Meal Planning 101: The Repeat Ingredients Tactic


I like having extra time to do the things I enjoy. I also like having extra money to do the things I enjoy. You too? Great.

One easy way to increase time, money and happiness is to follow what I like to call, The Repeat Ingredients Tactic.

If you’re a subscriber to my meal planning program, Balanced Keto, then you know that I love using this tactic in our plans to keep things simple, fresh and fun.

Today, I’m sharing the 3-step process with you so that you can practice this simple tactic on your own.

And, if you like these tips, share them with your friends and feel good about helping me grow my business :)

Vegan Creamy Broccoli and Chick-un Casserole (111)

What is The Repeat Ingredients Tactic?

It’s simple.

Select 5 ingredients each week that you’ll use to prepare the majority of your meals. Then prepare these foods in different ways to increase variety while saving time and money.

Step #1: Choosing the Ingredients

I take inventory on the foods that are already in the house. Maybe I have a bag of frozen veggies, a freezer full of salmon fillets or a bunch of mixed greens that need to be used up. Things like oils, nut butters and spices should be taken into consideration. Everything can be used!

Once I’ve got an inventory, I move on to the first step of choosing my ingredients.

I like to separate my choices into 5 buckets and select 1 or 2 ingredients from each bucket. Here are the buckets:

  • Starches: grains (rice, buckwheat, millet, wheat, pasta), breads, potatoes, corn, cereals, etc.
  • Vegetables: bell peppers, carrots, tomatoes, kale, mixed salad greens, zucchini, broccoli, cauliflower, etc.
  • Fats: avocado, nuts, seeds, oils, nut butters
  • Proteins: chicken, hemp, beef, chickpeas, tempeh, black beans, lentils, lamb, salmon, sole, shrimp, etc.
  • Fruits: apples, oranges, bananas, medjool dates, pears, pineapple, strawberries, etc.

For today’s example I’m going to choose buckwheat, kale, bell peppers, avocado, chicken and apples.

Curried Apple and Cauliflower Soup (34)

Step #2: Buying the Ingredients

Bulk is better… which is why this tactic is so powerful! If you focus on just a couple of key ingredients, you’ll be able to get through a lot of your bulk purchases faster than if you just randomly buy bulk goods and have them sit in your pantry for weeks on end.

You’re now shopping with a purpose. And this feels good.

In running with our example ingredients, I buy:

  • 1 pack of buckwheat groats
  • 5 bunches of kale
  • 1 large bag of bell peppers
  • 4 avocados
  • 1 large portion of chicken breasts*
  • 1 large bag of apples*

* these items will last longer than one week so I know they will be part of my repeat ingredients tactic for a couple of weeks.

Remember to use your pantry items to liven up your ingredients. Things like dried spices, nut butters, seeds, nuts, frozen veggies, whatever you have on hand is fair game.

Curried Apple and Cauliflower Soup (24)

Step #3: Methods of Cooking

There are 4 main ways to prepare a quick meal using your repeat ingredients:

  1. Salad: add everything to a bowl with a dressing made of 1 part vinegar, 1 part oil and 1 part dried spices.
  2. Stir-fry: add everything to a skillet and fry with a touch of oil, garlic powder and salt.
  3. Roasted: add everything to a cooking sheet and roast in a 400F oven for 30 minutes. Serve with cooked starch.
  4. Soup or stew: add everything to a pot with vegetable broth. Boil for 30 minutes.

Don’t be afraid to think simply. A slice of avocado with lemon juice and sliced apples is a great simple snack. It uses up your repeat ingredients, is simple, and delicious.

To see this tactic in action, head on over to my meal plan program page and download yourself a free copy of my meal plan program.

(just look for the BIG purple button)

Apple Pie Crackers (13)

And now I give the floor to you… Do you plan your groceries and meals?

If so, what is your process and how long does it take?

I’d love to hear your thoughts and strategies!

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  1. I’m really looking into simplifying!
    With fewer ingredients, how do I make sure I get all my nutrients?

  2. I really love this post. This will completely change the way I think of eating in the future. I’m currently making freezer batches as I’m due a baby but when I get back to making meals from scratch I’m going to remember this. So simple but so effective! I always end up with loads of half used packets of various things. Thank you!

  3. My boyfriend would just LOVE you for this post. He’s always encouraging me to do this hahh. I have a different way of meal planning, which usually involves trying out new recipes every week. Unfortunately, this means lots of new ingredients and an expensive grocery bill :(

  4. Our diet is transitional right now, and planning is becoming more important as we try to incorporate more sprouted foods. Since I am pretty new to making everything from scratch and soaking nuts and seeds and trying new gluten free ingredients I sometimes feel so overwhelmed. Smetimes the pantry is exploding with stuff that has no business being combined with one another. Other times we have all vegetables and no fats, for example. Your website has been my rock during this time, and has inspired me to strive for authentic living. Thank you for sharing this post! I am totally going to use the ‘5 buckets’ the help me plan for what to spend our precious few dollars on, making sure we always have ingredients that go together on hand.

    Thank you for your advice and your positive, fun loving attitude! I find your website so uplifting. You rock!

    • Wow, sprouting… you’re the inspiring one! That’s a ton of work. Good for you for powering on and trying to figure out what fits best for you. Thanks for all of your kind words about my work :)

  5. I love this! I am totally in to efficiency and assemblyline-like methods. In fact I sort of do this every week already except at a lower scale. Except I tend to eat a lot of similar meals during the week. This gives me some ideas in terms of varying things.

    • Well, you’ve come to the right place, Meg! Let me know if you have any questions about the program!

  6. I am an organizer at heart, so meal planning comes naturally and easily to me. However, I’m also a bit of a control freak, so I have to watch it and make sure I’m not planning every meal and snack I will eat from now until next November. :)

    I started weaning myself off of the Need to Control Everything (but especially food-related things) gradually– like leaving one meal open every week for whatever (either cooking at home or trying out a new ethnic restaurant). Over time, I’ve gotten much better at letting things flow, but I still like to have at least a moderate sense of things being orderly and thought through. (Baby steps, right?)

    The Five Ingredient trick sounds like a great idea, though. It strikes a nice balance between having things planned out in advance and leaving room open for creativity and spontaneity. Something to try for sure. Thanks, Leanne! :)

    • Over planning… yes, I struggle with that, too. Sounds like your baby steps are exactly what you need. Good for you for seeing that it was an area you could improve on :)