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How to plan meals with reusable ingredients

Published April 27, 2022

Grocery prices are rising, so it's important to make the most of your meal plan. Here are some helpful tips for getting the most value out of the ingredients you choose.

There's never been a better time to refine your meal planning process. With the rise of inflation, gas prices at all-time highs, and grocery prices going up, we need to make the most of every dollar.

Meal Planner App is not only here to help simplify the meal planning process, but we also want to help you save money. That's why we put together this simple process for planning to reuse ingredients and save you money.

We've recently been doing this with our own meal plans, and it's been a game changer. Just to make the process really practical, we'll also walk you through a sample meal plan that utilizes this strategy.

Step 1: Start the plan with an ingredient in mind

Sounds simple, and well, it is. Think of an ingredient that you use multiple times a week. At hour house, we eat plenty of chicken. It's rich with protein, and it can be used for several different flavor profiles. You can put it in soup, or wrap it in a tortilla.

It goes with everything!

Bonus round: think of an ingredient that can be used for entrée and in side dishes — like potatoes! Those work as an entrée (baked potatoes) or as a side dish (potato salad).

However, for our sample meal plan, we're stickin’ with chicken!

Step 2: Refer to your meals and recipes that utilize that ingredient

Now that you have an ingredient in mind, refer to your list of meals and recipes to get ideas of what meals you can make with it.

You can do this no matter what meal planning tools you use, whether its a notepad, a handy printout, or our very own Meal Planner App (which we highly recommend 😉).

If you are using Meal Planner App as your online meal planner, you can simply navigate to your meals list (click "meals" in the main navigation), and search your meals for recipes that utilize that ingredient.

Once you have a list of meals and recipes that utilize your reusable ingredient, you can start planning!

Step 3: Build your meal plan around quantity and freshness of the ingredient

Here's the part where it all comes together.

In our sample meal plan, we decided to get a whole, uncooked chicken. We can use the dark meat for chicken pot pie, and the white meat for Tuscan chicken spaghetti and chicken pitas.

Not only that, but we can use the bones to make Instant Pot bone broth that can be used in the chicken pot pie!

Cooked chicken doesn't stay fresh for very long, so to optimize freshness, we'll use it for the first three dinners of the week, starting with Sunday. And since Sunday is not a work day for us, we can take time to roast the chicken in the oven, carve it, use the bones to make bone broth in the Instant Pot, then use the bone broth to make chicken pot pie for dinner.

It's a process, for sure.

But it saves you money!

For dinner Monday, we'll use the breasts for Tuscan chicken spaghetti, a crowd-pleaser at our house. Tuesday's dinner will use whatever meat is left for chicken pita wraps. And we'll have plenty of bone broth left over to freeze or use in our chili later in the week.

For the record, we payed $13 for that chicken and fed all four (solid food-eating) members of the family for three meals, plus leftover bone broth. That makes it just over a dollar per serving. Of course the math isn't perfect because we bought other ingredients, and bone broth requires veggies and spices. But repeating this process can add up to some serious savings.

Our sample meal plan

Here's the breakdown for our sample meal plan, focusing on chicken as our reusable ingredient.

Sunday: Chicken Pot Pie

It all starts with a whole chicken. To prep, we roasted the chicken, then used the bones to make bone broth in the Instant Pot. Then we used the broth and the some of the dark meat from the chicken to make the chicken pot pie.

Monday: Tuscan Chicken Spaghetti

We should have plenty of leftover chicken, so we'll use some of the leftover chicken to make Tuscan chicken spaghetti.

Tuesday: Chicken Pita

We'll have enough leftover chicken for a final meal. We'll season it and reheat it to use in chicken pita wraps along with some veggies and Greek dressing.

Wednesday: Turkey Chili

By now, we have completely used all of the chicken meat, but we still have plenty of bone broth left. We'll use that to fill out the turkey chili. We'll probably still have some leftover that we can either freeze or drink!

Thursday: Chickpea Greek Salad

Bonus round: We have leftover Greek-inspired ingredients from Tuesday's chicken pita dinner. We can make another meal from that, this time with chickpeas as the protein instead of chicken.

Friday and Saturday: TBD

We don't always plan every week perfectly, so we'll see how the rest of the week turns out. We usually take into account what leftovers we have, and we also keep a few staples on hand such as frozen Mandarin Orange chicken and rice.

Here's a screen shot of our sample meal plan from Meal Planner App:

sample meal plan with chicken as reusable ingredient


It can really pay off to put just a little extra effort into your meal plan. If you're already struggling to get started meal planning, we're here to help! Meal Planner App makes it easy for you to store meals and recipes, keep meals organized and categorized, and quickly add meals to your calendar.

Whether you're a seasoned pro or a novice meal planner, we have the tools you need to make your life easier. Try it out risk free for 30 days!

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