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paper money on a scale


"Getting money is like digging with a needle;
spending it is like water soaking into sand."

Japanese Proverb


Save Money By Planning Meals

Planning meals in advance avoids waste and allows you to make your family's meals around your freezer meats and weekly specials. Use the tips below to help you become a meal planning guru.

1. To get started on a routine of planning meals, have a set place, your meal planning headquarters, where you keep all of your supplies. This could be either a desk or simply storage box you can tote around and place near the kitchen table. Ideally your meal planning HQ should be somewhere near the kitchen so you can check on your stock of supplies as you make out your plans. Supplies you may want to have with you as you plan your meals include:

  • A set of recipe books. If you don't have your own collection of recipe books, these can be purchased very cheaply at thrift stores and garage sales. Recipes seldom go out of style!

    Try to find at least one basic cookbook and also some titles that focus on economical cooking, such as a book with all different types of ground beef recipes, one on main dish vegetarian recipes and one on healthy and quick meals. You can also download many recipes for free from the Internet.

  • Your personal recipe collection of recipes from friends, families and magazines. Sort them by category and organize them in a binder or on note cards in a recipe box for easy access.

  • The weekly flyers and ads from the grocery store, a list of bargain meat already stored in your freezer, or a list of meat you plan to purchase at warehouse store prices.

  • Your price book, if you have one. (A price book is a chart of your common purchases listed in a binder and marked with the prices of the items at the stores you frequently shop at.)

  • A book with charts of your past meal plans with any notes, such as meals your family especially liked or did not like.

  • Your budget, so you know how much money you have to spend on groceries for the week.

  • Your coupon binder or organizer, if using coupons appeals to you.

2. Since meat is the most expensive part of most families' food budget, it may be helpful to start by planning your dinner meals around the meat dishes.

3. Organizationally, I think it helps to have a set pattern to follow for dinner planning. For example, the list below is a sample two week menu plan:

Week One

Sunday   Roast day
Monday Vegetarian pasta dish
Tuesday Casserole with Sunday's roast leftovers
Wednesday Ground beef night - meat loaf
Thursday Vegetarian bean dish
Friday Home made pizza
Saturday Roast a chicken or turkey

Week Two

Sunday Casserole with leftover chicken or turkey
Monday Baked potato bar night
Tuesday Roast pork
Wednesday Ground beef night - Sloppy Joes
Thursday Casserole with pork leftovers
Friday Home made pizza night
Saturday Eggs / Breakfast at night

You can start with a chart like the one above and then change it as needed to allow for specials and your own family's personal preferences.

4. Plan your menus around meats on that are on special for the week, already purchased and in the freezer, or meat you plan to purchase soon at the local warehouse store. For example, if pork roasts are on sale, check your recipe collection and books for recipes and leftover ideas for roast pork. Next plan a starch, vegetables and side dishes around your main entree.

Then inventory your shelves for supplies on hand, and make a list to buy whatever you need for your planned meals that you don't already have in stock.

5. Next check your coupons to see which ones you may be able to use based on your shopping list.

6. Then use your price book, after factoring in your coupons, to estimate how much your grocery list will cost for this week. If it is over your food budget for the week, you will have to revise your meal plan. Consider such options as using cheaper cuts of meat, eliminating any expensive convenience items, or having more vegetarian meals for the upcoming week.



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