Things I Do to Save Money: Meal Planning

Hope everyone is safe and sound after the crazy that was the hurricane.  I got friends posting aftermath in NYC, including a video of the infamous crane just hanging from the top of a 100+ story building.  Check it out here. Thanks, Daniel Kirkley for posting the videos.  🙂  By the way, this guy is a talented singer and has a Christmas album coming out in November.  So, shameless friend plug out-of-the-way, I am going to move on to money-saving tips.  I don’t know about you guys, but this week I am BA-ROKE! Not just broke, but BA-ROKE!

But I still find a way to keep this curvy figure of mine fed, as well as my fat-bottomed cat, Mads.  “How does she do it?” you ask.  Well, it’s quite easy, actually.  First off, I shop only at Aldi for my food, and I only pay cash.  It’s that simple.  Sunday is usually my day off, so that is my grocery shopping day.  This A.) Gives me time to get my grocery list together and B.) Allows me ample time to get in when the store opens and get first pickings of the best stuff!

When compiling my grocery list, I sit at my kitchen table with a cup of coffee in one hand and my laptop/cookbooks in front of me.  I figure out exactly what I want to make JUST FOR THE WEEK.  I also make sure that I have had a good breakfast before I even start thinking about food, because I turn into a fat kid when I am looking at recipes and I am hungry.  Make sure to always eat BEFORE you go to the store, as well.  It keeps your hands from grabbing the cookies off the shelves.

My usual grocery list starts with the staples, the things I cannot live without that week: coffee, a bottle of wine, milk, and eggs.  I usually got through each of these a week.  Then I look at the cookbooks and pick out only two recipes to try this week.  Most recipes are pretty sweet, since I am a single girl and recipes make 4 servings.  This gives me two dinners and two lunches for the week.  Times two, you are looking at 4 dinners and 4 lunches for the week.  Yay math!

And yes, eating the same things can get boring. So I add-on a few little extras, like salad greens, a box of texas toast, and even a bar of chocolate to get me through.  This is where I get really organized. I write down a “rough draft” of my meals for the week, based off what I have chosen for the grocery list.  Here’s a sampler.


Breakfast: Spinach, Strawberry, and Blueberry shake with Vanilla Almond milk (It’s actually good and is packed with vitamins), Lunch: Stirfry from Saturday night, Snack: Roasted Almonds, Dinner: Cheddar, Chicken, and Broccoli Soup with a Corn Muffin


Courtesy of The Old Mill in Pigeon Forge, TN

  • 1/2 lb. chicken, cubed
  • 1 tsp. garlic
  • 1 Tbsp. chicken stock
  • Packet of broccoli cheddar soup mix ( I used the Old Mill cheddar and broccoli soup mix)

Begin browning the chicken in a pan coated with non-stick spray.  Prepare the soup according to the package instructions.  Once the chicken has cooked, add the garlic and chicken stock.  Let simmer for 5 minutes then add to the soup.  Simmer the soup on low for 5 additional minutes.  Serve!


Breakfast: Egg Sandwich, Lunch: Leftover Soup from Monday, Dinner: Out with the Girls (If the restaurant has an online menu, check it out before you go and set a budget)


Breakfast: Cereal and Almond Milk, Lunch: Leftover Soup from Monday, Dinner: Leftover food from girl’s night


Breakfast: Egg Sandwich, Lunch: Turkey Sandwich and Apple, Dinner: Tomato Basil Soup with Half Grilled Cheese


Breakfast: SSB Shake, Lunch: Tomato Basil Soup with Other Half Grilled Cheese, Dinner: Spaghetti and Sausage with Salad

Once the weekend rolls around, I am not as structured.  I rummage around in the pantry and fridge and take out anything that is nearing expiration.  That is another big part of my meal planning.  I ALWAYS check the pantry and fridge first before I make the actual grocery list.

So, now that I have my meal plan for the week together, grocery list intact, I make my way to the ATM.  My goal each week is to hit right at or just below $20 for the groceries.  This week, I was over by $3, because Mads needed cat litter. So she is one happy baby right now.

Once I get to the store, I stick to the list.  Retail stores know how to get under your skin with gorgeous displays and big “sale” signs to get you to buy products they are pushing to get out of the store.  Don’t fall for it!  Keep your eyes on your list.

Once I get to check out, I am holding my breath, like it’s a game.  If I hit under budget, I put the money back in my little change jar that I use to take myself out to dinner, get a massage, or do something special for myself as a treat for being good.

When you look at saving money as a game, it’s a lot more fun and less of a chore.  What do you do with your grocery shopping to save money?


2 thoughts on “Things I Do to Save Money: Meal Planning

  1. I think you have a great system going. We use only cash for our grocery budget and since switching to this method several years ago we have saved a ton of money. You’re right it is like a game. I like to splurge on a special meal if we have money left at the end of the month. Unfortunately, that won’t be happening for us this month. 😦

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