Learn How to Stick to a Meal Plan and your grocery budget! Tips for staying organized, making your meal prep plan easier, and having more control over your eating habits.
Meal planning has revolutionized my kitchen and my organization. (By the way, if you’re new to meal planning, you can check out my original how to meal plan post).
A very short while into meal planning bliss, my husband asked me if we could have “that” instead of “this” for dinner. My answer?
No. I had planned “this” for dinner so we’re eating it.
OUCH! I had left ZERO room for flexibility and I quickly realized that if I didn’t change my attitude and my approach, this meal planning bliss was going to be short-lived.
A dear reader once asked how we “stick” to cooking and eating the meals that I had planned. I gave an answer, but I’ve been marinating on her dilemma ever since.
I’m sure she’s not the only one who has problems sticking to the plan, so I came up with a few suggestions to help keep us all on track.
Benefits of Sticking to a Meal Plan
I’m still enjoying the long-term advantages, but there were benefits that started almost immediately!
- Everyone knew what was for breakfast, lunch, and dinner that night, that week, and even the next week!
- I no longer had to come up with healthy eating dinner ideas at the 4 pm rush hour.
- More food was being eaten and less food was being thrown away, because…
- I planned for leftover nights, and…
- Only what was needed for the healthy meal prep meals I planned were purchased.
6 Tips to Help You Stick to a Meal Plan
How Do I Stay on a Meal Plan?
1 – Remind yourself why you’re meal planning to begin with.
Are you meal planning to save money? To help keep you organized? To avoid food waste? To have better control over your eating habits for losing weight, or eating real healthy foods?
When you feel yourself straying from the plan you’ve created, remind yourself why you have a plan in the first place. What was the “goal” you had in mind when you started?
It takes time for creating a meal plan for health benefits, and hard work to keep it within your budget. Straying from your meal plan too much will cause you to un-do all the time you put into it in the first place.
2 – Prepare for deviation.
“Bean and cheese burritos with Spanish rice and salad” sounds like a delicious recipe that you could easily have one night a week (Hint: Use our favorite beans and rice recipe and make Spanish rice in the Instant Pot). But at the end of week 3, or even at the end of a hard day during week 1, this meal may seem more like a punishment than dinner.
Have a back-up meal ready in the pantry so that when you need to deviate, it’s not the end of the world. We like any one of these. You can always make burritos another night.
3 – Be flexible with your plans.
Your meal plan doesn’t have to be set in stone every single day of the week. If you want the fajitas you have planned in week 3 for dinner tomorrow, make a switcheroo!
If you think rice will go better with your dish instead of pasta, go ahead! In fact, some people plan seven meals for the week, and then each night chooses from that list of meals.
4 – Mix up your meals.
Eating the same meals over and over can be mundane, so if you find yourself not wanting to cook what you planned, cook it for tonight and don’t plan that meal again for a few months.
5 – Cook less.
This sounds opposite to what a “meal plan” requires, but give yourself a break! If you cook every single night of the week for months on end, you’ll get burned out.
Plan a night of the week where everyone feeds themselves. Also, soups are great for making a double batch and freezing so that you don’t have to cook it again later. Cook less at least once a week to motivate yourself to stick with the plan.
6 – Make it harder to stray and easier to follow your meal prep plan.
Shopping once off of a monthly shopping list has the largest impact on whether or not we stay true to the menus I’ve planned. If I’ve already shopped for the month, it’s much harder to stop at the store for additional food… especially since I KNOW I have food in the house for what I’ve planned for dinner.
Another option is to reward yourself at the end of the week if you’ve followed the plan. Plan a super delicious dessert or an inexpensive dinner out as a reward for staying in all week!
Looking for some easy, affordable, real food meal plans?
- One Week Ground Beef Meal Plan
- One Week Aldi Meal Plan
- One Week No-Cook Meal Plan
- One Week Grilling Meal Plan
- Cheap Meals $50/week | 3 Week Real Food Meal Plan
And for the cook that needs easy weekly meal prep recipes for the weekends because of busy weeknights, try our freezer cooking meal plans for easy meal prep:
Dinner on a DimeSubscribe to my newsletter and get instant access to “Dinner on a Dime”: 15+ family-friendly and kid-approved recipes that are quick, cheap and healthy!
What tricks do you use to stick to your meal plan? Or what is the biggest obstacle to cause you to want to stray from your meal plan? Let us know in the comments!
I’m excited to give this a try!
Thrifty Mom in Boise
Great points. I think you have it right. I find flexibility is my most important asset when it comes to meal planning. I love and enjoy all the benefits you have listed as well. Everyone is happy, mostly me!
Nice write-up. I once tried to be very “rigid” with my meal planning – but the kids and husband made it pretty clear that they were going to revolt : )
You’re approach is very similar to mine – it saves so much time and energy – and the kids and husband are now happy !
I usually have about 8 different meals that I can easily make from what I have in the freezer. I usually ask my husband if he has any particular preference. Today will be chicken kabobs instead of chicken fajitas because that is what he wanted. I usually ask him the day before so I don’t have a last minute “surprise”. Makes my life easier. Smile.
Your approach sounds like a great combination of meal planning and spontaneity. A little bit of both worlds to make everyone happy!