Making Meal Planning Sexy

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Want to make meal planning sexy? The truth is, it's not hard. Just follow these steps!

I often get questions from readers about meal planning. Meal planning, although we all know it saves money, can be difficult! It’s not exactly something thought of as “hot” or even “fun.” But, what makes it sexy is the money you can save when you make meal planning part of your personal or family routine.

White it’s definitely true that it’s hard to think up 30 dinners to serve your family or yourself each month, especially when you have to take into account the taste buds of several people, meal planning is rewarding. We’ve come up with a plan that has made it easier for me and, I think it can be just as helpful for you too.

Meal Planning Made Easy


If you’re looking to get your grocery budget back on track, setting it on a rock-solid meal plan that you can use day in and day out is a great place to start. Consider the following tips to help simplify your meal planning experience:

First, write down a list of meals that each person in your family likes. Ask each one for a list of their favorite meals, and specify that they have to contribute at least five ideas. We like to ask our kids separately so that there’s no undue influence on one kid by another. By starting with a list of everyone’s favorite meals, you’ve got a springboard in which to menu plan from.

Second, you’ll write down on your menu list 15 meals, planning to serve each one twice during the month.  You don’t necessarily have to shop for all 30 meals at once, but at least have a plan for what you’re going to serve. There’s a trick, however, that will help you save money as you plan for your 15 meals: Think dual-purpose. What does that entail?

Well, for instance, if you’re planning on having pot roast one night, plan to take the leftover roast, freeze it, and use it for beef stew or beef stroganoff another night. If you’re having a dish with ground hamburger, chop the burger extra fine, use half for your tacos (or whatever you’re serving that night) and save half for a hot dish later in the month.

Serving grilled chicken one night? Plan on making chicken fajitas the next night. Or use the leftover chicken and make a batch of chicken noodle soup (minus the noodles) to freeze for later in the month.

By working to find a dual purpose for every meal you make, and by cutting down the amount of meat you use in each meal, you can save a lot of money on your grocery budget. The same can be done with vegetarian meals.

Having veggie stir fry one night? Take the leftover veggies (unseasoned) and make fried rice or a hot dish the next night, or save the veggies to make a nice minestrone soup. The possibilities really are endless.

Another Money Saving Tip


Serve a “cheap and cheesy” meal at least once a week. Our favorites? Popcorn night, buttered noodles, chipotle rice (rice with cilantro, red onion, lime juice, olive oil and salt and pepper), homemade pancakes and “leftover night”. Leftover night happens when we’ve got several dishes of leftovers in the fridge. Not only does it cut down dramatically on food waste, it gives me a night off from “real” cooking.

Want to know how to make meal planning sexy? Read these tips!

The thing I love most about our cheap and cheesy meal nights, though, is that it gives us more money in our food budget to splurge on the good stuff once in awhile, not to mention extra money in our bank account.

Meal planning doesn’t have to be a long, drawn-out task that you come to dread every month. With a little teamwork and ingenuity, it can actually be fun!


Do you meal plan? Why or why not? What are your favorite meal planning tips? What have you tried that didn’t work and almost made you throw the towel in on meal planning in the past?



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Laurie is a wife, mother to 4, and homesteader who blogs about personal finance, self-sufficiency and life in general over at The Frugal Farmer. Part witty, part introspective and part silly, her goal in blogging is to help others find their way to financial freedom, and to a simpler, more peaceful life.


  • Dee @ Color Me Frugal says:

    Laurie, you’ve inspired me! We started our official journey into meal planning this week. We’ve had a couple minor snags, but so far success! I’ll be putting up a post about our progress within the next few weeks. Thanks for inspiring me to do this!

    • Laurie @thefrugalfarmer says:

      Yay!! You’ll do great Dee – I just know it. Can’t wait to hear more about how it’s going for you.

  • E.M. says:

    I love the thought of using leftovers with another purpose. I try to do that whenever we do find ourselves with leftovers. When I still lived with my parents, Friday was often a mix of everything in an effort to clear out the fridge. Breakfast for dinner is another one of my favorites.

  • Amy says:

    You’re so right that meal planning saves money. I also really appreciate that it saves aggravation on my part. I don’t really enjoy cooking, and there’s nothing worse than standing in front of the fridge at 3pm, wondering what the heck we’re having for dinner! I’m not religious about it, but I do try to plan each week’s grocery trip with a schedule of meals to work with.

    Breakfast for dinner is a big help, too. Somehow my daughter thinks it’s great fun to have pancakes or scrambled eggs for dinner, and it’s definitely cheap!

    • Laurie @thefrugalfarmer says:

      It’s funny how kids think that’s such a big deal, isn’t it? I know what you mean about the meal planning. It’s frustrating to be so close to dinner time and not have any idea what to make.

  • Travis @Debtchronicles says:

    We do a very similar process, but on a weekly basis. When I get done grocery shopping I put the “menu” up on the fridge. Each day I ask what we should have for dinner, and the family looks at the menu and chooses. We always have one or two “special” meals that would be sort of like dining out. who needs to go to a restaurant when steak and shrimp, or Lemon Chicken, or smoked BBQ ribs are on the menu at home??

