Reverse Meal Planning – How I Save A Ton On Groceries By Reverse Meal Planning!

Have you tried reverse meal planning? Learn how I use reverse meal planning to make a HUGE dent in our weekly grocery budget without having to clip coupons!

Over the past several years, I have discussed here on FFF how I truly feel that the “secret” to saving money on groceries is meal planning. Meal planning can make an enormous difference in your grocery budget.

The difference between walking into my local grocery store with a list and without a list is absolutely measurable. I spend so much more money if I walk in without a plan!

Meal planning in general is one of those tasks that can initially seem super challenging, but once you get into a flow and have a few weeks of plans under your belt, it can become incredibly effortless. OR, you can also just outsource meal planning to a service like eMeals, Eat at Home, Six Sisters, etc.

Even though I do find meal planning to be a huge money saver, the biggest money saver I have found regarding grocery shopping is REVERSE Meal Planning! Oh, and I RARELY use coupons when I reverse menu plan…only if they are right there next to the product and stupid easy to grab!

Click to purchase on Amazon!

Oh gosh, what is this fanciness you might be asking?

Reverse Meal Planning is not for everyone.

Reverse meal planning might not be for you if you don’t have:  

Time – It involves shopping multiple stores, or at least going to one store more often than you would typically go grocery shopping.

A lack of brand/store loyalty – If you REFUSE to give up your favorite brand, or maybe you have specific dietary needs so you CAN’T buy just any kind pasta, etc this might not be the form of meal planning for you.

Creativity – Okay, you don’t need a ton of creativity, but some weeks you might only find foods on sale that are not in your typical wheelhouse! You need to be okay with hopping on to AllRecipes or Pinterest and finding a recipe for something that is potentially outside your family’s typical rotation.

Storage – If you don’t have a lot of storage for both perishables/non perishables, this might not be the meal planning option for you. However, you CAN do Reverse Meal Planning without a lot of storage, but you likely will not be able to build up too much of a stockpile which means you will have to be very inventive in the kitchen from week to week as you will have less of an arsenal to pull ingredients from.

Okay, now that we have established who Reverse Meal Planning is NOT for…

Reverse Meal Planning might be for you if: 

  1. You don’t mind stopping by Kroger on your way home. HEB once over the weekend. Aldi a few times a month. Checking the store ads at Walmart/Target/Amazon Subscribe & Save/insert other grocery store here. You will go to the grocery store more often with reverse meal planning.
  2. You enjoy being a bit creative in the kitchen!
  3. You have room to store extra items for when you find a good deal and you are able to stock up!

You Still Want To Give Reverse Meal Planning A Shot? 

Well, here goes…first off, you walk into the store without a list.

Are you shocked? Are you wondering why I just harped on always entering a grocery store with a LIST above and now I’m telling you to walk into a grocery store without a list?

Are you concerned I am going crazy?

Here’s the thing, Reverse Meal Planning is about creating your meal plans based on what is on sale and what you have in your pantry/fridge/deep freezer.

The longer you Reverse Meal Plan, and the more you build your stockpile, the more money you will save!

How to Reverse Meal Plan

First off, you’ll walk into your local grocery store and raid the markdowns! Look for the loss leaders (the top half of the store ad is usually the loss leaders. These are the items that your grocery store is selling for dirt cheap to get you in the door in the hopes that the rest of your cart will be filled with full priced items).

My biggest hint is to look for Manager’s Specials in the meat department. 90% of the proteins I bring into our home are either on sale or Manager’s Specials that are 25-75% off the retail price! Use good judgement here, if the meat already looks iffy…it won’t get better looking at home. I ONLY buy markdowns if they look just as good as the full priced meat.

Often these proteins are so deeply discounted only because they are close to their “sell by” date.

Guess what though? I have a deep freezer! I package all of these proteins in freezer friendly bags and write the date on them ( has a great chart for how long items can stay refrigerated/in a typical freezer/in a deep freezer).

Then I scan the rest of the store for good deals. The signage for markdowns in most stores is generally pretty clear. You can usually whiz down aisles pretty quickly and the markdowns will stand out.

You HAVE to be able to resist impulse purchases. Adopt the motto, if it’s not marked down…it does not go in my cart! 

Do this at as many local stores as you have access/time to visit. At first, you’ll still have to menu plan a bit traditionally.

I recommend trying to use Week 1 and Week 2 of Reverse Meal Planning as “clean out the pantry/fridge” weeks. As you gradually build your stockpile, you will be able to menu plan based on what you have on hand. You will rarely be shopping for THIS week’s groceries each week. 

Instead, this week’s grocery shopping trip will be for fresh produce (on sale if possible), fresh dairy for your family and finding markdowns to stockpile for future menus. You will also likely have to buy a few items here and there to flesh out your meal plan.

For instance: 

I might have a dinner of pork chops (found on markdown and frozen a couple of weeks ago), mashed cauliflower (frozen bag of cauliflower found on sale about a month ago and stashed into my deep freezer) and a spinach salad planned for dinner one night this week.

