There are so many reasons to make a weekly meal plan – I can think of at least 27 different benefits and advantages it brings. In particular it saves a lot of money, but there are plenty of other ways it can help you. Here’s why you should start menu planning.
Menu planning is a small investment of time and effort that can bring you seriously big results, as we’re about to see.
Thrifty reasons to make a weekly meal plan
Making a weekly menu plan is the single most effective way to save money on food. I estimate that it saves our household well over £1,000 per year due to a number of different factors. A small amount of work upfront can save you such a lot of money: just a few minutes each week can make a huge difference that more than pays for itself right away.
1. You only buy exactly what you need
The main principle here is that you are only buying what you need, so you aren’t overspending. There are many other extra ways to be thrifty on top of this too, so let’s look at some some more examples.
2. Using leftovers means a shorter shopping list
Making a meal plan gives you the opportunity to use up leftovers and other ingredients that you already have in stock, which means fewer items are going onto your shopping list in the first place.
3. A chance to choose cheaper ingredients
Menu planning allows you to think ahead and choose thrifty recipes with cheaper ingredients.
4. Bulk buying brings costs down
A sensible meal plan lets you bulk buy to cut costs even further, because many ingredients are versatile and can be used in multiple meals.
5. You can batch cook if you want to
A weekly menu gives you the opportunity to do meal prep, slow-cooking and batch cooking, all of which save money, hassle and time in the long run. It also allows you to use up any batch-cooked frozen foods in an organised way.
6. Being organised means fewer takeaways
It also means you’re less likely to be pushed into buying unplanned-for, overpriced takeaway food. Takeaways tend to have over-large portion sizes too, and if you haven’t made it yourself then you don’t really know what’s gone into it.
7. You can make a more efficient shopping list
Once you’ve decided on your meal plan you’ll be able to make a comprehensive and hassle-free shopping list with ease. A smart shopping list means you can do a cost-effective weekly ‘big shop’. You’re also less likely to forget an important ingredient while you’re shopping, which saves both money and hassle.
Your menu plan and the weekly ‘big shop’
8. It makes budgeting so much easier
Doing one big shop makes it easier to keep proper tabs on your spending, so there are fewer dribs and drabs to keep track of and you know what the real bill comes to. It’s easier to set a budget and stick to it, and keep an eye on prices.
9. Calmly look for latest offers and deals
A ‘big shop’ with a list also means you’ll be able take advantage of the most useful multi-buy offers and deals, and pick up everything you actually need in one go. Some offers aren’t as good as they seem, but if you aren’t under pressure you can think it through more easily and pick out the best ones.
10. Less total time spent doing the shopping
A smart shopping list lets you walk around a shop with purpose, sticking only to the aisles and displays that you need, so you can get around the supermarket faster. It’s also quicker if you’re shopping online because you only add what you need, plus there’s the added advantage of putting your ‘regulars’ list into the online basket with one click or having a ‘favourites’ section to browse through at speed.
11. Avoid annoying, expensive top-up shops
Individual top up shops can cost a small fortune. They’re mostly unplanned shopping, and often skew towards panic buying, overpriced ready meals, unhealthy convenience foods, and impulse purchases. Plus you might find yourself dealing with ‘pester power’ if you have other people with you, especially if they’re small children. Yes, an occasional top up shop might be needed from time to time because life happens, but it’s better to keep them to a minimum.
Fuel & environment reasons to make a weekly meal plan
12. Use less petrol, or spend less on taxis or buses
Fuel prices are still relatively high. If you drive to the supermarket, a planned ‘big shop’ means fewer trips during the week so there’s less petrol being wasted.
13. You can plan more energy-saving recipes
If you plan your menu carefully you can also reduce the amount of electricity or gas you use when you’re cooking. For example, if you have an air fryer you can plan all kinds of weekly meals that reduce your utility bills compared to traditional oven-based bakes and roasts.
14. Prevent food waste
Menu planning has yet another positive effect – it greatly reduces food waste. This prevents a significant amount of unneccessary financial outlay and it’s better for the environment too. Win win.
