How To Meal Plan When You Don’t Know Where To Start

Meal Planning - From Pennies to Pounds blog

Meal Planning is one of the best things you do to reduce your outgoings and keep your family happy. When your little one pipes up with “what’s for tea, mummy?” and your heart sinks as you realise you don’t have anything prepared – this is when you realise meal planning is for you!

One of the largest expenses in a household is the grocery shop, so the most important thing here is to keep the costs as low as possible, but still feeding your family as well as you possibly can. The best way to do this is to plan.

Winging it every day just isn’t going to cut it anymore. Not being prepared leads to things that can damage your budget such as ordering a takeaway.

Having a takeaway is fine of course if it’s in your budget – it’s completely up to you – but if you plan for it in your meal plan it will cause you much less stress. And of course – you could always try a homemade takeaway instead!

Make a list of all of the meals that you eat
Most of us tend to eat the same dishes a lot of the time, but writing it down will help you with filling in your meal planner.

Writing out every meal that you tend to have is also great for realising if you need to have more variety in your diet and can push you to finding new recipes to try. This happened to me and I tried a new recipe that we had never even eaten before and we loved it!

This is your master recipe list! You could print off/write down and store all of your recipes to keep them to hand.

Work out how many meals you have to plan for
Normally this would be: breakfast, lunch, tea, snacks. But does anyone in your family get school or work lunches for free? Factor all of this into your meal plan as you won’t be buying food for when nobody is there! Or any other differences in meals.

The slow cooker is your friend
So often after working a long, tiring day at work temptation of an easy meal such as a takeaway or eating out at a restaurant, can creep in. This is where the slow cooker comes in. If you don’t have one, I definitely recommend getting one – before buying check with family/friends to see if they have one collecting dust in the cupboard, or check if anyone has put for free on a selling site.

They are reasonably priced though! Before you head off for work you can prepare your meal and turn it on. It will then cook sloooooooowly throughout the course of the day and be ready upon your arrival.

The freezer is your friend, also!
Don’t forget that you can prepare food in advance and freeze it for later. You’ll ideally want to take it out of the freezer to defrost in the morning, and having a meal plan can help you remember to do this! There are so many meals that can be frozen and this will also cut down on food waste.

Look at which days require more effort than others
Some days are more tiring than others, and by looking at your routine it can help you figure out which days to have the quickest preparation meals on.

For example, if you are always exhausted after finishing work on a Friday! I always adjust my meal planning e.g. my daughter has swimming lessons once a week, so we have a quick meal on that day after we get back.

Use meat that you cook more than once
Are there any meals that you cook that you can use the leftovers for another meal? Such as bolognese into a cottage pie. Or roast chicken into a pasta bake.

Look at what you can use the meat for again and pad out with carrots, lentils, oats. Make your meat stretch a bit further! It will save you a lot of money.

Work out your grocery budget
Knowing which meals you are having will enable you to work out which items specifically to buy. Check which items you have already (in particular meat) and this will keep the grocery bill low.

Make sure that you keep a good pantry full of items in case you have a bad money month or two.


Breakfast Ideas:

  • Porridge oats
  • Weetabix with fruit
  • Scrambled eggs
  • Boiled eggs and toast
  • Homemade muesli
  • Pancakes
  • Eggy bread
  • Croissants

Lunch Ideas:

  • Soup and bread
  • Sandwiches
  • Beans on toast
  • Scrambled eggs on toast
  • Pizza
  • Omelette
  • Muffins
  • Fruit smoothie

Tea Ideas:

  • Tacos
  • Fajitas
  • Sausage and mash
  • Thai green curry
  • Lasagne
  • Pasta bake
  • Spaghetti bolognese
  • Chilli
  • Steak and chips
  • Roast dinner
  • Fish cakes
  • Homemade curry
  • Jacket potato with filling of your choosing
  • Cottage or shepherds pie
  • Risotto
  • Meatballs
  • Burger and chips
  • Toad in the hole
  • Stir-fry
  • Beans on toast or similar
  • Fish pie
  • BBQ ribs
  • Pulled pork
  • Ham, egg & chips
  • Spaghetti carbonara

Dessert/Snack Ideas

  • Flapjacks
  • Cookies
  • Cupcakes
  • Apple crumble
  • Cheesecake
  • Bread pudding
  • Banana and custard
  • Chocolate cornflake cakes
  • Rice crispie cakes
  • Jelly and icecream
  • Chocolate brownies

Don’t forget that you can use stores such as Approved Food to get store cupboard items for really cheap.

Does anyone meal plan? I would love to hear your cheap meal ideas in the comments below!

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