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Tips for Saving Money at Meal Time!

on March 28, 2012

About six months ago, I learned about extreme couponing and decided to give it a whirl. I managed to stock pile toothpaste and non-food items for a year in less than three months. I was stuck at that point and went to the library to find a book to learn more. Unfortunately, all I could find was a book by Steve and Annette Economides called Cutting Your Grocery Bill in Half. In small letters it said “without using coupons.” I took the book out (because that was all I could find) thinking they were crazy! But this book opened up a whole new world to me.

I learned that there were many other ways to save money and that you don’t have to use coupons to the extreme. I became interested in other ways to save money and began reading up on the subject. I was surprised by what I found! Most books advocate using coupons as a tool, not as a sport. Here is some of what I learned and found to be true for my family:

  • Meal planning is Essential!
  • Cooking from scratch saves money and is better for you
  • Cooking meals in bulk and freezing them can be a time saver

So let’s begin with meal planning. I’ve graduated from planning once a week to planning two weeks at a time. I take note of what is in my pantry, what’s on sale, and what meals I have prepared in the freezer and create my meal plan from there. Some books I’ve read advocate meal planning for a month. Right now, I’m not at that point (and I don’t know if I ever will be). I plan every two weeks. If you’ve never meal planned, it can seem daunting at first, so start small. Begin planning one week’s worth of meals. Here is a sample meal plan from several weeks ago:

Sunday:               Roasted Chicken, potatoes, carrots

Monday:              Spaghetti (with Sauce in the freezer)

Tuesday:              Cheddar/Broccoli Soup, homemade bread

Wednesday:        Chicken pot pie (using leftover chicken from Sunday)

Thursday:            Swedish Meatballs in the crock pot (using homemade prepared meatballs in freezer)

Friday:                 Pizza

Saturday:             Fettuccine Alfredo with broccoli

These meals are simple and tasty. Start with simple meals and work up from there.

Next, I’ve found that cooking from scratch saves money. It’s also much healthier because you aren’t consuming as many additives and preservatives found in most processed items. It’s easiest to start with simple recipes.  Get a cookbook from the library and try a new recipe every now and then. You will eventually build up a large number of recipes your family enjoys. I know it takes a little more thought and time to cook from scratch but it really is worth the effort.

Finally, I found that having homemade meals in the freezer eliminates that, “I don’t’ feel like cooking so let’s get take out tonight” mentality. There are many books on once a month cooking but honestly, I’m not there.  In fact, I think it would drive me crazy!

So I have a simpler approach. When meat goes on sale (ground beef, chicken, etc) we purchase several pounds and I make meals for the freezer the next day. For example, my favorite freezer meals for chicken include teriyaki chicken for stir fry and herbed chicken.  For ground beef, I make meatballs, hamburger patties, and spaghetti sauce.  Then, I wrap the remaining meat into portions to use for other meals later in the week (or month).

Another suggestion is to make a double or triple portion of dinner one night and you’ll have an extra meal or two to put in the freezer.

These suggestions have helped my family save time and money.   Again, if you’re new to this, start out slow and meal plan for a week.    While you’re becoming used to meal planning, try to cook at least one meal from scratch.  And when you’re ready, try freezing a meal or two.  You’ll love the extra time you have because you’ve pulled a meal from the freezer and very little prep work is involved.





One response to “Tips for Saving Money at Meal Time!

  1. KRISTEN says:

    Great tips, April! Now I just need to start slowly week by week and begin meal planning/shopping. Thanks!

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