It’s a common misconception that eating healthy meals is only for those who are willing to pay a pretty penny for it. Not so! You can still save money and enjoy a tasty and healthy homemade meal. It may require more planning on your part, but we promise it is possible - and we want to help you get there.

7 Tips on How to Meal Plan for Savings (and Less Waste)

Meal planning really lays the groundwork for savings. If you plan well, you’re likely to spend less when grocery shopping. So why plan? Well, when you go to the store without a list, you can spend up to 40% more. Plus, you’re more likely to actually cook when you have a plan in place.

A plan can take on any form. At the most basic, it’s a simple grocery list, but you’ll save even more when there is a meal plan behind that list. For those who want to improve their meal planning skills, here are our 7 tips to meal plan for maximum savings:

1. Always include at least one meal you’ve made before

Don’t try to reinvent the wheel every time you cook! Every home cook needs a few back-pocket recipes that they can cook well and know will be gobbled up by the whole family versus pushed aside after a few bites. The more standbys you use, the less likely you’ll have to acquire new pantry ingredients, which can definitely add up.

2. Plan meals around items you already have

Before making your plan, go through your pantry, fridge, and freezer, and make a “To-Use” list. Start by building your recipes around those items so you have less to buy at the grocery store.

3. let each recipe inform the next

Good meal planning is like putting together a puzzle. Try to avoid selecting different recipes that don’t fit together, or else you’ll be buying a lot of different ingredients. Select one, look at the ingredient list and let that help you select recipe #2 and so on. For example, if recipe #1 uses half a head of cabbage, find another recipe that needs cabbage, so that it won’t be wasted. Or, say you were going to make rice for recipe #1, then try to find a recipe that used leftover rice for recipe #2, so that you can make once and eat two different ways.

4. Cook more perishable ingredients first

Hearty ingredients like carrots, potatoes, or butternut squash can be saved for the end of the week whereas more delicate veggies like chard and tomatoes should be used up earlier to prevent spoiling (and thus, wasting). To help you sort out the shelf-life of most veggies, download our Produce Shelf Life & Storage Guide below:

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Produce Shelf Life Guide

Reduce food waste when you learn how to care for fresh produce.

5. use an app to house all your recipes

It would be very time consuming and painful to search through cookbooks, food sites, Pinterest boards, etc. to make a meal plan every week. What you want is a way to house all your recipes in one place. Luckily, there is an app for that! Options like PepperplatePaprika, and Plan to Eat can save all your recipes (you can copy and paste, or there is a bookmarklet that you can install on your browser). You make your meal plan from those recipes, and they generate a grocery list for you for free!

6. plan for leftovers

Going out to lunch everyday can be a bad habit for your health and bank account. If you’re going to be cooking dinner, you might as well double and have some leftovers for lunch. Beyond that, make extra for freezing, so that there is always a backup meal in stock.

7. make it visual

If you physically write down your goals, you are more likely to complete them. Making your meal plan visual may hold you more accountable for executing on the cooking. Plus, your family isn’t constantly asking you, “What’s for dinner?” They can just refer to the board.

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7 Ways to Meal Plan for Savings

7 simple tips to help you reduce food waste and meal plan for savings.

To make it even easier for you to keep these 7 tips in mind, we put all these tips together in one free download so that you can print them out and reference them any time.

Included in this download is a template to help you “make it visual.” You can use this template to fill out your meals for the week (remember to pencil in leftovers, too!). And try using different color markers if you’re managing multiple family members.

Change Your Life with Meal Planning

Good meal planning can take time, and it’s definitely one stage you can outsource for a few dollars a month. Even though you’re paying for meal plans, you’ll save much more than you paid with savings from less food wasted and last-minute take-out or eating out.

Whether you choose to outsource or give it a go on your own, if you prioritize planning, you’ll definitely see your grocery bill go down, and the amount of food you toss decrease (those are real dollars being thrown away!).

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Meal Plan Guide

Stress Less. Cook More. See all the benefits of meal planning with our infographic.

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Meal Planning Toolkit

Create your own meal plan with this Meal Planning Toolkit

Free Download

7 Day Budget Meal Plan

Save money and eat healthier with 7 days of planned breakfasts, lunches, and dinners.

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