Meal Planning for One: Save Money and Time!


I am 23 years old. I live with a roommate, a dog, and a plant named “Danny”. I have no children or husband, and I am usually living paycheck to paycheck. If this sounds like you; please continue on. If you enjoy my charm and incredible personality; continue on. If you are looking for a way to feed your family of 5 picky eaters; this might not be for you, but you go girl!

If I’m being honest; planning meals for 1 can be harder than it might seem. It is so easy to lose motivation and decide to just eat Chiptole and Lean Cuisines for 4 days straight. It can be hard to find the gumption to grocery shop, cook, and then ultimately mindlessly eat your meal while watching The Mindy Project. I struggled for a long time until I started meal planning.

I want to be VERY clear. I am talking about meal “planning” NOT to be confused with meal “prepping”. The difference? Meal prepping involves making a weeks worth of food on a Sunday evening and then slowly watching it rot in your fridge. Meal planning means sitting down on Sunday and mapping out all of the meals you plan to eat for the week. Then making a grocery list to buy only the things required to make those meals, and finally (the hardest part) following through with it.

Here is an example of what my typical week looks like:

Meal Planning

You might notice that there are still some “Lean Cuisines” on here and that’s okay! What matters is that on Monday morning I won’t be staring into my fridge, running late trying to decide what to grab for lunch. It’s those mornings that usually end with me giving up and grabbing McDonalds (yikes).

But seriously, planning out my week like this has been a total game changer. Coming home after work and knowing exactly what I’m going to make AND knowing that I have all of the ingredients stocked makes my life a breeze. Not only am I saving money by not eating out as much, but I’m also living a healthier life by knowing exactly what is going into my body.

A few tips:

  1. Do not over plan. It’s important to consider leftovers and how much each recipe makes. For me; I usually only really cook 2-3 times per week and the rest of the time enjoy leftovers.
  2. Plan some “easy” meals: for me this usually means either “breakfast for dinner” or some form of pizza. I usually have these ingredients on hand and it is easy to make enough for just 1 serving.
  3. The freezer is your friend: Believe it or not, it is hard to find recipes that only make 2-3 servings. Usually, they make 4-6 servings and a girl can only easy lasagna so many days in a row. Freeze things! For example, whenever I make marinara sauce, I always freeze half of it. This way I always have some on hand for an “easy” meal later, and I’m not wasting any of it.
  4. Be flexible. It’s better to look at your meal planning list as more of a guild line then a set plan.

There is so much pride in making your own food and honestly it will not only save you money but also time! Most of the meals I make can be made in 30 minutes or less; think about how much time you spend in the Panda Express line at 5:30 in the evening!

I hope you are able to try out meal planning and if you have any great meal ideas, please share them with me!

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