Meal planning is the art (or chore, for some, ha!) of simply planning your meals ahead. Typical meal planning would occur before you go grocery shopping. Backwards meal planning is a technique that helps you keep costs down and I’m going to show you the best way to do it.

There are so many different methods and frequencies of meal planning. You can meal plan for the week ahead, for the month ahead, or you can even plan for an entire quarter with the Capsule Pantry method.

If you’re backwards meal planning, however, you’d be weekly meal planning. This isn’t always the simplest way to meal plan (you know how much I love simple!) but it can be very cost-effective.

What is backwards meal planning?

Also known as reverse meal planning, it’s basically when you shop first then plan your meals. The process goes like this:

  1. Take a quick inventory of what you already have
  2. Look at your grocery flyers
  3. Make a grocery list
  4. Find meals to make with those ingredients

This is a simple and cheap way to meal plan for sure – especially if you tend to make the same things or use Theme Nights for your meal planning routine.

You need to stay flexible and have basic cooking skills to maybe swap out chicken breasts for pork chops in a recipe, or rice for pasta.

Tips for Meal Planning on a Budget

Make a Grocery Budget

How much should you spend on groceries? You need to know what your grocery budget is before you can save. If you’re not sure, walk through my Grocery Budget Worksheet and calculate your number.

FREE Grocery budget worksheet meal planning

Shop your pantry and freezer

Take a quick inventory of what you already have and come up with some dinner ideas for those ingredients. If you keep a detailed inventory updated, this will be even easier. You can print out the Kitchen Inventory sheet from the Freebie Library and laminate it (or put it in a sheet protector) to easily keep your items organized.

Shop the front page of the sales flyer

The sales on the front page are often sales that don’t make the store any money. They’re there to pull you in so you’ll buy other things. If you shop the specials on the front page of flyer, you’re most likely getting an awesome deal.

Utilize your freezer like a tool

Keep your freezer organized and use it to stock up on those meat or seafood specials from the front page. Then you’ll always have your main protein on hand (that you got at the best price!) and can meal plan from there.

PRO-TIP: Keep your freezer stocked with some crockpot freezer meals for those meal planning emergencies

Keep a Price Book

If you’re keeping track of what items cost, you’ll be able to spot an especially good deal. For example, I can usually find chicken breasts on sale for 1.99/lb but when I see them for 1.69/lb I know that’s a stock up price. And alternately, if a flyer has them for $2.19/lb I know to ignore it even though it’s on the front page.

Stay out of the store

Take advantage of all the shop online retailers, like Thrive Market, or grocery pick-up services like Walmart Grocery Pickup. Yes, there may be a small fee, but you’ll save that by staying out of the store!

Find recipes for ingredients you have

This may be the tricky part, yes? I highly suggest using Theme Nights to keep your meal planning super simple. But still, fresh ideas may not be springing up constantly and Pinterest is a deep pit of recipes that you can get lost in. I have a few different Ultimate Theme Night lists that are perfect for finding recipes when you already have the ingredients. Pick your favorite now.

So, what do you think of Backwards Meal planning? Is this something you already do – or maybe a combination of backwards and typical meal planning? Either way, meal planning is an awesome way to lower your grocery costs!

FREE Grocery budget worksheet meal planning

Backwards meal planning save money on groceries overlay food cutting board