This week I am sharing an “I don’t meal plan” meal plan, which this week looks like an “I find inspiration in the clearance meat counter” meal plan.

I have a hard enough time planning the hours of one day (thank you, adult ADHD) let alone meals for a whole week. Often it’s 4pm and I have one hour to come up with something before I have to load everyone up for soccer practice.

Luckily, I live just one mile from the grocery store, so I can quickly pop over and grab ingredients to throw together dinner. Because I am often short on time and don’t have a recipe in mind, I head straight to the clearance meat counter for inspiration. I know most people revolt when they hear this but this can be done right and so far, I have never had it fail me. Also, it helps save a few dollars off my grocery bill.

The rules to shopping from the clearance meat shelf is that you want to first and foremost check the date. I look at when it was packaged, and when it is the “sell by” date, which doesn’t mean that the meat has expired by that date, by the way. It’s just when the store needs to have it off the shelf. With that in mind, I either plan to eat that meat the same day, or freeze it for a meal another day.

Also, just use your judgement, if the meat looks weird, don’t buy it, or ask the butcher. In most stores butchers are super helpful and sometimes they even give me suggestions when I ask them what I should make for dinner. -Erin (who happens to be a professional cake artist and one of our Recipe Recipe Facebook Group moderators).

Related: What’s the difference between “best buy”, “use by” and “sell by”?

How to shop your clearance meat section for your week's meal plan

With only 15 minutes to shop on my way home from work last week, I was thrilled that I found a flank steak in a kalbi marinade sitting right up front in the clearance bin. it was huge… and 50% off! Flank steak is thin, and since it was already marinaded, so I was able to throw it on the grill and have dinner in under 30 minutes. I paired the meat with steamed rice and a side of broccoli that I already had in the fridge. Dinner was done in a snap with no recipe needed.

Related: How to cook a perfect steak

Weekly Meal Plan Ideas: Best Chicken Soup with Rice, Carrots, and Kale Recipe from former SAVEUR editor-in-chief Stacy Adimando

Whole chickens are often on sale or clearance because a lot of people are afraid of what to do with a whole bird. Chicken soup is always a great way to cook a whole chicken especially if you like just throwing everything in one pot and walking away. The Best Chicken Soup with Rice, Carrots, and Kale Recipe by Former SAVEUR editor-in-chief Stacy Adimando is my go to. No one even complains that there is kale!

Related: Easy homemade chicken soup

Sale meat: Don't be afraid! It can save you a lot on your grocery bill.

I love when I find the pre-made seasoned burgers on clearance. At my local store, they are huge and come in packs of 2. I will buy two packs and … make a meatloaf. I use this basic Best Classic Meatloaf recipe from The Wholesome Dish and omit the salt because the patties are already seasoned. Serve with a side of roasted potatoes and a salad.

Weekly Meal Plan Ideas: Instant Pot French Dip sandwiches

Last week, the rump roasts were buy one get one free (which is basically like a clearance). So I grabbed two and put one in the freezer and used the other one to make these Instant Pot French Dip Sandwiches from No. 2 Pencil. This is a fail proof recipe that can be done in the crock pot or the IP.

I checked the bread clearance and found rolls for the sandwiches. Are they stale? Ya, probably, bread does that pretty quick. However, I learned in pastry school you can “unstale” bread once by putting it in a low oven, around 300 degrees for 10 minutes and it returns back to it’s soft fresh nature by redistributing the moisture content back to the outer layer of the bread.

Also, if you plan on toasting the rolls, the stale issue is solved. I also got lucky and found Tillamook provolone slices on clearance. It’s as if this whole meal was just waiting for me right there on the clearance shelf.

Related: Great tips to help you save money on groceries

Weekly Meal Plan Ideas: Shepards Pie from Leftover Potroast from Frugal Hausfrau

If you have leftover roast and dipping sauce, I highly recommend making this Shepard’s Pie from Leftover Roast by Frugal Hausfrau. (Double up your potatoes you serve with the meatloaf earlier in the week to save yourself time). Also, I just love Frugal Hausfrau’s byline: “Recipes so good no-one will know you’re cheap!, which speaks to me.

How to use clearance section veggies for your weekly meal plan

Don’t forget to swing through the produce for clearance produce. We have a rack in my store that bags vegetables and sells them for a dollar. I snagged the freshest looking little organic zucchini that will make a great side for those french dips.

Weekly Meal Plan Ideas: Grandmas-Baked-Eggplant-Parmesan-from the Seasoned Mom

Surprisingly there were also organic eggplants sitting on that shelf and they look great, still firm and no weird spots on them. So obviously I have to make Grandma’s Baked Eggplant Parmesan from The Seasoned Mom. This simplified recipe only takes 15 minutes to prep and is perfect for those busy ‘hurry up we have to get to soccer practice nights”.

Follow our Weekly Meal Plan Ideas for Families board on Pinterest @CoolMomEats for even more ideas!