This week, I will put a bag of spinach for my spinach salad on my grocery list, but otherwise, everything else for this meal I already have on hand!

Reverse meal planning will not be for everyone. It requires time and effort. There are many other alternatives to reverse menu planning that will also save you money and cut down on your grocery bill. I encourage you to give it a shot though. Or do a hybrid!

Leave a couple of days of the week unplanned until after you grocery shop. Use your grocery store markdown finds to play your own personal version of Chopped based on what you find.

Do you reverse meal plan? Are you considering it? Comment below and let me know what you think!

How to Feed Your Family on a Budget During Busy Sports Seasons!

Are you a sports mom? Here are some great ideas for how to feed your family on a budget during busy sports seasons! These budget tips are not just for traveling sports moms, these money saving tips will work for all busy families that are on a budget!

Does spring mean weekends spent at the ball park watching your little softball/baseball player play anywhere from 4-10 games in 3 days?

Does the fall mean early mornings at the soccer field followed by running across town to watch another child play in their fall flag football league?

Are weeknights filled with dividing and conquering while this kid needs to be at this practice at 5:30, but this kid needs to be across town at that practice at 5:45 (oh and those two locations are conveniently 20 minutes apart)?

If so, you might be a sports mom! Welcome to the world of being your child’s biggest cheerleader, chauffeur, stain fighter, etc! The days might be long, but the years will go by fast, so soak up every moment!

Have you seen that meme? The one that says, well it’s baseball season! So we’re either having dinner at 4pm or 10pm.

That’s real life y’all!

Unfortunately, if you are a ball-er (haha) on a budget, busy sports seasons can wreak havoc on your budget. Concession stand dinners, quick trips through the drive through, etc. can really add up!

Here are some tips to get through busy sports seasons on a budget:

Meal Plan

First off, the obvious…meal plan! I suggest you read these 2 posts about how to meal plan here on FFF:

Meal planning is essential if you want to really cut down your grocery bill and it is SUPER important if you have a busy schedule.

Meal planning can be as simple as designating each day of the week to a specific food “theme”:

Monday – Italian

Tuesday – Tacos/Mexican

Wednesday – Slow Cooker Meal

Thursday – Soup & Sandwiches

Friday – Pizza Night

Saturday – Eat Out

Sunday – Leftovers

Or, whatever works best for your family!

OR, you can opt to meal plan using an app like Cozi (I have a full review of the Cozi Family Calendar, we LOVE it and this is personally where I do my meal planning and keep my online recipe box!).

In addition, you might consider letting a meal planning service like eMeals do all the hard work for you! They have options for 30 minute meals, slow cooker meals, kid friendly and just about every dietary/nutrtional need your family might have (including Keto, Diabetic, Paleo, Vegan, Vegetarian, Gluten Free and more!)

Regardless of what you utilize to meal plan, the key will be syncing up your meals with the reality of your evening plans. If you have 2 back to back games from 4-7pm, you are pretty much stuck eating dinner VERY early or VERY late. In this case, a slow cooker meal might be most realistic for this day.

Or this might be a day that you pack sandwiches and chips in a cooler and take it to the ball park with you.

This is actually why I love using Cozi to plan our meals. I can see the meal plan right next to the actual events of the day/night and I can get a good picture at how realistic the meals are for that day all in one screen. I also utilize eMeals for meal ideas, so you could say I use a combination of all of the above techniques!

Action Tip: Start meal planning today!

Use your slow cooker/instant pot

I actually have a Ninja Foodi AND an Instant Pot. Both of these can pressure cook and slow cook food for me. Honestly, I find myself doing pressure cooking more often because it just works better for my schedule/family.

However, even if you just have a slow cooker, this can totally save your budget during busy sports seasons! These salsa chicken bowls are SO easy and can also be portable if you  need them to be! This crack chicken travels well as well (and is low carb and keto friendly!).

Slow cookers are great for when your family all needs to eat at different times. You can just pop something in the slow cooker and leave directions for serving so dad can feed the first shift of kids while you feed the second shift while you divide and conquer!

Action Tip: Check out these awesome Instant Pot/Slow Cooker/Ninja Foodi recipes I have posted here on FFF!

Avoid Concession Stand Trips By Having Fun & Filling Snacks on Hand

My kids LOVE LOVE LOVE going to the concession stand! I can’t say that we completely ban concession stand trips. Truthfully, for most leagues, these concession stands are actually fundraisers. So we do try to buy a little something every now and again (and usually, the prices at kids sports activities for a small treat are not bad at all).

However, one of my biggest tips is that mom’s bag of snacks should be a bit more exciting than anything the concession stand has to offer. Snacks that are fun (and different from what they get at home) and snacks that are power packed and filling for your little athlete!

Having a good arsenal of snacks on hand offers you an alternative when your kid is begging for the foot long pixie stick from the concession stand.

