Just starting out with our free meal plans? Start here! Below you'll find helpful information about how they work, what our planning process looks like, and what to expect each week.
🔗 Quicklinks to meal plan info
📧 Weekly meal plans by email
Each weekly meal plan includes a main dish and sides for 5 days (and sometimes a bonus dessert recipe). Sign up below to receive a weekly email with a list of the meals and a link to the recipes and grocery list. You can adjust quantities, check off items you already have, and print your shopping list right from the meal plan page.
To make the most of the meal plans and best understand the accompanying weekly notes, it is helpful to understand the principles that make up the basis of the meal plans.
🔑 6 key meal plan principles
Since the Add Salt & Serve meal plans are specifically created for busy cooks, they feature time-saving recipes and are based on principles that are simple yet effective.
- Keep a stocked pantry/freezer and shop it first, replenishing at the best price
- Incorporate planned leftovers into subsequent meals
- Use quick and easy recipes
- Do as much preparation as possible before mealtime, particularly by keeping prepared ingredients on hand
- Don't repeat prep—combine tasks as much as possible
- Take advantage of tools like slow cookers that require little attention
Let's break each of those principles down to see how they can help you regain control of dinnertime stress while saving time and money.
1. Keep a stocked pantry/freezer and shop it first, replenishing at the best price
Rather than buying each week's groceries as they are needed, you are encouraged to keep a stocked pantry/freezer and "shop" your pantry/freezer first. Your most effective weapon against high grocery prices is to stock up at the lowest price.
Replenishing your pantry/freezer when the items are on sale at the lowest price per unit is where you will see big savings in your grocery bill.
Although we may include reminders for stocking your freezer, you should make an effort to stock up when you find the deepest discounts rather than when we suggest it.
Don't be fooled by sales and discounts—know your best prices so that you buy at the best price rather than what looks like the deepest discount. Keep a price tracker in the cloud if that helps—Google Sheets is easy for this. You can update it at home and easily access it from your phone while shopping.
When trying to save money, weigh the energy spent vs. the benefit received. Shopping at 5 stores with 100 coupons may save the most money, but it comes with a huge cost in time and energy.
Focus on saving 30-40% on more expensive items that you use frequently rather than wasting energy to save 60% on an inexpensive item that you buy once every 6 months.
Comparing prices at 2-3 stores and shopping with a plan to get the best price on the most expensive items gives the most return with a reasonable amount of effort.
2. Incorporate planned leftovers into subsequent meals
Planned leftovers are featured regularly in Add Salt & Serve meal plans. You'll save prep time by using ingredients already available as leftovers from a previous meal or by prepping ingredients for the week together (more on this below). This method also saves money by reducing waste from leftovers that might otherwise be discarded.
If you switch up the order of the meal plan days or substitute recipes, be sure to pay attention to whether a recipe uses leftovers from a previous meal. This will be noted in the table at the beginning of the meal plan post as well as in the notes in the collection where the shopping list is generated.
3. Use quick and easy recipes
The meal plans feature many recipes that do not require a lot of preparation and are quick to prepare. Stovetop meals and grilled recipes are typically in this category.
4. Do as much preparation as possible before mealtime, particularly by keeping prepared ingredients on hand
One of the most important features of Add Salt & Serve meal plans is bulk cooking ingredients for the freezer, and it is how you will save most of your time and money. Why brown 1 pound of ground beef 5 times if you can brown 5 pounds 1 time?
When you find meat, chicken, onions, or green peppers at your target price point, buy in bulk and prep the food for the freezer first – browning, boiling, grilling, sautéing—whatever you prefer. Cooked foods take up less freezer space, so you can fit more in your limited freezer space.
At mealtime, it's quick and easy to quickly put a soup, skillet meal, or casserole on the table when you have eliminated the steps involving chopping and sautéing chicken, beef, and onions.
5. Combine tasks as much as possible
Don't repeat prep. Whether it is preparing your ingredients in bulk for the freezer as mentioned above or looking at your meal plan for the week and combining prep for multiple recipes, you can save time by combining tasks during the week.
6. Take advantage of tools like slow cookers that require little attention
Part of doing preparation before mealtime is making use of tools like slow cookers that allow you to prep for a few minutes in the morning or early afternoon and reap the results when you are tired after a long day. An added advantage of slow cooker recipes is that they are usually easy enough for you to ask a family member to assemble everything in the pot if you are not home when it needs to start cooking.
🧾 Grocery lists and collections
Each meal plan has a custom feature near the bottom of the post where you can create a shopping list based on the meals you plan to cook. You can delete recipes from the collection, change quantities, and check off ingredients that you already have before printing your shopping list.
It's important to note (and there is a reminder on each meal plan page) that adjustments to the quantities in each recipe are not reflected in the shopping list automatically. If you adjust quantities in the recipes, you will need to also adjust them in the "collection" for each meal plan. At that point, the shopping list will be updated for you.
The collection also includes notes for each day's meal and can be printed as a summary for the week.
❓ Still have questions
Ask below or post in our Facebook group, where you can meet other cooks using our meal plans.
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I see on the recipe plans a reference to a group. Do the different groups mean anything?
There are two sets of full year meal plans available on the site. Group 1 and Group 2 are just to indicate which set the meal plan is in for anyone who is following them in order.
Do I need to register and set up a password to start collection/shopping list?
Hi Margie - Yes, free registration is required to use the collections feature. You can find all of the information about the feature by clicking on the Recipe Collections FAQ link above (under Quicklinks to meal plan info).
Lori Ann Mancini
Hello! What an amazing service! I started to homeschool last April and was the worlds' worst kitchen/meal planner. In July, I started planning a month at a time, which I do really like to do now. But I'm not as efficient at it as I need to be. I can tell your plans are exactly what I need to fix the issues I'm having. But I would like to plan out a month at a time. Is that possible with your plans? Thank you!
Hi Lori Ann - Thank you for the kind words. With free registration, you can add our meal plans to your own collections. By adding 4 meal plans to a collection, you would have a month's worth of plans and can create your shopping list from the collection so that it includes all 4 meal plans. More information about recipe collections is here.