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Save Money at the Market: Learn the Art of Meal Planning

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June 17, 2014 · 1.5k Views

If you’re like most people, you probably spend a pretty penny on food and groceries throughout the week. If you eat out regularly, or if you decide to cook a specific dish at home on the spur of the moment, you’re likely spending much more than you need to. Learn the art of meal planning to both better organize your life and save up those hard-earned dollars.

Things you’ll need:
1. A good cookbook or a well-rated food website; a recipe binder
2. A scissor and newspaper ads; a coupon book
3. A chalkboard or dry-erase board; a calendar
4. A notepad.

If the 21st century is anything, it’s one that takes food – and sharing food – seriously. We share recipe photos on Pinterest, post pictures of dinner date meals on Instagram, review recipes on food.com watch intently at the creations made through TV shows like “Top Chef” and enter recipes swaps and contests on a regular basis. So how are we supposed to make such fantastic creations without spending so much dough?

First, you’ll want to organize all those delicious-looking recipes you have into a binder or mark off your favorite recipes in that old hand-me-down cookbook with colored tabs or post-it notes. Recognize which ones are best for certain seasons (butternut squash soup in winter; turkey burgers in summer) and which can be made all year long (chicken parmesan, flounder).

Second, peruse your newspaper and online ads for the supermarket and find out what’s on sale. Are chicken wings on sale this week? Corn on the cob? Idaho potatoes? Perfect! Grab all three and set yourself up for a night of barbecue. If you pick up enough ingredients for leftovers, even better. If there are coupons that go along with those sales, you can find yourself keeping plenty of cash in your pocket instead of out. A coupon book can come in handy – just because you can’t use a coupon right away doesn’t mean you shouldn’t save it. Organize your coupons just like your recipes – separate them into seasonal foods, or maybe frozen foods versus fresh foods, desserts versus condiments, etc.

Third, get out your trusty dry-erase calendar board and look at the week ahead. Take into account the sales and coupons you have, alongside the events your family has planned – is little Johnny going to be at batting practice until late on Monday night? Does Annie have a concert that you need to drive her and a group of friends to that will take up much of your evening? Plan ahead! For nights you know you likely won’t have time to put together a big homemade meal, you might want to have leftovers handy. If you know you’re free to go grocery shopping at the beginning of the week and you’ll have three nights when you can actually make something substantial, figure out which stores have sales and which recipes coincide with those items on sale – then shop!

Finally, you don’t want to go shopping without a list in hand. Whether it’s a hand-written shopping list or one typed on your iPad, write down all the ingredients you need to purchase for the week and don’t stray from that list!  Another word of advice: don’t go shopping when you’re hungry. You’ll be tempted to go off your list when you’re hungry, thus spending more than you intended. Know your budget and your menu for the week, and stick to it.

Meal planning doesn’t have to be difficult – all it takes is some forethought and a little bit of time.  Good luck!

Jennifer recently completed her masters degree in museum studies from The City College, New York. She has many years of experience in the arts through writing, video production and art history, and can be reached via Twitter at @egyptologist. Her work can be found at Examiner.com.

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eberhartexaminer profile picture
Jennifer Eberhart is a freelance writer currently living in New York City. She is a regular contributor to the Arts column on Examiner.com. Jennifer enjoys traveling, reading, art, religion and video. She has a master's in art history and is attempting to make it to all the museums in New York City - a much harder task than it sounds!

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