Menu Planning Ideas: Shop then Plan

Learn how to make a meal plan to save more time and money! Create a simple meal plan with this FREE meal plan template to create a monthly or weekly family meal plan!

Learning how to make a meal plan can make a huge impact to your budget. When you take time to plan meals for the week and make a grocery list you are saving your time too. This is a huge accomplishment.

What if you could make a simple meal plan serves as a meal planning guide for the week or month? Think about the extra time you will have on hand that you aren’t stressing about the dreaded question of “What’s for dinner?” Having our meals for the week planned in advance frees up mental energy that I need for the thousand other things I’m doing. I’m sure you are in the same boat!

These menu planning ideas will also help you save some money in the process. You can also ensure that you are creating an easy healthy weekly meal plan. We have athletes in our family and I have to ensure they are getting all the proper macros to perform!

The two meal planning approaches that are most commonly talked about are:

  1. Planning out your meals first and then going shopping.
  2. Shopping first and then planning your meals.

Both of these methods are awesome and they both have their own advantages. We spelled out the advantages of planning meal ideas first then shopping earlier. Now we are going to look at the advantages of shopping first.

Meal Planning Ideas: Plan then Shop

How to Make a Meal Plan

If you approach shopping first this allows you several advantages including:

{1} Easy Weekly Meal Plan

If you are like me, you dive into a weekly ad with both feet. If you are going to shop ahead of planning, the you are totally free to explore the various bargains that might be found within these little fun books. When you plan first, the circulars are generally reactive rather than proactive.

{2} Budget Meal Planning

You can go where the coupons guide you!  If you hit that beautiful moment when you find the coupon, product and store policy that yields products for next to nothing, you can literally build a menu around that find. Coupons vary from week to week, but you can adjust on the fly because you are shopping ahead of planning.

Learn How to Coupon

{3} Meal Prep Recipes and Grocery List

Buying in bulk is more likely.  Of course, nothing is stopping you from buying in bulk no matter when you do your menu planning, but it is much more likely when you shop ahead. Finding hamburger at $2.99 per pound could send you on a hamburger plan whereas a deal on turkey might send you another direction altogether. Either way, buying up plenty is not a problem if you are going to plan your meals afterward. You can accommodate whatever finds you come across.

{4} You will still save money.

When you plan first, you can be almost assured of having to buy something at regular retail. Not everything you plan for will be on sale or have a coupon when you go to buy it. By shopping first and then planning, you will still be able to save money.

Meal Planning Ideas: Simple Meal Planning Shortcuts

{5} Variety is the spice of life!

If you shop first, you are much more likely to try something new. If you find the perfect coupon and realize that you can get something for next to nothing, you will certainly pull the trigger on a new recipe. If you plan ahead, you will not be as likely to come across such opportunities.

{6} You can feed that inner Chef.

If you are one of those cooks that secretly wants to tap into your Iron Chef roots or join up for the next season of Hell’s Kitchen, then shopping first makes a bit more sense. You kind of get to plan without being predictable.

You can shop for the best bargains and get surprises along the way for ingredients. Then, you get to go home and organize your ingredients into the perfect menu. That feeds both sides of your Chef instincts!

Free Meal Planning Printables

Simple Meal Plan

Although they both have their distinct advantages, menu planning makes good sense. When you can save time, money and stress in the kitchen, everybody in the family wins.

Which method do you prefer? Plan then Shop or Shop then Plan?
Leave a comment and tell us how you do your menu planning.

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One Comment

  1. I normally do the shop first, plan later strategy. I shop a lot in the clearance aisles, and I find meat, produce and other foods really cheap. I then plan around what I bring home, along with what I may have stockpiled in the pantry and freezer. I also get a lot of freebies as thank yous from the food bans when I volunteer there,and i never know what I might get. Add in that folks are always giving me goodies from their garden or co-op surplus, and I would be going crazy trying to to plan BEFORE I receive the bounty I get.

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