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Meal plans and grocery lists: a recipe for success

I remember as a kid lying in bed and in the middle of the night hearing my mother on occasions wake up and whisper to my dad “So what are we going to prepare for dinner tomorrow?” It was always on her mind. It didn’t really hit me until my wife and I started making our own meals at home, how much it really sucks when you don’t know what to do for dinner and there’s nothing in the fridge. At this point you’re probably tempted to either run to the grocery store or blow even more cash on a night out at a restaurant. Or you can just…

Plan your meals

Since we started creating our weekly dinner meal plans we’ve saved a great deal of time and money. I must say, there are weeks where we do forget and when we do – we pay for it. We find ourselves scrounging for meals because we didn’t even get the right groceries and throwing out food that we never touched, and for no good reason. Sound familiar?

So we started planning our weekly meals with meal plans and grocery lists and it really helps out a great deal. So, here are some tips to save you money on your groceries simply by using lists. One thing my mother taught me is that grocery stores pretty much do all the meal planning for you. Very true – if broccoli isn’t on sale, chances are, you won’t be buying it this week.

List your plan

  1. Check your fridge/freezer. Before you start your meal plan, know what you have and know what you need. Check your fridge/freezer weekly first and see what meals you can make with what you have.
  2. Plan out your meals for the week. Yes, that means write them down. If you know what you’re having for lunch and dinner every day, it makes shopping for your groceries a breeze. Now, some may say “well, what if I don’t want pasta on Thursday.” Well, don’t have pasta on Thursday. Meal plans are meant to be flexible. If you’re bored of the same meals, create a 2-week plan.
  3. Keep a grocery list on the fridge or on you. If anything runs out, you won’t be surprised and running to the groceries on a growling stomach or be tempted by take-out. Make sure you have your staples: bread, butter, milk, eggs, etc. Then match your grocery list to your meal plan. Keep your list on your fridge or somewhere handy where you can quickly jot an item down. If you have a smartphone attached to your hip at all times, there are lots of good listing apps that you can use for your grocery lists.
  4. If you’re looking for ideas for your meal plan: Google it! You’ll never know what you’ll find. Allrecipes.com is a great user-submitted recipe library. What I love about this one is they have this fantastic feature at the top of their page below the search bar called “Ingredients” that allows you to search recipes with “Ingredients to Include” and “Ingredients to Exclude.” So if you’re trying to make a meal out of the few things you have in your fridge – this is perfect. You can also invite the kids to help you create your meal plan. Most children are very aware of what they want.
  5. And if you know you’re going to have some meals over and over again, buy in bulk. If there are meals that you can freeze, save some money and trips to the store by buying in bulk and store them in your freezer.

There you have it! Make meal planning a priority. Meal plans can instantly lower your grocery costs, even if you’re eating the same as you did before because you won’t be throwing half of the stuff away at the end of the week. You’ll also become more conscious of where your grocery money is going.

Do you use grocery lists? Have any grocery list tips or meal plan tips or know of any good websites for meal ideas? Post them here.

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