24/7 MOMS

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Transforming Coupon Savings in to Great Meals

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 wasted! (WastedFood.com)
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 deliciously easy.
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 or soups. 
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 ChooseMyPlate.gov

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Anonymous Sia Hills said...

Love these tips, thanks for posting. My favorite is to include your kids in the process. Was listening to my little ones play house the other day and they were cutting coupons to prepare for shopping - they love to be involved in the whole process from figuring out what to buy to cooking and setting the table :)

July 7, 2011 at 9:53 AM  

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