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“Roughly one-third of food produced for human consumption is lost or wasted globally, which amounts to 1.3 billion tons per year” (FA0, 2011, p. v). This waste takes place on various levels from production to processing. However, much of the waste comes from us… the consumers.

Have you ever “cleaned” your fridge before a grocery trip? I know I used to. However, over the past year my family has embraced the process of meal planning. As a result, we have cut back significantly on food waste and we have saved thousands of dollars! Our family budget for food used to be almost $900 a month. We now spend $600 a month simply by meal planning. We eat healthier than ever and haven’t compromised on any of our edible “luxuries”.

Here are a few meal planning tips that helped us make this positive change.

Make a budget.
The first thing you should do is determine how much you spend on food and try to come up with a figure less than that. Challenge yourself… you might be surprised at how much you can save!

Take stock of everything in your pantry and refrigerator.
A few minutes before meal planning, take a quick inventory of the food you currently have. Make note of anything that is close to its expiry date and include those items in the first few days of your meal plan. See how many meals you can make with your current food “inventory” before having to do any grocery shopping.

Make your grocery list while you are planning your meals.
If there’s something you’re missing from a meal, immediately add the item to your grocery list (i.e. you have tomatoes, cucumber and peppers to put in a salad but you don’t have lettuce; add lettuce to your grocery list).

Enlist the help of your family members.What does everyone want to eat? Suggestions from children can help spark a refreshing meal idea! Plus, making what people want to eat helps prevent food waste!

Look through cookbooks or your favourite Internet websites for recipe ideas and inspiration.
Make note of any of the recipes you decide to use. The Internet is a fantastic meal planning resource! Check out websites like Super Cook. This fantastic site allows you to enter ingredients (the ones you already have), and then it generates a list of recipes which include those ingredients!

Plan for multiple meals.
Avoid scheduling the same food for too many days in a row. “Overscheduling” the same meals often leads to boredom, which can lead to more food waste. We usually plan for a big supper that will yield leftovers for the following day’s lunch. This makes packing lunches that much easier! The following evening we make a new meal. By scheduling our meals this way, we never eat the same meal on the same day.

Plan your meals all the way up to and including the day of your next scheduled grocery trip.
Avoid random trips to the grocery store by planning your meals for the entire week.

Gather your flyers.
We round up our flyers and select the grocery store that has the best prices for what we have on our list. I involve my oldest daughter during this process and give her some of her own flyers and a calculator. She has a lot of fun “calculating” our groceries and it’s a great opportunity to expose her to some basic mathematical concepts.

Take inventory of your coupons.
We also take an inventory of the coupons we could potentially use on our grocery trip. Reviewing coupons and assessing the prices in flyers could save lots of money!

Don’t forget the list!
You’ve done all this work… don’t forget your list at home. Make sure you always enter the grocery store with a list.

Post your menu plan somewhere visible.
Whether you write your menu on your household calendar or you have a menu board; make sure your menu plan is somewhere visible so that you can stick to your plan! After a year of scribbling out my menu on the family calendar I recently embarked on the project of making my own wipe-off menu board. The instructions to make one of your own can be found HERE. I love that I can dramatically change the look of this menu board simply by changing the background paper!

The simple task of planning meals can make a huge difference in your household food waste and in the amount of money you spend on groceries. Do you meal plan? Do you have any additional tips or suggestions that make your meal planning a success?


Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations. (2011). Global food losses and food waste. Retrieved October 19, 2001 from http://www.fao.org/fileadmin/user_upload/ags/publications/GFL_web.pdf.


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Jennifer Bly
Jennifer Bly
Author of My Kitchen, My Classroom: An Introduction to Homeschool, creator of The Deliberate Mom, and Deliberate Homeschooling. Jennifer writes about parenting, her faith, and life with her husband and two girls. Jennifer has a Bachelor of Applied Human Service Administration Degree with a specialization in Early Learning in Child Care.

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