A woman cooking.

Meals can be a wonderful part of the day. But if you’re overstretched — either with time or money (or both) — constantly having to figure out what to eat can be exhausting. So, instead of expecting yourself to plan seven lunches and seven dinners every week, make your meal plan work for you with the “cook once and eat twice” method.

Whether you’re cooking for one or for a house full of people, this method only requires some planning, a strategic shopping list and a handful of coupons. Then, you’re on your way toward saving time and money without giving up delicious, home-cooked meals.

Here’s how to execute this savvy meal planning approach.

Map out your meals

The purpose of cook once and eat twice is to cut down the amount of time you’re spending in the kitchen. To accomplish this, admittedly, will require a bit of planning. But the effort it takes to map out your meal prep is far less taxing than the effort it takes to cook two meals every day.

Choose two or three days per week when you have more time to cook (literally add “cooking days” to your calendar). Some people like to plan out their meals one week at a time, while others want to map out the whole month. Whatever your approach, always set aside time to cook first. When you have enough time to dedicate to batch cooking, you can make enough food to cover your meals for noncooking days.

Let’s say you want to plan a week of simplified cooking. Here’s what that might look like:

  • Monday: A cooking day. You roast a big batch of chicken, along with some roasted vegetables and brown rice. You make enough to eat leftovers for lunch the next day. After that, the rice and veggies are gone, but there’s still chicken left.
  • Tuesday: After your leftover lunch, it’s dinner time. The remaining chicken gets tossed into a stir-fry skillet with your favorite sauce, a pack of frozen stir-fry vegetables and a side of cauliflower rice.
  • Wednesday: Maybe you grab lunch with a co-worker, and you eat stir-fry leftovers for dinner.
  • Thursday: Another cooking day. This time you make a beef roast with sweet potatoes and carrots.
  • Friday: The leftover roast can be reheated with your favorite barbeque sauce and turned into a sandwich for lunch. You could then order your favorite takeout for dinner.

Prep your protein and buy staples in bulk

For most people, meat-based dishes require the most planning and prep time. Always prep enough protein for a second (or third!) dish. When your protein is ready ahead of time, most of your meal is done — you just need a side dish or two, like pasta, rice or vegetables. Keep a few of those on hand, so you’re ready to easily throw a meal together.

Save money on your favorite staples by buying them in bulk — that way, you know they’re always around. If your family likes chicken, buy chicken breasts in bulk and freeze them. Side dishes like pasta, rice, lentils and beans are also great to buy in bulk when they’re on sale. They have a long shelf life and are versatile for an endless string of dishes.

Use coupons to add variety

To diversify your doubled-up cooking plan, use sales, coupons and cash back offers for grocery shopping trips. Again, if chicken is your staple, consider all the ways you can use it:

  • Fajitas
  • Stir-fries
  • Casseroles
  • Pot pies
  • Soups
  • Salads
  • Sandwiches and wraps

The possibilities are endless! Make it part of your meal-planning routine to check out all the printable coupons we have to help build variety and interest in what you eat. Or download our app for an even better (and completely paperless) experience, which gives you a wide variety of cash back offers right in your pocket. No printing, no paper — just tap, shop and save by getting cash back in your PayPal. You can even approach it like a “choose your own adventure” and let the available offers decide what sauces, sides or other ingredients you’ll pair with your favorite protein that week.

Not only will you save money, but you might find ingredients you never knew existed — perhaps creating a new love for food and cooking.

Savor savings and delicious meals

It might not be as glamorous as dining out for every meal, but if you’re overwhelmed with work or family, or you’re trying to save money on your food budget, the cook once and eat twice method can have a significant impact on your relationship with food (and your wallet).

In fact, if you can manage to make this method a lifestyle, you may come to celebrate “Leftovers Day” — yes, capitalized, because of how magical it can be to raid the fridge for a cornucopia of delicious, budget-friendly leftovers.

Download the Coupons.com app to find offers that will help you save when you shop for meal prep staples.