Meal Planning Ideas: Plan then Shop

These meal planning ideas are great for beginners, whether you're on a budget or if you want to create an easy weekly meal plan. The free meal plan template in the post will help to save more time and money!

These meal planning ideas are great for budget meal planning or just if you want to create an easy weekly meal plan. We have several posts that review how to meal plan sharing two different menu planning principles. These are the same principles that I share in the classes I teach on Menu Planning.

Now, when it comes to menu planning, most everyone agrees that it is a great idea. Laying out a meal plan can give you more time with family, less stress and more money saved each month on your food budget. All GREAT results! But what is not always agreed on is the methods used to menu plan.

There are two primary camps for ways to make a meal plan. Both have advantages. For the folks that like to have total control over their menu and meals, planning first is the way to go.

Meal Planning Ideas

{1} Focus on a list!

Making a list each week is rather easy when you already have your menus laid out. It also is a great way to save money. When you go in the store and stick to your list, you can be sure to save money by skipping those impulse purchases. Buy what you need and go home knowing you have it when you go to fire up the oven.

{2} Take advantage of coupons and sales! 

The biggest advantage that is mentioned when you shop first and plan second is that you can maximize coupons with the weekly store sales. While that is certainly true, you can still take advantage of all those things while planning first. The key is to go on a one week rotation.

Stockpiling 101: Tips for Moms to Build a Grocery Stockpile

{3} Utilize your stockpile!

Plan what you would like by looking at the weekly ads ahead of time and organize your coupons accordingly. When you go in, take advantage of great coupons and deals regardless of where they are in your menu plan. Put that stuff away and you will have it when it does come around. That’s the beauty of a stockpile!

{4} Budget Meal Planning

How awesome would it be to know what you were going to spend over the next six months on groceries? You can do that by menu planning and working within a set budget. Save some money off that budget and you can put that away in savings! You know my motto: save on what you need so you can spend (and save) on what you want!

{5} Save time while shopping at the store.

Time in the store shrinks by more than fifty percent when you know what you are going to buy. Go in, shop and get out to maximize your savings. I used to be able to get in and out of 5 stores, carrying a baby, in less than 2 hours. I planned every single purchase and minute!

Free Menu Planning Templates

{6} Use meal plan templates! 

Help organize your meals to the fullest! Shopping first means going with the latest sales and coupons, thereby forcing you to cook what is available. You never know what will be on sale down the road. Organize all your meals and then head out to the store to have maximum control over your menus.

Modern menu planners like to literally plan out the next several months. Some even plan out an entire year. Since you are planning first, you can easily do that without reservations. We have several free meal plan templates whether you are a weekly or monthly planner.

{7} Family favorites are a certainty.

If you get to plan out your meals, you can easily incorporate family favorites. If your daughter loves lasagna but your husband loves steak, you can plan that out with no problem. Having them on a certain day each week can become tradition and tradition can become family bonding. Giving each family member their “favorite meal day” is a great way to bring your family closer and open lines of communication.

Cook Once, Eat Twice Meal Planning Concept

{8} Repurpose leftovers efficiently.  

Leftovers become savings when you menu plan ahead of shopping because you can literally shop based on them. A quick look through your fridge can easily reveal what ingredients you already have be worked into last minute preparations. You should never have leftovers for more than a day or two with menu planning in effect ahead of shopping.

{9} Create and buy last minute meals.  

We also refer to these as your “Fast Five Meals.” Every family should have last minute meals that can be done in no time flat. With menu planning, you can plan for these ahead of time.

Create the meals you want to have for emergency, last minute type suppers and write down what you need for them. Take that list to the store, shop the ingredients and store them at home for those situations. As they are used, replace them.

{10} Save time in the kitchen.

Just like in the store, knowing what you are cooking ahead of time allows you to prep ahead and fly through the process. Changing things up is easy enough, but you have a great baseline menu plan by following these steps. Time is money, so finding efficiencies is a wise move.

There are certainly plenty of advantages both ways, but for my money planning first makes the most sense. That is the beauty of home cooking, however. Nobody does it just exactly the same! Regardless of how you do it, create a basic plan today!

Freezer Meal Ideas to Make Easy Freezer Meals

Best Meal Planning App

And here’s a bonus tip. Use a time-saving meal planning app like FreezEasy. If you want to do freezer cooking, double batch cooking, or even single meal planning, this app can help you save so much time and money. I literally plan our meals in between time-outs during our son’s basketball games. Seriously, it’s that amazing!

Find MORE Ways to Save on Food

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