Some things I like to pack (especially for something like a swim meet or day long tournament!):

    • hardboiled eggs
    • jerky
    • fruit
    • nuts
    • cheese and meat
    • sunflower seeds or pistachios or almonds
    • gum
    • waters and gatorades
    • chips

Action Tip: Sit down with your kids and write out a list of what snacks they would love for you have on hand. Come to an agreement that if you stock these snacks, that they will only access them when you are on the go and that they will NOT ask for concession stand money!

Utilize containers for meals on the go

This ties into the meal planning and the snacks above. If you are going to be bringing sandwiches or cut fruit to the ball field, you need to have good quality containers to lug back and forth! You also probably don’t want to use your best tupperware though because let’s just be honest, something is going to end up left in the car for a few weeks until you start smelling something funny at some point!

Here are some good quality economical options you might consider:

In addition, if you live in Texas and have an HEB, they have GREAT containers that are very sturdy and inexpensive!

Action Tip: Now is a great opportunity to see what you already have on hand in your reusable container inventory. Pull it all out and see what still looks good, what might have cracks or what doesn’t have a lid. Set aside the containers you are willing to take to the ball field and put the ones that you really only want to use in house for leftovers in a separate place.

Invest in a cooler bag

I think most of us with children own a cooler. A cooler bag can really save the day though for keeping drinks/fruits/other items cold without having to lug your giant cooler to and from the ballpark.

You might consider a smaller rolling cooler if you think a cooler bag might end up being too heavy to carry around though.

We had one like this and it worked great!

Action Tip: If you don’t already have a cooler bag or small soft side roller cooler, start shopping around!

Get to know the kids eat free days and dollar menus at local restaurants

Let’s just be honest…sometimes you are going to have to eat out. It will just be inevitable! Maybe you didn’t have much faith your team would make it to the last round of the tournament and now you have only 30 minutes between games and no time to run home and eat dinner. Maybe you had a tough day at work and rushing to get everyone fed before getting everyone dressed and to practice might just be the straw that breaks YOUR back.

Sometimes you need to grab food on the go. This is okay! I suggest having a good list of what days kids eat free in your area. In addition, remember that the WHOLE meal does not need to be drive through. You can use some of your snacks (like chips and fruit) and then drive through the nearest fast food place to pick up some dollar menu cheeseburgers.

Action Tip: Grab your phone and make a list of what restaurants in your area have kids free days. Also note which fast food joint has options on their dollar menu that will be a good fit for your whole family.

The key to saving money during busy sports seasons and/or your busy everyday life comes down to planning. The death of your food budget (and some would say your diet too!) will always be impulse food decisions.

When you have a plan (even if that plan does include eating out), you will feel more in control and less stressed about what you are spending and what food your family is eating even when your schedule involves multiple extracurricular activities with multiple children every single night of the week!

What are some of your tips for feeding your family on a budget during busy sports seasons?

eMeals – 2 Week Free Trial Plus Brand New Weekly Meal Plans for Every Budget/Lifestyle!

I’ve always been a huge champion of meal planning for financial reasons. When I don’t meal plan, my grocery bill proves it. Another great reason to meal plan though is for health and nutrition!

I have written about eMeals several times before, but I wanted to circle back and bring their awesome meal planning service in front of you once again.

You see, they have a meal plan for every budget and for every lifestyle. One of the reasons I love eMeals is that no matter what plan I’m following or what kind of budget I’m working with, I know that anything I make from an eMeals menu will be tasty and my family will love it. (my husband also loves to cook eMeals!)

They have recently launched a few new plans, so if you have looked in the past, and have not found something that works for your family, you might check these great plans out now:

That’s not even close to all of the plans that they offer though.

Go check it out for yourself. New members can snag a FREE 2 week trial right now! Sign up here for your free trial.


Meal Planning Made Easy: Join Food on the Table for FREE!

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Enjoy meal planning made easy!


Recipe Ideas: Enchilada Casserole, Easy Weeknight Lasagna & More!

While you work on your meal plan for next week (read why I think a meal plan is super important here), check out some of these great recipes (these are just a fraction of the recipes available on Family Friendly Frugality and our new sister site A Southern Mom!)

Here are just a few:

Freezer Burritos

Cheddar Bacon Ranch Pull Apart Bread Recipe

A Healthier Flash Fried Chicken Recipe (Really)
Frugal Recipe: Chicken, Bacon, & Cheese Stuffed Pastry
Frugal Recipe: Skinless Chicken Thighs With Red Wine Vinegar
Frugal Recipes: Easy Weeknight Lasagna-Yes, Really.
Enchilada Casserole

Chocolate Chip Oatmeal Cookies Recipe

So tell me, what’s on your meal plan for the week? 

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Food on the Table is an online service designed to help families eat better and save money at the grocery store. We take the sales at your local grocery store and your family’s food preferences to create a meal plan based on kid-friendly recipes hand picked by our chefs. Then, we send you to the store with a printable grocery list that can also be viewed on your smart phone.

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