variety of healthy food without spending a lot of money. This is a page about developing a meal planning notebook and filing system.

A notebook with spices on a wooden cutting board.

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