Tips for Meal Planning Beginners

Meal planning is one of the essential methods of cutting down your grocery budget. Cutting down your grocery budget is one of the essential methods of cutting your overall budget.


Clearly, meal planning is very important. But how do you get started? I was lucky enough to grow up with a mother who knew how essential meal planning is and she passed down this habit to me. Even as a freshman in college I wrote detailed grocery lists. They included ramen and hot pockets, but still, I made a grocery list!





If you didn’t grow up watching someone meal plan, trying to do it yourself for the first time can be tricky.  Use these tips to help you get started then just keep trying. As always, practice makes perfect.


  • Create a list of 5-10 go-to meals your family (or just you) loves. These do not need to be anything fancy. Spaghetti made from frozen meatballs, a jar of sauce, and a box of noodles is the perfect type of stand by meal for crazy nights.


  • Start small. No one can go from swinging by the grocery store on their way home every night (or swinging by Chickfila) to shopping for a month at a time and cooking every night. Making a list and shopping for 3-4 meals to begin is a great start. You can even give yourself some leeway and allow for a few nights of eating out to begin with.


In my free resource library for subscriber  I have a super simple meal planning guide that you can print and use again and again saving you both time and money!

  • Start your plan.
    •  Look at your list of go-to meals and pick a few to begin with. I suggest starting out with just the meals you are familiar with cooking and know your family enjoys before you try new recipes. Look up the recipe for the ingredients even if you think you have it memorized. Write down all the ingredients you need.


  • Look for ways to save.
    • Look at your list of go-tos and see if any have the same ingredients. If so, use these meals together in your meal plans. You can finish an ingredient you used in one meal in another or buy a larger size of an ingredient and you will typically save money.
    • Check your grocery flyers. See what is on sale and if any of these things are used in your go-to meals. If so, put those meals in your plan. Once you get the hang of meal planning you can use the sale items as inspiration for recipes to put into your meal plan.


  •  I suggest having some “cushion meals” in your meal plan which is particularly helpful when you are just starting to meal plan. By ‘cushion meals’ I mean the easy as can be, throw together in minutes meals for your craziest nights. This can totally be frozen meals if need be. A frozen lasagna is still much cheaper than the drive through! Having these meals on hand can save you on those insanely busy nights.


  • Don’t forget the extras
    • Remember to include breakfast, lunch, and snack ingredients in your grocery list. Also take stock of the household items you may need to pick up- things like medicine, dish soap, etc. Supposed “quick trips” to the grocery store for these things can often have you ending up with a cartful of unnecessary purchases.  Especially if you take your husband. Ask me how I know.


Meal planning is one of the quickest and easiest ways to reduce your budget but it can be intimidating to start. The guide in my resource library is an easy way to start.  Starting out small and giving yourself some leeway to begin with can make meal planning easier in the beginning and prevent you from becoming discouraged and giving up. There will definitely be times when you get off track or swing by a certain chicken fast food place (when it isn’t Sunday). Forgive yourself and try again the next week!


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