Amy Hannold, 247Moms Frugal Living Editor
Good deals can be found with planning, skill and
practice. The same is true for
great meals. To maximize your food
dollar and dollar-stretching efforts, meal planning is essential.
We know that store sales cycles of most products revolve in
12-13 week cycles. Stocking up on
cereal, snacks, etc. should be done, within budget, when those items are on
sale. Use coupons if possible or
enjoy your store brand favorites.
Meat prices also revolve; buy two week’s worth
now, saving on the cost of meat for next week.
Meal planning can be as simple as spending a few minutes
looking at what you have at home, your schedule for the upcoming week, and a
reading of the “Good Deal Alerts” from your favorite stores (found by visiting local money-saving websites). The pre-shopping “Home Review”, as we’ll call it, is a good
first step for those new to planning.
Knowing what you have is the fastest way to see a decrease in your
spending. Everyone should review
their refrigerator, freezer and pantry on a regular basis to avoid wasting
food. Statistics tell us that we
throw away up to 40 percent of the food we purchase – that’s a lot of money
Weekly meal planning doesn’t have to be daunting task. Websites such as Meals4Moms, OrganizedHome.com,
DonnaYoung.org, ChartJungle.com, TheHomeschoolMom.com and others have prepared
printable meal planning sheets.
Some of the websites offer links to files you can customize, then
print. Food manufacturer and online
recipe websites offer you menu planners and/or recipe indexes based on diets,
ingredients you already have, kid preferences, and special occasions.
My favorite printable meal planning tool is the Grocery
List/Meal Planner sheet found at Menus4Moms.com. I print several
for a month of meal planning and efficient grocery shopping.
Here are my meal planning tips for you:
Our schedule determines our meals. I plan to “cook once, eat twice” in between busy family days. Summer means crock-pot meals and the
use of our bbq. Fall and winter
are great for my indoor grill, crock pot and baking. When I buy chicken breasts or pork chops in bulk, I freeze
them in meal-sized amounts with marinade, Italian salad dressing or cream
soups. Marinating as they thaw,
they are ready to toss into the oven or crock-pot. An hour before serving, I add vegetables to the crockpot,
serving the juicy mix over rice or noodles. We love our rice cooker – for breakfast or dinner- rice is
We avoid wasting food by packaging our own “convenience
meals” for my husband’s work meals and my “too busy to eat well” days. We compliment the packaged meals with
divided portions of cream cheese (for bagels), cottage cheese (add pineapple,
pears, or peaches), cheese sticks and hardboiled eggs. Produce is washed and divided into a
few day’s worth of snack-ready bags.
Brownies and cookies are made several batches at a time and divided,
then frozen for long-term storage.
Beans stretch meat in meals and are also the feature of meatless fajitas
When produce is plentiful, I freeze sauces and slices of
fruit for winter delights. Berries
are picked from farms and frozen. Those
goodies are then pie-baking or breakfast-ready. Brown bananas are frozen, and then thawed in the refrigerator
for morning smoothies. Our summer
garden saves us money on herbs and root vegetables.
My children are more interested in the shopping trips, use
of frugal-sense, preparation and eating of meals when I include them in the
process. I find that they each
have their own specialties or elements of the meal process they enjoy
most. Pride, creativity, and a
legacy of family meals grow right along with them. I save money, as they learn to like better food choices and
delight in homemade snacks.
Nutritional Meal Ideas: Find “How To’s”, printables and helpful meal planners at
Labels: Couponing, Frugal Living, Meal Planning, Meal Time