Shop smart and plan ahead to save

Planning meals ahead of time helps save money and time when preparing food at home.

Whether you are on a limited budget or not, planning meals a week in advance saves time, energy and money. Meal planning in advance helps raise awareness about what foods your family is eating and how much is being spent on food. It can help save money by avoiding purchases of unneeded food. It saves time and energy by reducing last minute searches for food to prepare and extra trips to the store. Planning meals is also easier than people often believe it to be.

There are a few easy steps to meal planning. Determine how often you will shop and your budget. To avoid buying too much food, think about how many people will be eating at each meal. Plan menus for breakfast, lunch, dinner and snacks, writing down the ingredients that are needed to prepare them. Keeping a grocery list in a convenient location makes it easier to list staple foods that are needed. Don’t forget to include foods from all of the food groups for healthy meals and snacks. Keep your meal planning schedule flexible, switching meals as needed. Planning needs to become a habit if it is to be successful. To save time, recycle your weekly meal plans to use again.

There are several ways of saving money at the grocery store which you can maximize as you plan meals ahead of time. Look through weekly flyers to check for sales and use coupons for foods you are planning on using anyway. Many times you can plan your meals based on the foods that are on sale. Compare unit pricing on similar brands to determine the best size and brand for your money. Look at serving sizes of each package to determine how much food you will get from that item. Remember that prepared foods cost more than unprepared foods. For example, grated cheese costs more than a block of cheese that you can easily grate yourself. And purchasing fresh potatoes and preparing them yourself is usually less expensive than instant mashed potatoes.

When checking out, make sure you are being charged the sale prices. Check and double check your receipt to ensure that all of your coupons and discounts went through accordingly. It is our responsibility to be smart shoppers, using these few simple steps can save money and time. To learn more, visit the National Agricultural Library’s many helpful food shopping and menu planning resources.

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