    • Laurie @thefrugalfarmer says:

      We make “meals out at home” too! It’s fun, much cheaper, and often times tastes better too. πŸ™‚

  • canadianbudgetbinder says:

    As you know Laurie I talk about grocery shopping every week and it’s amazing what I’ve learned over the past almost 7 years living in Canada. Although not much different from the UK now that I am married I find that we meal plan and base our meals around sales and foods that we enjoy. Meal planning is a great way to stick to the budget and get all the valuable food groups in because what we do is plan. Without a plan we hope.

    • Laurie @thefrugalfarmer says:

      “Without a plan we hope”. Mr. CBB – I love that!!! It applies to meal planning and everything else too.

  • Holly@ClubThrifty says:

    My kids are fairly easy to feed right now because they are so young! I love making cheap and easy meals a few times a week. I usually cook a big, fancy meal once on a weekday and on Sundays.

    • Laurie says:

      I love that idea, Holly! We do big fancy once in awhile, but when the budget is not so tight, we will definitely do a really nice meal every week. It’s always been a dream of mine.

  • Shannon @ Financially Blonde says:

    I love the idea of a cheap and cheesy meal. Ours is pasta, butter, oregano and garlic salt that we call “Mimi Noodles” because my mom made them for us growing up. If you can incorporate these meals into your plan sporadically, then it’s true, you can save for some nicer ones down the road. It’s all about balance.

  • Liz says:

    We try to meal plan as much as possible. It makes it so much easier to cook during the busy work week. I also find that when we meal plan, we tend to eat a lot healthier foods too.

  • AverageJoe says:

    I love the dual purpose idea. Save huge money by buying bigger portions.

    • Laurie says:

      True!! We bought a quarter of a cow a few months back and paid $3.50 a pound for grass-fed beef: steaks, roasts, the whole deal!

  • Daisy @ Prairie Eco Thrifter says:

    I usually meal plan, but lately I have fallen off of the meal planning wagon. I Have been so busy with the wedding that I can’t get it together enough to even cook let alone meal plan!

  • Practical Cents says:

    I also do the dual purpose idea. For example when I buy one of those rotisserie chickens I always save the leftovers to make rice with chicken the next day. It’s a great way to extend the chicken and save.

  • Joshua @ CNA Finance says:

    We definitely plan our meals. I like that you mentioned thinking about dual purpose ingredients. That saves us a ton of money!

  • Grayson Bell says:

    We make it easy as we only plan two meals a week. They are big and provide plenty of leftovers. We live on leftovers. Have for over five years. You can do some many things with leftovers and then we only have to come up with about 8 – 10 meals a month.

    • Laurie says:

      You guys are kicking it. I’m impressed that you guys have been doing this so consistently. Great job, Grayson!

  • Will says:

    Sexy new site design, sexy meal planning, what will we see next?!

    I meal plan and it works well for me. The only hiccup I have is when I grow sick of something before I finished it all. I like cooking in bulk so I don’t have to do it so often but it has its downsides when you just cook for yourself.

    Maybe I should get married.

  • DC @ Young Adult Money says:

    Hi Laurie, my wife and I meal plan but in all honesty she does all the work. I have given her some ideas when she asks but she typically is the one who plans our dinners as well as makes the shopping list and maintains our coupons. It definitely has saved us money – and time as we don’t have to think about “what should we eat tonight?”

    • Laurie says:

      That’s our house too, DC. I do everything. But it works out well for us too. You know what they say about too many cooks in the kitchen. πŸ™‚

  • Mrs. Frugalwoods says:

    Yay for meal planning! We plan on a weekly basis, but honestly, we kind of eat the same things over and over again, which we’re totally OK with. We’ve found the cheapest, healthiest meals to prepare and we just eat & repeat! We also consume leftovers like nobody’s business–we’re working on having zero food waste (going pretty well so far!).

    • Laurie @thefrugalfarmer says:

      I’d love to see a sample menu plan, Mrs. FW! We are in need of some new ideas. πŸ™‚ Great job on the zero food waste too!

      • Mrs. Frugalwoods says:

        Well, brace yourself, it’s pretty boring! We shake it up with date/treat meals on Friday & Saturday nights, but otherwise, this is pretty much it:

        Breakfast: whole grain oats (raw, not pre-packaged) with cinnamon and occasionally fruit
        Lunch: salad greens and homemade soup (bean, lentil, or vegetable) or quinoa with veggies (Mr. FW cooks a huge batch of lunch every Sunday and we take it to work all week)
        Snacks: bananas/apples/oranges (depending on the season)
        Dinner: salad greens/veggies with a protein (garbanzo beans/homemade hummus, lentils, quinoa, avocados, or inexpensive frozen fish–usually salmon from Costco)
        Dessert: dried fruit and/or dark chocolate (bought in bulk at Costco)

  • Tre says:

    I write our meal plan on the calendar at least two weeks in advance. That way the kids can plan when they don’t want to be home for dinner πŸ™‚

    • Laurie @thefrugalfarmer says:

      LOL, luckily mine are young enough that they’re stuck eating whatever I cook. πŸ™‚

  • Kate @ Money Propeller says:

    Hi, Laurie, meal planning is very important to me too. I always make sure every time I go to grocery stores, I had my list with me for my meal plans.

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