The Meal Plan Mind Map: Cut Down on Waste

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meal plan mind map

Spurred on by Suchitra of ‘MomLife‘ and her quest to break the seal on planning weekly meals, I have been brainstorming ways of shortening my shopping list. I’m a big fan of the list in all it’s forms but writing the list usually consists of:

  • What do I fancy for dinner?
  • What do I want for lunch tomorrow?
  • Total mind block about tomorrow’s dinner… Lets have a browse on Pinterest for a recipe…

The trouble with this method is you will end up with a very long list. This means:

  • It gets expensive… really expensive;
  • You will spend far too long in the shop going back and forth, trying to find all the silly ingredients you’ve added to your list from Pinterest;
  • You are guaranteed to miss something, even though you wrote a list;
  • A lot of food will be wasted – Money down the drain, guilt over starving people and global warming.

So… is there a better way? I think so.

Mind Map Before List

Do write a list, I’m not suggesting otherwise, but it’s very difficult to write a good one straight off the top of your head. When you go through teacher training (as I did a few years ago), you are told all about different types of learners and how they best absorb information and skills.

Edited from

Like 65% of the population, I am a visual learner, and therefore a list is not very useful for my brain if I am hoping to purge and make my shopping for the week more efficient. I need something that is going to help me think things through that visually works like my brain does… well maybe a little more organized than my actual brain.

How to Build a Meal Planner Mind Map

  • Start with that something you fancy for dinner. It’s not going to leave your head, you want it. So have it and put it on the list Mind Map by putting the dish name in the centre bubble and each ingredient branched out from it. Tonight, I really fancy Spaghetti Bolognese. I haven’t had it in a while and it’s totally going to hit the spot. meal-planner-mind-map
    The trouble with Bolognese is that is has quite a few ingredients, so my list is already half way down my scrap of paper and I’ve only done one dinner. What we need to do use some of these ingredients in other dishes…
  • Carrots, celery and onion pop out at me… that’s the basis for a stock or soup. I love carrot and coriander soup, easy to make and perfect for lunch. Add it to the mind map and link to the repeated ingredients.
  • You can’t have carrot and coriander soup without a sprinkle of fresh cilantro (that’s coriander leaves if you’re British). But fresh herbs can be expensive and I don’t want the rest of it to go to waste so what can I use it for? Immediately I think of tacos… slow cooked pork, lime pickled onions and plenty of fresh cilantro. Yum, put in on the mind map…
  • This process continues, using ingredients already on the mind map to spark ideas for other meals. Veg Chilli was an easy choice and then I spotted the bell peppers and parmesan. ‘I  bet there’s a good recipe for those two’ I thought… Now I can Pinterest search or Google these ingredients and find something new. I always like one new recipe a week.
  • The mushrooms and parsley sounded like a yummy omelette, and I can also make a frittata with any leftovers that are hanging around the fridge.
  • Although the chicken recipe is a pasta dish, I’m feeling quite carbed up already so opt for some green veg that can double up for our Sunday roast (meat dependent on what looks good while shopping).

So there you have it… I’m pretty much done for the week.


I may have only mapped five meals, but I purposely plan meals that can be made to allow for leftovers. This cuts back on the cooking, reduces waste and obviously cost. I’ve planned my meal week from Wednesday, because I want fresh meat for Sunday and it’s unlikely to last for six days. The recipes are linked – I particularly recommend the Marcella Hazan Bolognese… make it immediately.


Lunch: Mushroom Parsley Omelette
Dinner: Chicken Cacciatore with Green Beans


Lunch: Chicken Cacciatore with Pasta
Dinner: Pork Tacos


Lunch: Pork Tacos
Dinner: Veg Chilli with Rice


Lunch: *Eat Out* (whenever I plan for Saturday it doesn’t get eaten!)
Dinner: Veg Chilli Nachos


Lunch: Carrot and Coriander Soup
Dinner: Roast meat (to be determined) with potatoes, garlic, carrots and green beans.


