We have received some great questions this past week about how Deals to Meals works and how to make our service work for your family. We wanted to share portions of these emails to help answer some questions you might be having as well. Learning a new system takes a little time and effort, but we promise once you get the hang of Deals to Meals it will bless your family for years to come! It really is easy and fun once you can get a few things figured out 😉

So, here we go…

Member: When do you upload a new meal planner?

DTM: Most grocery store ads start Wednesday and run through the next Tuesday. Our new meal planners are posted Tuesday nights before midnight and will run through the next Tuesday night.

Member: Why is Walmart not listed as a store?

DTM: At this time, we do not include Walmart as a store option because of a couple reasons. First, they only release an ad once or twice a month. Secondly, most of their ads are non-grocery items. Thirdly, we compare ALL of the other stores’ deals TO Walmart, so if something is not on sale for a ‘great/red’ deal, then you should buy it at Walmart or Costco instead. As I look through the Walmart ads each month there is VERY rarely a ‘great/red’ deal on their ad items. Most items you can find for less at Costco, or just wait patiently for those items to go on sale at a regular grocery store. However, during the holidays they sometimes have some good deals on baking items (around Thanksgiving) and during those times, I will include them.

Member: So far I have been impressed with your meal plans!! My husband is very picky, and even he thinks he’ll eat about 60% of the meals, which for us is a pretty big deal!!

DTM: Yay! So glad he thinks he’ll like our recipes. Our recipes are pretty family friendly and even if someone doesn’t like the whole idea of one of the meals, sometimes they find they like aspects of it (ex: If they don’t like Carnita Steak Tacos, they might like the steak grilled alone and eaten with a potato on the side instead. Or, if you don’t like Green Curry Chicken and Rice, just do a different chicken and rice dish (like Sweet and Sour) and most of the same ingredients will be on sale). It makes it easier to keep the meal planner as close to what we offer as possible to help you get the best deals, and make the process streamlined.

Member: Is there a way to easily remove meals from your plan and auto-update the shopping list? The only way I have been able to find to do this is look through the long list of ingredients and manually add them all to the shopping list. I’d really love to learn how to streamline that process!! 
DTM: No, sadly. Not at this point. They are easy to remove, but not to update the grocery list. So…this is what I would suggest. If he is liking 60% of the meal plan, I would stick with those recipes you know you will make. And, then cross off the few recipes on the grocery list you won’t be making that week. Then…before you go out shopping, I would glance quickly through the weekly deals and see if there is any great grocery deals you know will work for a different meal you know your family will eat. For example, if your family loves tacos but they weren’t on the meal plan, glance through (or search) for ground beef, taco shells, cheese, etc. and add those to your list. Most of us have a pretty good idea of our family favorite recipes that we know our family will eat and what ingredients we always need to have on hand to make them. As you get doing this for awhile you will know some of the basic ingredients you need for your ‘staple’ recipes—for me these include: lettuce, bell peppers, carrots, celery, onions, green onions, apples, bananas, bread, milk, eggs, chicken, ground beef, etc. When I don’t have time to do the ‘perfect’ meal plan, I always grab these specific items and I know I can turn them into just about any recipe I know my family will eat. It’s a good idea to write down some of your favorite meals and the ingredients and start recognizing what you buy all the time and watch for those to go on sale—along with the meal planner ingredients you know you are going to need.  Does that make sense? This part is kind of a learned habit that will become super easy as time goes on 🙂

