WRAL SmartShopper

WRAL SmartShopper

Back to basics week 7: meal planning 101

Posted February 18, 2010

Meal planning is one of the key ways to provide frugal, healthy and stress-free meals. Creating frugal meals begins with meal planning, which simply involves deciding ahead of time what you will be eating for the week or month.

Menu planning works hand in hand with couponing and store promotions to help you make the most of your budget. All three aspects are important and using each effectively will save you the most money and allow you to provide the healthiest frugal meals.

Another added benefit of meal planning – less stress! When you aren’t stressing over what’s for dinner (because you planned it out at the beginning of the week), you are less likely to head to the nearest fast food restaurant.

Meal planning tips

  • Plan your meals based on what you already have in your pantry, fridge and freezer (using items that were purchased frugally using sales, coupons or store promotions - or all 3!) and items on sale for that week.
  • Plan your dinners weekly and take advantage of weekly great deals to use in your meal plans.
  • Use your slow cooker, batch cook, and reference the recommended websites to get great recipes for frugal meals.
  • Plan your meals for 5-6 nights per week. Leave one or two nights open for leftovers, going out to eat (with a restaurant coupon, of course), going to friends, etc.
  • Strive to bring your per meal cost down to $1.25 per person - $5 per meal for a family of 4. That's not $5 per person, it's $5 per meal. By using frugally purchased ingredients, you will be amazed at what fabulous, healthy meals you can provide for $5 or less!
  • Use the Weekly Menu Planner to plan your meals each week. Take a look at the recommended meal planning resources in the box at right for ideas on frugal meals and recipes.

Join us here each Monday to see my frugal meal plan including notes on where I purchased some of the ingredients and recipes as well.


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  • Faye Prosser - Smart Shopper Feb 23, 2010

    Thanks javajoe! I will check out pioneer woman. Sounds great!

  • javajoe Feb 20, 2010

    Another good recipe community site is www.recipezaar.com

    I'm a big fan of photography, so I particularly enjoy The Pioneer Woman's cooking blog. She takes some incredible photos of her food and preparation. So if you don't have all the ingredients or can't find something on sale this week, you can still drool over the photos she posts for each recipe!