Lunch: Roast leftovers frittata
Dinner: Spaghetti Bolognese


Lunch: Carrot and Coriander Soup
Dinner: Spaghetti Bolognese

The Cost

Before I give you the total I need to be fair and explain a few things:

  • All meat, milk, eggs and most vegetables I buy organic. Not everything, but nearly everything is organic on my list. Therefore if you shop budget produce it will be cheaper.
  • I haven’t included spices for the recipes I use because we have a big stash already at the house.
  • I haven’t included breakfast in my mind map. Therefore I added  berries, bananas, apples, cereal, yogurt and bread to the list.
  • I haven’t included my daughter’s lunch box. She sometimes eats in-house food at school and sometimes not… it’s complicated so I’ve excluded it for now. I am aware that lunchboxes can get expensive so it’s on my radar for improving my planning.
  • I have skipped a meal on Saturday because we are never in and end up eating out.

So… how much did my weekly shop cost? Food for a week, for a family of five (all be it three of them are littles) came to $168, a great budget for us because we are big food spenders. Last week we spent $244 on groceries but because we weren’t organised we ended up eating $73 of fast food and takeout on top of our usual Saturday lunch out. That’s a whopping $317. If we can stick to the meal plan we will save $149 on last week’s spend… amazing!

The only trouble is, I’ve just realised I’ve got to wait until Monday for my Bolognese… ugh.

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About the author

Katherine is an electrochemist, hiking enthusiast, and family lifestyle blogger. As a mom of three, including twins, she enjoys DIY, travel, and eating good food. British born, Katherine moved to the US in 2014, and now called Las Vegas home.

26 thoughts on “The Meal Plan Mind Map: Cut Down on Waste”

  1. This is brilliant! What a creative way to meal plan and make sure ingredients are used while fresh (especially if you’re buying organic)! I’ve been working on the habit of meal planning this past year. We keep things very simple though because my kids love predictable meals and we’re okay with that. Visiting from #sharingthebloglove

    • Yay, do give it a go! I’ve already found it useful just to know what I’m making. And having the leftovers planned for has helped with the twins’ meals. Nothing worse than suddenly panicking about what to give the twins for lunch! ??

  2. That is really impressive! My husband tends to do the meal planning, but it’s very much about ‘what do we fancy on X day’ – I love the way you can use leftovers and bulk buy other items to save money. I think I need to show him this, as he’s very much a visual person too. Thanks for joining us again at #SharingtheBlogLove

    • The Bull buy is cheaper but it also means less things on the list. If my list is too long I always miss a few things! Thanks for reading 🙂

  3. Such a brilliant idea!! I don’t think we’ll be able to implement this as we do a whole load of sharing cooking and shopping in this house. We live 3 minutes from 2 big supermarkets a co-op and tesco is 8 minutes a away. I’ve been to the shops for just a lemon before because that’s all I needed! So handy!! Thanks for linking up to #familyfun

  4. Wow I am impressed! I have started planning my meals out before I go shopping and have noticed the savings and the ease come meal time – I have never done this though. I don’t know if I am creative enough though. It that saving is not to be ignored. Thanks for sharing at #familyfun

  5. That is very impressive, I can’t believe how much you save! I did get into a really good habit of meal planning and I did find that it saved us money. But it also made my life easier as I knew exactly what I was cooking and didn’t have to panic buy. I really need to get back into it. Thank you for joining us at #SharingtheBlogLove x

  6. This is so clever! What a brilliant way of meal planning. To be honest, I don’t think about what we’re having until I’m at the point of doing the online shop – which is probably why it always ends up costing so much #sharingthebloglove

    • Online shopping can save money but your list can get out of control. I always liked with online shopping that you can browse through and ditch things easily though, it helps reduce the list a little!

  7. I’ve never seen meal planning done like this before. It looks a bit complicated to me, but I’m sure it wouldn’t be once you get the hang of it.
    My hubby has taken over cooking and meal prep since I returned to work and he refuses to do a weekly shop. He prefers to decide on the night and go to the shop. I hate this – what a waste of time and energy! But he’s the one doing it and he makes dinner every night, so I can’t complain really! #SharingTheBlogLove

  8. This is amazing. Brilliant. I’m heading to the store and doing this like RIGHT now. I’m such a visual person too and this will so help me with creating a more efficient list. THANK you for sharing!!! =) #SharingTheBlogLove

  9. Wow! This is a fantastic idea! I am so bad at using up fresh ingredients before they rot. I am for sure going to try this out next time I go shopping. Thanks for sharing!


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