Meal-planning Motivation

This article was originally published in March 2014

Save money

Planning ahead lets you take advantage of weekly specials or peak-season ingredients that are likely to be available at a great price. The other advantage is that planned meals are likely to be home-cooked, which are almost always less expensive than either takeout or prepackaged meals.

Look for great value

Sticking to your food budget can be a balancing act. Going meatless once each week or stocking up when household favorites go on sale can help make some dollars available for treats even when money is tight. PCC’s Market Specials newsletter is delivered via email twice each month; sign up at


Organize your list

Heading to the store with a well-planned, complete list is a huge efficiency boost and will help you avoid impulse purchases. The most annoying habit is scribbling out a list without going over it at least once — you’re almost sure to forget at least one key ingredient.

Save time

If you routinely shop at the same location, arranging your list by how the store is laid out is an easy way to avoid backtracking. There are seemingly endless grocery list apps, or try PCC’s online shopping list tool, which works equally well with mobile phones or your computer and coordinates with our recipes and Market Specials:


Collect opinions

Every household has its staple recipes, but relying on them too heavily can lead to boredom, along with creating a diet that emphasizes only a few ingredients. Breaking out of your rut can lead to eating a delicious, seasonal variety of foods.

Prevent boredom

If complete meal ideas are impossible for your family to invent on the spot, try focusing on their favorite ingredients. Written down in a place you can easily access, ingredient lists can serve as a great tool for inspiration. If your family is better at planning, try to let everyone choose one meal a week, and get them involved in the cooking, too. If everyone’s in need of ideas, sign up for a free Walk, Talk & Taste class.


Plan for leftovers

An astonishing amount of money can be wasted if you don’t use food efficiently, eating up those half-full packages in the pantry and finishing the lettuce before it wilts. Improve your environmental footprint, too, by tracking what you have on hand.

Prevent waste

No matter how precise you are when shopping, it pays to have a weekly night built around leftovers. If you end up with a full second meal, it’s probably best to freeze the extra rather than slog your way through duplicate dinners in the same week. Just make sure to check your freezer before planning future meals.

Related reading

Drink more tea

I am often asked to list just one simple dietary habit that would benefit everyone’s health, regardless of their current dietary patterns — and my response is almost always to drink more tea.