Menu planning is a great way to make sure that the food does not get thrown out or wasted in your home. You can feed your family great tasting, healthier food and not spend a lot of money in the grocery store by planning out what you should eat each day, buying what is on sale and using coupons.
Need some help getting started with couponing? Check out the “Couponing 101” advice from the Spend Less, Shop More blog.
“Menu Planning 101” from By Rachael is a great resource if you are new to menu planning or just need a quick refresher on how to menu plan your meals to get the most out of your grocery dollars.
In addition to the helpful hints in the “Menu Planning 101” blog, there are a few other tips that will help you keep not only your grocery budget under control, but keep your family from spending too much money on take out, dining out and junk food.
More helpful hints to keep your family from spending too much money on groceries, dining out and take out food:
- Make soup: you can make soup from just about anything. Keep a stash of homemade stocks and broths on hand so that you can whip together any kind of soup for lunch or dinner. Anytime you have leftover chicken, beef, pork or vegetables, package them up, label and date and store in the freezer until you have enough to make soup. Do not be afraid to mix and match meats, broths, and vegetables to create custom soups your family will enjoy.
- Learn to cook the take out/dine out foods your family enjoys: Initially you may have to spend a little bit extra in your grocery budget to get your kitchen supplied with ingredients to make your favorite Asian, Indian, Thai, Italian or French food favorites. Check out locally owned markets that specialize in selling the items you will need to create favorite take out/dine out foods in your own kitchen.
- Keep an online file or a binder with your family’s favorite recipes and menus: If you keep your family’s favorite recipes and menus organized with grocery lists, you will spend a lot less time menu planning and shopping. You can easily put together a menu plan for the week or the month, check the grocery store ads for sales, and then match coupons to those sales.
- Use your crock pot or slow cooker: On days when you know you will be very busy with work or school or errands or all three, plan to cook in the crock pot or slow cooker. Look for easy recipes requiring 6 ingredients or less that you can cook in the crock pot or slow cooker for 8 to 12 hours on low. Unless you will be home in between classes or errands or at lunch time, recipes that require 6 to 8 hours of cook time may not fit into your schedule.
- Make your own snacks: Combine oats cereal, like Cheerios, with raisins and peanuts and roasted almonds. Add some chocolate candies, like M&Ms, for a special treat. Cut cheese into small cubes, cut celery, carrots and bell peppers into strips, peel and cut cucumbers into rounds. Store these items in airtight container s in the refrigerator for easy snacking.
- Make your own junk food: Make homemade chicken fingers and nuggets, potato chips, sweet potato chips, French fries and pizza to satisfy the cravings for junk food. You can even find recipes for healthier alternatives, saving you money and calories.
- Make your own baked goods: Make cookies, brownies, cupcakes, cakes and other sweets from scratch. You can substitute canned pumpkin, applesauce and mashed bananas for oil, and ground flaxseed mixed with oil for eggs, saving money and calories, creating healthier alternatives to store bought goodies.
- Remember that menu planning should not be stressful: Start small, plan out one day’s meals for breakfast, lunch and dinner and then increase your menu planning to your comfort level. Some families enjoy planning out their meals for two weeks or a month at time; some families are more comfortable planning out one week to ten days at a time. Remember that there are no rules when it comes to menu planning, just suggestions. It is important to be flexible when menu planning. If something does not work out one day, make it the next. If you do not feel like having whatever you planned for Monday’s dinner, but feel like having what you planned for Friday’s dinner, just switch them around. The important thing is that you are using up all the groceries you buy, not throwing away food and not spending money in restaurants or on take out food.
- Menu planning 101
- Stock the pantry and cupboards make menu planning easier spend less money
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