Meal planning – the foolproof, flexible way I meal plan

Why I do meal planning

My main reasons for doing meal planning are as follows:

  • I save money by no longer buying things on impulse and it also makes me consider stretching things over several meals, e.g. if I buy a large chicken I can make a roast dinner one day, a chicken stir fry the next, then make stock for a soup the third day
  • It is good for the environment – there is little to no food getting thrown away as I have a plan in place for everything I buy

Why other methods of meal planning don’t work for me

The internet is full of blog posts about meal planning, usually involving a fancy planner on which you write your meals, or maybe a chalkboard or a whiteboard that you have hanging in your kitchen. The problem with these methods for me are two-fold: 1) my husband often has to work away from home at a moment’s notice… let’s say I am planning on making that chicken roast dinner tonight, can I really be bothered to cook it just for me? and 2) oh no, I had planned to have steak on Friday night, but I have just looked at the expiry date and I need to eat it by Wednesday!

In short, unless you want to spend a lot of time and energy crossing or rubbing things out, there is very little flexibility in this method.

The meal planning method that works for me

Recently I have developed a meal planning method that works amazingly for me. It involves a small outlay on a couple of items, but trust me, you will save enough money in the first week or two to easily cover this.
Here are the materials I bought and how I use them:

2. These transparent fridge magnets:

Transparent fridge magnets

The magnetic meal planner sits on my fridge, ready for the meals to be added. There is a handy box on the right for my shopping list, which I can white on at a moment’s notice e.g. if I realise I need a random item such as milk (the meal planner comes with magnetic pens) and I can take a photo of on my phone of the whiteboard to take to the supermarket (or to have handy when I do my online grocery shop).

Probably like most people, I cook my meals based on a ‘bank’ of X number of recipes that I have in my head. What I have done, is that I have written the name of each of these meals on a coloured bit of card which I have inserted into my transparent fridge magnets (I add new meals from time to time). Underneath the meal names, in brackets, I write the less-obvious ingredients e.g. for ‘sausage ‘n’ mash and broccoli’ (cauliflower mash to be awkward!) in the picture below clearly I need to buy sausages and broccoli but less obviously I need to also buy frozen cauliflower, cream cheese and broccoli) – this helps me compile my shopping list for the week:

Once I have picked out my meals for the week go through them and I jot down the ingredients and add them to my shopping list.

I can then arrange (and rearrange if circumstances change) the meals I have picked out for the week onto the meal planner on the fridge (note that I also have a couple of magnets which say ‘Repeat of yesterday’ – I quite often make a double batch of food to do us two days):

Another great idea, if you are a Tesco shopper, is to sign up for their grocery saver plans – you can save a fortune vs paying for each individual delivery. See Sue Foster’s blog post here for more information on this.

Finally, if the amount of tins in your cupboard is getting out of hand, you ‘can’ (pardon the pun) save money on your shop by planning means to use these up as suggested over on the Family Budgeting blog.

I hope this helps you organise your meals – please let me know if so!

meal planning - the foolproof, flexible way I meal plan


  1. Pingback: How I meal Plan. – The Money Freak

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