Meal Plan Your Way to Savings at the Grocery Store

meal plan and budget groceries

“Don’t grocery shop on an empty stomach.”

We’ve all heard this clever advice at some point in time.

It’s especially true if you’re trying to minimize costs in the face of inflation.

Plan-free grocery shopping can lead to mindless, rushed, frantic purchases that increase costs and don’t align with your health and fitness goals.

I’m sure you’ve been there: Your fridge is empty and you’re pressed for time, so you rush to the nearest store and start launching items into the cart. You don’t check the prices at other stores, you don’t consider substituting for sale items, and quantities become a thing of the past. To top it off, you grab a few things from prominent displays you didn’t exactly plan on buying.

The results:

  • You spend more money than intended.
  • You leave with high-calorie “convenient” items you don’t need.
  • Your “anything goes” choices don’t align with your fitness goals.
  • You buy too much food, driving up your costs if it spoils before you eat it, or worse, it will derail your progress and fitness plan if you overeat to avoid waste.

Perhaps better advice would be:

“Don’t grocery shop without a plan.”

Solidifying a plan can lead to choices that support your healthy habits and reflect your budget: no mindless shopping, no food waste, and no overspending.

The best approach to maximize your savings is to meal plan on a month-to-month basis. This tactic might seem daunting at first, but it’s actually quite simple. Build a reusable weekly template, and swap recipes in and out if you prefer variety. Every planned meal is going to help you with your budget.

Having meals set on a calendar allows you to break down your grocery shopping into two manageable blocks: monthly buying and weekly buying.

Monthly Purchases

Frequently used ingredients, should be purchased in bulk at discount stores. This includes but is not limited to; oatmeal, condiments, egg whites (keep an eye on these—they don’t last forever), canned food, frozen vegetables, rice etc. If stored properly, these commonly used items will not perish.

Meat is another great bulk item. If your freezer has enough storage space, package smaller quantities in freezer-safe bags that reflect the meals you’ll make in the month. You will need to plan for the week, as thawing before cooking is a must!! This can be accomplished byplacing the frozen meat onto a plate and placing it in the fridge.

If you have a family member or friend who is on the same nutrition wavelength, there may be opportunities to make larger purchases that reduce prices even further. This is the beauty of building a solid support system. You’ll be able to split the food – and the costs!

Costco and wholesale-club stores are often great places to save money on monthly purchases.


Ketchup at a premium store might cost $4.49 for 1 L. But the exact same ketchup can be found at a wholesale club in a two-pack of 1.25 L containers. The price breaks down to $4 for 1 L, so you’ll save about $1.22 with the bulk buy.

A monthly shopping plan also allows you to take advantage of sales that may arise. In some cases, these savings can be significant.

Boneless, skinless chicken breasts: $12.10 per kg on sale vs $14.31 per kg regular price. That’s more than $2.20 less per kg, so you might save $6-$10 on just one item if you have a meal plan and a little free freezer space.

If you stick to buying items that you need, and never let bulk purchases go to waste…the savings WILL add up.

Weekly Purchases

Fresh, healthy choices often at times do not last anywhere near a month, and we don’t want food to go to waste. The USDA estimated food waste at 30-40 percent of the food supply at a cost of $161 billion in 2010. If you’re throwing food out regularly, you can save a lot of money with proper planning.

Eliminating waste and preserving costs is what makes weekly purchases necessary. If you plan your meals for every week, you can make focused trips to get the required amounts of fresh fruit, vegetables, milk, eggs, etc. This process takes a little trial and error, if anything spoils before you get to it, simply adjust the list so the next haul is spot on.

If you compare prices and clip a few coupons, you can likely find significantly better deals at certain stores. As you get into a rhythm of weekly shopping, you’ll be able to spot peaks and valleys in prices. This may lead to some clever, budget-friendly substitutions. Romaine lettuce is expensive this week but arugula is on sale? Adjust your recipe and save a few bucks…who knows, you might be on the verge of a new delicious discovery!

Weekly shopping on a meal plan, will lead to big savings found in three different places:

  1. You’ll waste less food because you’re buying the right quantities at the right time.
  2. You’ll always have food in the house, losing the temptation to order a $50 pizza because you didn’t plan ahead.
  3. You’ll be able to take advantage of unpublicized sales on items you already need.
meal plan and budget groceries

Plan. Budget. Save

Everything starts with your meal plan. Your monthly and weekly lists will stem from this preparation tactic, and the longer you still with it, the more precise plans you will create.

In other words, you’ll become a “routine machine,” and dial in your budget to build healthy habits and success.

Intimidated by a monthly meal plan? Start small! Plan out the next three days and only the food you need to execute on this. You won’t get the maximum savings of a monthly plan, but you’ll have a reusable “three-day block” to drop into a work-in-progress monthly plan. Eventually, you can build this into a larger plan for healthy eating and cost-cutting.

The key to it all: meal plans and grocery lists.

If you need help matching up healthy eating habits with your fitness goals, you know we’re just a click away. Contact us!