Member: I am wondering what kinds of deals your deal finder looks for, just to help me understand a little bit more! I would love to be able to compare Walmart/Winco/Costco.
DTM: We compare to Walmart, Costco and Sam’s Club because they are national stores that have pretty comparable prices around the country. Winco sadly doesn’t offer a weekly grocery ad so we can’t add them—how I wish they did!! However, their prices are right around Walmarts and Costco, so you can generally assume if an item is less than Walmart and Costco, it will be less than Winco as well.
Member: I don’t see an item on your site that I see in the ad. Are all deals listed?
DTM: Almost all. If an item is in the ad and is a good or great deal, it should always be listed. If it’s an item that is NOT a good deal by any stretch of the imagination, it will not be listed. However, we do have many employees doing hundreds of ads around the country, so I can’t guarantee that 100%. However, if there is a great/red deal we will not miss those because they are the ones our reps are looking for. Many items in the ads can be bought for MUCH less at Costco or Walmart and are not worth entering and posting on our site. Focus on the red and starred deals to save you the most money. All other deals can be bought for less at Costco, Winco or Walmart.
Member: What coupons will show up under the “coupons” column? 
DTM: The only coupons we will mention are in ad coupons or store digital coupons. We don’t mention coupons you have to clip or get in the newspaper, although some people do a coupon match up on their own and find that works. Coupons just aren’t who our service is geared for 😉
Member: I’m wondering more about your food storage portion of things. I think it looks like a really really cool idea, but I guess I am trying to understand how to take the most advantage of this part of your service! 
DTM: This part of our service is awesome because it makes getting your food storage/stock pile SUPER simple. All you need to do, is if you see an item on sale with a star (or a stock up price) you want to decide if that item is a item that can be stored long term, AND if it’s an item your family uses on a regular basis. If it is, these are the items you want to stock up on. For example, this week cereal is on sale for a great price. If your family eats a lot of cereal, then stock up on those items and buy as many as you can afford within your monthly budget. There will be times that stores have case lot sales and that’s a great time to watch for food storage items, focus on the great deals and stock up! If you live in Utah right now Harmon’s is having a great case lot sale. If you use any of those great deals in your daily cooking, then it’s a good time to stock up.
Member: Are the food storage recipes meant to use up year supply items I would have already purchased if I’d been using your service for a few months, or to recommend year supply items that are on sale that week to start stocking up on? 
DTM: Both. Some weeks there are very few food storage items on sale, so these are the times we might ad a recipe for Whole Wheat Bread because hopefully through the year you have been able to stock up on those recipe ingredients when they were on sale. This week for example, peanut butter is on sale for a red/great deal, so we have the Peanut Butter Protein Balls in the meal planner because they use peanut butter. Hopefully you have oats in your food storage and chocolate chips you would have stocked up on at Thanksgiving. The Food Storage recipes are just to help you get in the habit of cooking out of your long term storage items—on sale or not 😉
Member: What is the “Year supply” column meant to be under the deals page? 
DTM: If you are interested in building up a long term storage, it’s a great way to build up your supply. The ‘Year Supply’ column will tell you an estimated amount of those sale items that your family might use in a one year period. These are just estimates and if you know your family uses that item more than what is listed, then stock up and buy more. If less, then buy less. 
Member: How many total items you recommend to have for a year supply, or how many you recommend buying at that particular price? 
DTM: If you have money in your budget to buy the year supply amount listed, then that’s fantastic! If you don’t, then this will help trigger you to buy MORE than you normally would and add it to your food storage. Over time, you will be amazed at how quickly your food storage will be built up and how much it will save you throughout the year by buying these items on sale for lower prices.
Member: I wondered if you have diet-friendly meal plan options?
DTM: As for diet friendly meals, our recipes work great! The best part about our recipes is 90% of the recipes are made from scratch, from fresh, homemade ingredients. We try to keep processed foods to a minimum and boxed items only as needed. We have people all over the U.S. who use our meal planner as a guide and then create their own meal planner for their specific needs. Most of our recipes will offer a ‘Healthier Option’ under each recipe that helps you know how you can tweak the recipe to make it healthier (ex: Eat a sandwich lettuce wrapped instead of on a bun, use brown rice instead of white rice, etc.). Any healthy tips we can give you, we will share. Many of our recipes work great as vegetarian dishes as well, if you are interested in those. When that is the case we will mention how that particular recipe can be turned vegetarian to cut calories. Healthy eating, with a little practice, is easy with our recipes because the base of the recipes are so great—they are easy to adapt and make work for your diet. Another tip is to cut back on any of the recipes that are dessert (obviously), side dishes can also sometimes be more fattening and calorie filled and you can replace them with fresh fruit of vegetables, and/or omit any snacks we might list in the meal planner. Focus mostly on the main dish items which are generally homemade, made from fresh ingredients as much as possible.