How to Plan Ahead for Next Week’s Meals and Save Money

A Step-By-Step Guide to Grocery Store Savings

Step 1: Take inventory

Take a look at what you already have, especially if it needs to be used or there is a risk of it spoiling.  Make a list of these items in categories (i.e. proteins, produce, dried goods, seasonings, etc.)

Step 2: Find the sales

One of the most important step is to get an ad from your grocery store – or perhaps from two or three local grocery stores. There are a lot of ways to get these – in a local newspaper, in the mail, or online, for starters. I usually download the flyer from the website of the grocery stores I visit most often.

Once you have the ads, go through them and mark any sales on ingredients that they have that you know you and your family would enjoy (make sure to include the price, as you may find it cheaper at another store).

Step 3: Do Some Recipe Research

Browse through your recipes and search out the ones that will utilize these items. If you need more recipe ideas, go online, there is an endless amount of healthy, easy recipes that you could try!*  These ideas provide the backbone for several meals throughout the week, so I start planning ahead!

Step 4: Create a Week-Long Meal Plan

Start out with a blank meal planner, or just a sheet of paper. Start with dinners based on the recipes you have chosen. For most, breakfasts are usually quite simple and lunches usually consist of leftovers, so these require less planning.

Try to make most weeknight meals pretty easy.  I find that saving the more difficult meals for the weekend usually works out best.  Also, take into consideration each day individually and the time you will have to prepare food.  For instance, if you get off of work at 3 but on Thursdays your children have sports practice and you won’t be home until 6, you may consider doing something extremely easy like a crockpot meal on Thursdays.

Step 5: Make a Shopping List from the Meal Plan

Once the meal plan is in place, go through and list all of the ingredients for all of the recipes making tally marks next to the things you will need more than one of.  Then, cross off the things you already have. This will save you money by not buying something you already have.

This is a good time to check the staples – flour, milk, yeast, juice boxes, and so on – and add replenishments to the list.  Keeping a go-to list of things you always use is very helpful as you can go down the list and easily make note of what needs replenishing.

Step 6: Go Grocery Shopping – And Stick to Your List

Once you have the list in place, it’s simple. Take it to the grocery store and stick to it. Don’t toss stuff that’s not on your list into the cart. Since you’ve already planned your meals, you know that you don’t need it.

Using this path will also make grocery shopping itself substantially quicker. Most of your purchases will be around the edges of the store, in the produce and meat sections. You won’t have to go up and down every aisle to find the items you need.

In the end, though, when you go home, unpack your groceries, and put that meal plan up on the fridge, you’ll find that overall it hasn’t taken you any more time than a grocery trip without planning would have taken, plus you now have a clear plan for meals for the week and you’ve saved significant money at the grocery store.

Good luck!*Once you decide to try a new recipe, decide if it’s one you would do again, mark on it if there are changes you would make.  If you would do it again, add it to your “tried and true recipes” if you didn’t care for it, make sure you throw it away so that you don’t accidently make it again.

Fish Marinade


  • 2 plan servings of any type fish
  • 2 cloves fresh garlic, minced
  • 1 t fresh basil, chopped
  • 1 t fresh parsley, chopped
  • 1 t ground black pepper
  • 1 T Lemon juice
  • 2 T Light olive oil


Mix garlic, herbs, pepper, lemon juice, and olive oil together and pour over fish. Marinate for 1 hour covered in refrigerator. Remove fish from marinade and wrap in foil. Bake at 375 for 30 minutes. (Bake time may vary depending on thickness of fish fillet used)

Makes 2 servings, each serving counts as: 1 protein, 1 condiment


1/2 T Extra virgin coconut oil
1 C Steel cut oats
2 C water
1 1/2 C fat free milk
2 ripe medium bananas mashed

In a large pan melt oil. Add oats and toast until they give off a nutty smell. Set aside.
In a large sauce pan bring water and milk to a boil (med-high heat, stirring occasionally so you don’t scorch the milk). Add oats and mashed bananas, bring back to a boil. Reduce to simmer. Simmer uncovered 25-30 minutes, until oats are cooked and smooth.
Makes 5 3/4 cup servings, each serving counts as: 1 once daily starch, 1/2 fruit and 1/2 dairy