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Hi all, I’m Kelly Whalen, money saving expert and mom of 4. Becky and I spoke about how hard it is to get dinner on the table recently, and I shared the secret to making healthy dinners for the family while saving thousands each year. The best part? It takes so little time you won’t believe it!

A collage of foods with text in the center.

Here’s the scoop. You can create a year-long menu plan for family dinners that will take the guesswork out of meal planning, help you save big, and will only take a little time to put together. I know what you’re thinking-a YEAR?! It’s easier than it sounds.   It really boils down to picking your favorite foods and making them work for you all year round.   Plus- foods that the kids like will make for some happy eating kiddos!

Before I tell you how to do it, I want to share how it got started. Way back in 2012,  I made a resolution to eat more at home to not only save money, but to eat healthier, too. To make it simple I made a year-long meal plan. It took a few hours to put together, but then I was set for the entire year! I occasionally tweaked our meals seasonally, changed it up based on what was on sale, or if I had something that needed to be cooked I could change up the menu. Having a meal plan to rely on without having to think about it at all was (and is) a huge time and sanity saver.food1

I kept myself accountable on my blog, Centsible Life, by posting weekly meal plans and what worked and didn’t. I was honest about when we opted to get takeout or eat out even when it wasn’t in the plan. Even with a lot of travel, fails, and times we relied on takeout we slashed our overall food spending and saved over $4,000 in one year!

How much are we saving now?
I’m happy to say that despite added dietary restrictions due to food allergies, increases in food costs, and kids that are constantly growing (and eat like they have bottomless stomachs) we are now saving on average $6,000 EVERY YEAR.



  • It’s so simple! You simply need 28 meals/recipes (or four weeks worth of meals.)
  • To start you can mark down one day a week to have leftovers. Now you’re already at only 24 meals.
  • Make a list of your family favorites and go from there.  Write down 24 of their favorite meals.
  • You can make it even less by repeating meals every week.  If you always have pizza every Friday, that takes care of another 4 meals every month.  If you always do tacos or Mexican on Tuesdays, that’s 4 more meals-now you only need 16 more meal ideas, because you will continue to repeat it every month.
  • You can find the template for creating your own year-long meal plan at


  • Kelly’s Fun Tip: You can also add in a night for trying out new recipes if you like to try new things.
  • Becky’s Fun Tip… Make that night (to try new things) your “Pinterest Food night” & find a great recipe there that you want to try!
  • Kelly’s Fun Tip: Meals on nights when everyone is busy are simple affairs and we adjust our menu accordingly when soccer season starts.
  • Becky’s Fun Tip:  You can eat out one night a month (I love for this!  Save money eating out – it’s like they are paying you to eat out. 🙂 )
  • Kelly’s Fun Tip: There will inevitably be weeks where you are so busy a PB&J passes as dinner or everyone is sick with the flu and no one wants to eat a thing. Don’t let an off week or a night of takeout throw you off your game. Just head back to the meal plan when you can.IMG_1968

As you can tell it’s not as hard as it sounds! You’ll love how simple it makes meal time!

More posts you might like:

15 dinner recipes for $5 or less

Thanks to Kelly for sharing these tips with us today!
Kelly Whalen is the author and money savvy mom behind Centsible Life. It’s a site that helps women live happier, healthier, and wealthier. There you’ll find tip on everything from frugal fashion to how to keep the kids entertained when they’re off school to menu planning tips. Find her on social media as CentsibleLife or visit

Hi there!

I’m Becky, a former elementary school teacher turned certified child development therapist and blogger. I work at home with my husband and together we are raising (and partially homeschooling) our four children in the Carolinas. I love diet coke, ice cream, and spending time with my family.

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