5 Steps for Successful Menu Planning

Creating a menu plan (or meal plan) is simply writing out the meals that you plan to eat over a given time frame. Menu plans are typically weekly or monthly and can be as detailed as every breakfast, lunch, dinner, snack and dessert. Alternatively (and preferably for a newbie), a menu plan can be as simple as a week’s work of dinner menus. Menu planning is a great way to save money, and eat much healthier because it puts YOU in control of what you are consuming. Menu planning can work well regardless of your skill level (if you are willing to learn), and even without using coupons, you can often save over 80% of what you would have spent eating the same meal at a restaurant. If you have never planned your meals for a week, here are some steps to getting started, and TODAY is a great day to begin!

1. Start With What You Have

Do you have a jar of salsa, a package of frozen chicken drumsticks, and half of a box of lasagna noodles in your kitchen right now? Congratulations, that sounds like a great foundation for 3 meals for you and/or your family this week!! Don’t look at the odds and ends of you kitchen as useless. Look at them as money that was already spent, so make them WORK FOR YOU!! With a little planning and effort, those three ingredients can be used in 3 or more healthy meals, such as tacos, veggie lasagna, barbeque chicken,  enchiladas, soups, the list goes on.

2. First Plan to Cook Meals that You are Familiar With

If you are creating your first menu plan, create a simple 5 day Dinner Menu with 3-4 meals you are familiar with. Then add in 1 or 2 simple new meals that you can learn from watching a video online, or from a recipe. Do not attempt to start menu planning with all new recipes and exotic/hard to find ingredients. Start with what you are familiar with and keep it simple. As you get the hang of planning your meals, you can easily add in more elaborate meals.

3. Use Ingredients that Serve Multiple Roles

Menu planning is much smoother (and often less expensive) when you plan meals that share ingredients. You can use spinach in both salad and veggie lasagna, or chicken for both enchiladas and barbeque chicken. It will make planning go much easier, and will help you to avoid having produce that spoils before being used.

4.  Put it On Paper

Set aside time to write out the meals on a calendar or piece of paper that is kept on the fridge. Then write out a grocery list of the items you need to purchase for each recipe. Add on any spices or condiments that you need.

5. Shop & Execute

After you shop for and purchase all of the items on your list for the week, set aside the time to prep your meals for the week. For many people, the weekend is the perfect time to do this because it is often less busy. Thaw any frozen meat that you will cook within 2 days, chop the veggies for the next day (be mindful of what veggies are ok to chop the day before).


Sample Dinner Menu Plan & Grocery List (Family of 2)

Monday’s Dinner Meal:

  • BBQ Chicken with Steamed Corn & Peas, Tossed Salad and Rolls

Grocery Items:
BBQ Sauce
Green Peppers
Green Onion
Shredded Cheese

Tuesday’s Dinner Meal :

  • Veggie Lasagna with Honey Glazed Carrots and Tossed Salad

Additional Grocery Items:


Parmesan Cheese


Tomato Sauce

Wednesday’s Dinner Meal:

  • Pan-Seared Salmon with Steamed Broccoli and Brown Rice

Additional Grocery Items:

Brown Rice


Thursday’s Dinner Meal:

  • Chicken Enchiladas with Mexican Rice

Additional Grocery Items:

Tortilla Shells

Sour Cream

Friday’s Dinner Meal:

  • Tomato Soup, Grilled Cheese & Turkey Sandwich and Salad

Additional Grocery Item:


Sample Grocery List (Prices are approximations):

BBQ Sauce $1.50

Corn $1.00

Peas $1.00

Spinach $2.50

Mushrooms $1.00

Carrots $1.00

Cucumber $1.00

Tomatoes $2.00

Green Peppers $2.00

Green Onion $0.99

Broccoli $2.00

Shredded Cheese $3.50

Croutons $0.99

Rolls $1.00

Zucchini $2.00

Parmesan Cheese $2.50

Oregano $0.99

Tomato Sauce $2.00

Brown Rice $2.00

Salmon $9.99

Tortilla Shells $1.29

Sour Cream $0.99

Turkey $2.00

Total : $45.24

Many people will spend this amount for a dinner out for two people this very weekend, but do you see how far $45 could go with a plan??

Keep In Mind:

Menu planning is not going to be perfect, and there will be days you are exhausted and may simply want to order a pizza! Also, since it is YOUR plan, you can even plan for a “take-out meal” whenever you so choose. The key to menu planning and the motivation for me is the awareness of what we are consuming, the savings is just the icing on the cake.  Just as with anything in life, with practice you will get better and it will get easier. As you master the weekly dinner menu planning and implementation, you can add in plans for lunches, snacks, breakfasts, etc., all according to the needs of you and your family. This can be as basic or complex as you like, the idea is just to start. Leftovers make PERFECT lunches for the next day 🙂 Happy planning, and for more tips, check out Calculate Your Savings available on www.amazon.com today!

What’s on YOUR menu for next week? Please comment below!


Calculate Your Savings and Goddess Vibes are Lizalyn Smith’s important new books.

In Calculate Your Savings, Lizalyn shares the frugal and thrifty strategies that help her get the most out of the food and household products she uses in her home. What sets this book apart from the crowd is that it doesn’t simply list ways to be frugal, it shows you how to determine which of the countless frugal strategies are best for you to put into practice. This book is filled with the tools that she uses, and her experiences in using them. She shows you how you can determine the best ways for you to save money in YOUR home today!

In Goddess Vibes, Lizalyn focuses on empowering women of all ages to allow their femininity to flourish through practical strategies that will help to find balance in home, diet, and body. Femininity and elevated feminine essence are highly coveted attributes that money simply cannot buy. When allowed to thrive, they inspire life, love, and abundance. This book details the roadmap that Lizalyn has taken to create the life of her dreams, and it can transform your life.

Both books are available in e-book and paperback forms on www.amazon.com

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