Last updated: August 25. 2013 7:01AM - 167 Views

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There are no coupon inserts this weekend due to Memorial Day. However, this is the perfect time to organize your coupons or clean out your coupon binder. Keep in mind that expired coupons can be used by military families for up to six months after expiration. See www.stephaniesavings.net for more details on where to send your expired coupons.

This weekís lesson is how to plan your meals out and create a shopping list. As Iíve mentioned before, I do not coupon for many food items. I mainly coupon for snacks and cereal for my kids. Rarely do I use coupons on foods that are used in the meals we eat. We try to eat healthy as much as possible, but we like treats as well. I know many people are under the impression that eating healthy is expensive and thatís not necessarily the case. It depends on where you shop and how well you plan everything. The key to all of it is planning. Planning your meals will not only save you several dollars on your grocery bill, but you will also reduce the everyday stress of trying to come up with dinner for your family every evening and throw away less food.

The first step to this is the meal planning. Because I donít use many coupons for this, I like to plan my meals out a month in advance. I will purchase all the meat that I will use, cheese, etc. I coupon throughout each week for bread, cereal, olive oil, and so on. Items that I do not use coupons for are bought once a month at Aldi or Meijer (depending on the sale). Fresh produce and dairy are bought on a weekly basis at Aldi and sometimes Meijer. This is just my preference. I make my own meal plans based on healthy foods I know my kids will eat. I like using different recipes from many different websites. One of my favorites is a lady who runs a cooking blog called www.kalynskitchen.com. She has many healthy recipes and my kids love them! I also try to mix things up a bit. I donít use all chicken. That tends to get boring after a while. I like to rotate meal plans. Chicken, ground chuck, fish, and then back to chicken or maybe no meat and some type of pasta.

After the meals are planned, I create a list based on items that need to be purchased. I always doublecheck the refrigerator and pantry. Sometimes if an item can be substituted for another item. Another way to plan meals is to use online meal planning websites. Some websites will charge you about $5 per month, which isnít too bad for the time it saves you. One that I like to let people know about is free. Itís called www.foodonthetable.com. Itís very simple to use and thereís even a free app out for it. Once you get to the website sign up for free. It will not ask you for any credit card information.

Once you sign up you will be asked to enter in your information so they can show you stores in your area that are on the site. You can pick your stores. I know for sure that Meijer is on there. Also keep in mind that you can pick a store not in your area and then price match at Walmart or take your list to a store that you do have. Once a store is selected it will ask for any special diets your family uses, what types of foods you like, and so on. Once you answer that it will pull a list of recipes with photos for you based on your familyís diet, the foods they eat, and the store sale for that week. How awesome is that? It will create a shopping list for you. If you donít need some of the items listed you can delete them. You also have the option to add items, so if you need laundry detergent that week you can type it in and it will be added to your list.

Extra tips for saving money on meals: Plan out your meals. Purchase a little extra or make extra leftovers to use for lunches. Purchase the cheapest deal. Compare weight and price. The price tag being lower doesnít always mean itís actually cheaper. Donít purchase more than you need. For example; if it says ďzucchini, 99 cents per pound" and you only need one small one, just buy one. Don't be tempted to load up because it's cheap. Oh yeah, and of course use coupons whenever possible.

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