This article, entitled "6 tips to save time and money on meal plans," comes from SavingsAngel.com.
Do you avoid using coupons because you think they are only for non-food or junk food? Have you wondered how you’d actually make a meal AND use coupons?
Let me first start by putting your mind at ease: There are plenty of coupons for ingredients to make meals. They are not all only for non-food and junk food, I assure you. Next, let me give you some simple tips for how you can actually have meals for your family while saving and using coupons.
1. Have a list of go-to meals in your repertoire
Start by identifying easy to make meals your family loves. It could be burgers on the grill, spaghetti & meatballs on the stovetop, or a roast simmering all day in the slow cooker. It’s okay to go back to the old-fashioned approach of “Monday is meatloaf night and Tuesdays are tacos.” Make an ingredient list for every favorite meal and stick it on the pantry wall.
2. Look through your store ad(s) and coupon-match for obvious good purchases
As you plan your shopping trips, look for items that can most easily translate into meals for your family. At this point, don’t be overly concerned with the absolute cheapest things in the store. Just identify the items that are on sale, and hopefully also have coupons, that you know you can turn into a meal. Our free coupon database at SavingsAngel.com can help you access thousands of high-value coupons to help save money.
3. Stock up on the ingredients you’ll use
This is where regularly adding into your stockpile comes into play. In addition to the items you know you can make into meals this week, look for sale ingredients you can use for future meals. Use the ingredient list from your go-to meals as a guide, but also look for other choices. Focus on staples that are versatile and have long shelf lives, such as rice, flour, sugar, beans, canned goods, pasta, frozen goods, and more.
4. Round out your meals
Take your meal ingredient list for the week – or even a whole month at a time – and complete an inventory of your pantry. What will you need to complete your meals? If you need ingredients, make a list of them and see if you can at least find a coupon to use, even if the ingredient is not on sale. The goal is to make sure you’ll always have all the ingredients needed to make a family favorite meal. However, you don’t want to keep buying items with only a coupon, or worse, at full price. Watch for them to go on sale in the future and continually stock up.
5. Coordinate your pantry and coupons each week
Finally, it’s time to put it all together. For ongoing menu planning, I recommend you start by looking for the best weekly deals. Find the great buys and decide whether you can make a meal out of them. Pay particular attention to fresh produce, which can be extremely cheap in season and can serve as a healthy basis for many meals. Also watch meat prices, as they do vary throughout the year.
Once you have a partial menu plan based on the weekly deals, fill it in with meals you can make from your already-stocked pantry.
6. One last tip: Use coupons and sales on everything you possibly can to free up money.
Don’t avoid using coupons on non-food items simply because you don’t immediately need them. Anytime you can save on health and beauty, home supplies, and the like – do so. By buying at the absolute lowest prices, and keeping a reasonable stockpile, you reduce your “need” list. And that frees up money for food and lowers your total bills!