Here are a few ways I have found that help me save money on my monthly groceries and help make menu planning a cinch! Of course you can become a member of My Food Storage Deals and I will do ALL the work for you–but if not, here are some easy tips to save money! (You can download all of these from our website under the FREE DOWNLOAD tab and the MEAL PLANNER TIPS PDF file.)

1. Decide how many times a week (on average) you cook a home cooked meal. Take into consideration how many times you go out to eat, or make quick frozen meals (i.e. frozen pizza, burritos, etc.) This number might change week to week, but it will give you an idea of how many meals you will be making in a two week period.
2. Get out the cook books! Make a list of each of the meals you cook for your family. Add to this list any new recipes you want to start incorporating into your families dinner menu. Be creative and try new things. Don’t get stuck in a rut of cooking the same meals every night. You will reference this meal list when choosing which meals you want to cook in the next two weeks. Search the internet for food blogs or recipes that give you fun ideas on meals to make for dinner. One of my ABSOLUTE FAVORITE FOOD BLOGS (infact that’s where the photo came from) is http://www.workingwomanfood.blogspot.com/ . It is created by a woman after my own heart! She tries recipes and then blogs about what she did or didn’t like about it and has great pictures so you know what your food will (or should) end up looking like! Check it out–it’s great!)
3. Plan meals for a one week to two-week period. This will save you time and money from not having to make impulse shopping trips to the grocery stores. Produce will last about two weeks, so I’ve found this time frame works best.
4. Take your meal list from above and organize the meals into starches and categories. This means, organize which meals you generally have with the following: rice, pasta, potato, soup, salad and sandwiches. It is easy to eat the same meat two times in a row, but not as enjoyable to have the same starch. This will make menu planning easier because you can choose one meal from each category for each day of the week you cook. This will keep your meals interesting and give you some variety.
5. Choose which meals you decided you want to cook in the next two week period. You don’t need to decide which day you will cook each meal, just which ones. Once you have this list, you can begin creating your shopping list. Find each recipe for each meal and look over which ingredients you already have in the fridge or pantry. Try to choose meals that you already have most of the ingredients for.
6. It’s time to shop! Never go to the store without a shopping list. You will spend more money, and it will take longer, if you don’t know exactly what you need. Watch the ads carefully. Buying items when they are on sale, and buying multiples, will keep your pantry stocked and cut down on trips to the store. As your pantry becomes stocked, it will not only start your food storage, but it will save you from buying items when they are not on sale.
7. Choose meals every now and then that you can double the recipe and save half for a later date (as a freezer meal). It doesn’t take much longer to cook double the amount, but it saves you a lot of time on a busy day, when you don’t have time to cook. Label your freezer meals clearly so you know what items are in your freezer. If you plan your meals around what food is on sale in the ads, this will also save money because you will be making two meals at a great deal.

These are all pretty basic tips, but it is amazing the difference it makes when you plan your meals and have a well stocked pantry and food storage! It really makes cooking fun! I was talking to a lady the other day and she mentioned how she hates to cook because she makes the same dinners over and over. I told her I would hate to cook too! The part of cooking that is fun for me is trying new recipes and switching up my weekly menu with fun salads, cooking on the grill and trying new flavors and dishes. This weeks meal planner has a few adventurous meals that I think everyone will love! Some of those ‘new’ dishes are Thai Steak Tacos with Cilantro and Lime Slaw, Coconut Shrimp with Pina Colada dipping sauce, and Walnut, Apple & Bleu Cheese Salad, and Egg Salad BLT’s (see picture above). Why pay $40 to go out to dinner when you can play around in the kitchen and come up with recipes that are even better than the ‘real’ thing!

Have fun cooking and if anyone has favorite recipes they would like to share…I would LOVE to hear about them. Just email me at Shandra@myfoodstoragedeals.com. Good luck saving money and planning your meals this week 😉