Better quality of life with menu planning
15. You can choose MUCH healthier meals
Once you have the hang of simple menu planning, you can easily tailor it to your lifestyle and that of others in your household. It can be an incredibly powerful tool for health, especially if you’re trying to eat a balanced diet or someone in your home has special dietary requirements.
16. Eat fresh food at its absolute best
You’re reminding yourself to eat things while they’re really fresh and delicious too. That’s the tasty part of reducing food waste.
17. Always something tasty to look forward to
Never underestimate that sense of anticipation you get when you think about having a particular delicious meal. A good menu plan always gives you something enjoyable to look forward to. Mmmmmm.
18. The chance to dig out old family favourites
It’s the perfect opportunity to dust off some family favourites or a personal favourite recipe, even if it’s just pasta pesto. You might like to make it a household activity where everyone gets to choose a meal that they love, or decide on snacks for the week.
19. Rediscover your creative kitchen mojo
You can also get really creative with your recipes if you like. A regular planning session is calmer and quieter, so it’s easier to do a few minutes of concentrated research, instead of jumping from task to task. Less stress, more creative process.
20. No daily ‘what shall I make now?’ worries
It makes cooking time so much more relaxed and generally happier. You already know what’s for dinner tonight, so you don’t need to spend any more time deciding what to cook, hunting down a recipe or running out for ingredients. You just turn up in the kitchen at your chosen time, and calmly get on with making your meal with everything you need at your fingertips.
21. A chance to try something new
It’s the perfect opportunity to try out that interesting new recipe you saw the other day, or to finally make that dish you pinned to a Pinterest board a few months ago. Perhaps you’ll be inspired to follow a couple of new food blogs for different styles of cuisine or healthy eating, or pick up a beautiful looking cookbook or two. Also, this makes your diet more varied, and we all know that’s a good thing.
Wellbeing reasons to make a weekly meal plan
22. Less stress about your food bills
Feeling more organised about meals helps to reduce anxiety at a time when many of us are feeling that our finances are getting away from us. If you aren’t worrying so much about food bills you may well find yourself feeling calmer and happier, or with more brain space to deal with other things.
23. Less stress from last minute rushing about
Life’s so much easier when you aren’t feeling overwhelmed on a daily basis, rushing about trying to decide what’s for dinner at the last minute. It’s harder to pick out a recipe and make thrifty choices when you’re in a rush, which can add to stress. Other people in your household may also benefit from the routine and calm that a meal plan brings.
24. More free time to do as you please
Your time matters too. Being constantly in and out of the supermarket is potentially soul destroying – so why not free yourself up to do something nicer with the time that you save? You could do something fun, or have a rest, or even work on a side hustle (in which case time really is money.)
If you lack confidence and need a little boost to get started, read my article on how to save money with menu planning. It leads you through the whole process in a few simple, easy steps, and contains lots of free resources for extra help and inspiration. You can also grab yourself a free printable menu planner by filling in the box below.
25. Writing it down saves on admin too
Writing your menu plan down and displaying it somewhere prominently also stops people constantly asking you ‘what’s for dinner?‘
The emotional labour of keeping all that planning and responsibility in your head is tiring! With a written menu you can just keep pointing at the fridge door or the kitchen chalkboard or whatever else you use, and they’ll eventually get the message.
26. It stops people helping themselves to important ingredients
If you’re in a multi-person household, an obviously-displayed menu can also reduce the chances of someone going what I call ‘fridge feral‘. This is basically eating without thinking of others and using stuff they shouldn’t because, say, it’s an ingredient needed for tomorrow’s dinner. You might need to negotiate about behaviours or provide extra snacks for a certain person, but it’ll still keep your grocery bills down and save a whole lot of hassle.
27. The perfect reminder for an organised cook
If you’ve written out your menu and stuck it on the fridge, you can have a quick look at it at breakfast time. It’ll remind you to defrost any important ingredients or batch cooked meals, or start cooking at a particular time later. This really helps you to stay organised, even if you’re a bit distracted or busy.
Are you feeling inspired get organised after seeing all these reasons to make a weekly meal plan?
What’s your favourite meal to cook or eat that you’d put first on a menu?