A couple sit at the table writing a shopping list

Plan your meals

Planning your meals and preparing a shopping list can save you time and money. It helps at the shops and it makes life a lot easier when you know what’s for dinner and you’ve got all the ingredients you need.


 How you plan meals is up to you. You can start by planning for three dinners or every meal for the whole week.

Top 3 meal planning tips

  1. Think about what meals you’d like to cook for the week ahead and write down the ingredients for each recipe. Check what ingredients can be used in more than one meal, such as mince in spaghetti bolognese one night and tacos another night.
  2. When cooking meals like soups and stews, consider whether you can freeze the extra portions. That way you just need to reheat them for an easy meal another time.
  3. Save the Food Smart pocket guide to seasonal fruits and vegetables so you know what's in season!


Planning your meals has many advantages.

Save money 

If you shop to a list developed from your meal plan you will be less likely to impulse buy or opt for take-away because you will already have everything you need at home. 

Using an app on your phone or asking your smart device to add things to a digital shopping list as you run out can help you avoid feeling overwhelmed and distracted in the supermarket or when shopping online. Or, just write it down the good old-fashioned way – a pen and paper on the kitchen bench or stuck to the fridge will do the trick.

Save time 

Plan your meals like a pro with dishes like stews or casseroles. Use ingredients you can cook once and eat twice such as steak night with baked potatoes turned chunky beef and vegetable pie filling the next day. By planning for two meals with the same ingredients you will spend less time shopping and less time in the kitchen preparing meals.

Freezing leftovers is a great way to ensure you have meals on-hand for those busy weeks. Keep track of what meals are in there by keeping a notepad on the fridge and crossing them off when they have been eaten.

Minimise food waste 

Buying only the food and the quantities you really need is the best way to keep food out of landfill. If you buy too much food you will end up producing food waste. Meal planning means you know exactly what you need and when it will be consumed.

Letting others serve themselves avoids plated food waste. Household members and dinner guests not finishing their meals mean the leftover plate waste is almost certainly thrown away. This also means that everyone is comfortable eating the amount and types of food on their plate which makes for a happy meal.

Reduce stress 

Meal planning takes the stress out of deciding what's for dinner. With a bit of preparation each week you can maximise your time and get the most out of your food purchases. 

People with busy lives find meal planning extremely rewarding as it enables them to spend more time doing activities they like. 

Improve nutrition 

Since the COVID-19 pandemic, there has been more time for people to focus on the origins of their food and think more about their knowledge of food systems and what food is better for them.

Meal planning can help you enjoy a healthy, varied and balanced diet and take better notice of which food groups you are serving and when. Planning your meals with family members can encourage fussy eaters to try different foods.


Useful links

Plan your meals is Step 2 in our free six-step Food Smart online program. If you haven't already, sign up to Food Smart and learn how to love your food and reduce your waste.