Meal Planning around Specials can be quite daunting at first, especially if you feel that you wouldn’t know where to start or what meals to plan for! Here are a few meal planning ideas to help you with that.

The easiest way to start, though, is to make a list of breakfast, snack, lunch and dinner options that your family likes, and that you know are healthy, affordable and can be rotated as needed. As you begin preparing your lists, ask your family members to contribute.

Next, do you have a stock of tried and tested recipes? Use it! I know I do, and this always helps when it comes to meal planning ideas. In fact, I write down all our favourite recipes in my Recipe Book which is still hand-written! I also stash recipes that I come across in cookbooks and magazines for future use in my Recipes Binder, as well as any recipes which I get from my mom or my friends. This way, I am always covered.

And if you don’t have a recipe book or file of your own? No problem. It’s never too late to start. I prefer to keep a hand-written Recipe Book and Recipes Binder as it’s so easy to flip through the pages and refer to the recipe as I go along. I actually find it quite difficult and messy when I have to scroll down on my phone with sticky fingers as I cook or bake if I am using a recipe I found online!

Keep your Recipe Book or Recipes Binder, and your meals ideas lists, handy and refer to these as you meal plan around specials each month. If you find a vegetable, or protein – meat – for example, that you don’t often cook with and you’re not sure what meals to prepare, do a search online and see what comes up! Or checkout my Thrifty Recipes section for some budget meals recipes and ideas.

For now, to help you get started with meal planning around specials, here are a few helpful ideas for breakfast, lunch, snacks and dinner that we usually rely on.


Our breakfast list includes low-GI oats (I avoid cereals because of the high sugar content in many although I do occasionally buy plain Cornflakes or Weetbix), homemade bread or the store bought low-GI loaves, eggs, marmalade, muesli and fruit, milk or yoghurt.

Mid-Morning/Afternoon Snacks

I also like to keep a list of snacks options which are relatively healthy and affordable. For us, snacks always include fruit (preferably fruit that doesn’t have such a high sugar content like apples and oranges and I avoid dried fruit because of the concentrated sugar content) and plain yoghurt.

I also consider options such as good old-fashioned popcorn (not the microwave type), crackers and cream cheese, boiled eggs, Provita/Ryevita slices, tuna, biltong and other cold meats, rusks and peanuts (which are much cheaper than any other type of nuts), avocados, tomatoes, etc.

We try and stay away from chips (crisps), Nik-Nax, Corn curls, Tortilla chips and the like. This is not to say we never buy those – we do, but only as a treat!


Dinner is pretty much our main meal of the day and when I meal plan for our dinners, I use our list of favourite meals and often rotate those to make sure we don’t get tired of any one meal! I make sure that we have a combination of protein – the meats – as well as staples (rice, pasta, noodles, pap or potatoes) and vegetables.

I rely on my tried and tested recipes (you can find some of our favourite recipes in my Thrifty Recipes archives) but I also like to try new recipes all the time! My mom and my friends are usually my first port of call when I get stuck for ideas. Then I will look through my Recipes Binder and finally, I will search online for recipes with ingredients that are on special this month. Or if all else fails, I will get creative in the kitchen!


I usually don’t have a separate list of lunch options as we normally have leftovers from the night before for lunch the next day. If there aren’t any leftovers (which hardly ever happens for us though) I will then resort to packing a light lunch which gets chosen from our list of savoury snacks or I will use some of those options such as eggs, biltong, cheese, tuna, vegetables etc. to make sandwiches.

Consider subscribing to my weekly newsletter now to receive your FREE copy of affordable and easy 20 Sandwich Ideas on a Budget. For us, this is an absolute life-saver on the days when there are no leftovers to pack.

Happy Frugal Meal Planning!

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