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Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Frugal 101: Meal Planning

This is another installment in my new series, Frugal 101. You can catch up on previous topics here.

{Given to me by my Aunt Nita. Isn't it adorable?}

When you think of meal planning, what does that term mean to you? Does it make you cringe or light up with joy? For me, meal planning is a part of my weekly routine where I sit down and plan out my family dinners based around what's on sale this week. Here are a few reasons why I love meal planning.

1. It is a simple way to reduce my grocery budget. The most expensive part of a meal starts with the meat. If I randomly select what meals we would like to eat it is almost guaranteed that particular meat is going to be on sale. Instead, I start by opening up the sales flyer and making a list of meals I would like to cook that correspond with the meats on sale this week. I then plan complementary side dishes based on the produce sale items.

2. It saves us from eating out. My trusty list helps me to plan ahead and know exactly how much prep time is needed and if I need to thaw out any ingredients in advance. If I waited until dinner time to pick what we are having, I'm more likely to decide it's too much of a hassle. On busy days, I try to plan crockpot meals so that dinner is waiting on me when I get home rather than the other way around.

3. It helps reduce chaos. This kind of goes with #2 but I love anything to do with planning. I like to consider myself a proactive person. I've learned that it takes twice as long and three times as much $$ to react to any given situation so I like to stay ahead of the game. If I have a list pinned up neatly on my refrigerator then I know exactly what lies ahead of me. It honestly makes our weeks so much easier.

4. It's quick and easy. Seriously, meal planning doesn't take long at all. I sit down with my calendar, a pen/notepad, and the sales ads. Most of the time, I end up doing this standing at my kitchen counter. My typical meal planning session takes less than 10 minutes (sometimes less than 5) and goes a little something like this.
  • I consult my calendar and mark off any days that we have other plans at dinner time (i.e. School Pasta Dinner Fundraiser, Church Social, ect.)
  • I look for days that we have a lot going on and consider crockpot meals or previously cooked freezer meals for those nights.
  • I quickly glance over the sales ads and look for good deals on meat and produce. I put those on my shopping list.
  • I fill in the remaining days with meals that include those sale items as the main ingredients.
For example, let's say that chicken breasts, pot roast, broccoli, potatoes and celery are on sale this week. My meal plans might look like this:

Monday: Cheesy Chicken Broccoli and Rice
Tuesday: Pot Roast with Carrots and Potatoes (CrockPot)
Wednesday: Buffalo Chicken Soup (includes Celery)
Thursday: Beef BBQ sandwiches (left over Pot Roast)
Friday: Loaded Potato Soup
Saturday: Dinner with In-Laws
Sunday: Chicken Tortillas

See? There is plenty of variety there, it didn't take long and I am ready to go for the week.
Come back tomorrow and I will share one of my favorite sources for recipes. Soon, I will be sharing some of my own favorite recipes (like the ones above) with you.

Meal planning can help you to reduce your grocery budget without ever clipping a coupon. This technique alone can save you 30% or more.

Bottom line is this, if pork chops aren't on sale this week... don't eat pork chops! Got it?

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1 comment:

April E said...

Meal planning is the easiest and simpliest way to start cutting costs! And don't forget to consult your stock pile for side dishes!