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Plan Meals And Save On Groceries

CNN Money ran an article [3] today explaining the benefits planning out your meals and preparing them yourself may have on your budget. Even without this article, everyone knows that cooking your own food is much cheaper than eating out or even buying prepared food but sometimes it’s hard to sit down and plan your meals a week in advance. Planning meals will reduce the amount of food you end up throwing away, which in most households is 14% of their food, up from 7% twenty years ago.

Before my girlfriend started a second shift job, we planned a week’s worth of food in advance and went grocery shopping on either Saturday or Sunday. Since at most grocery stores the new week’s sales start on a Sunday but come with the Saturday paper, we could decide which day we wanted to shop to save the most amount of money while having two week’s worth of information.

We avoid prepared foods because they’re bad for four reasons:
1) Expensive – The less preparation I need to put into making the meal, the most someone else had to and they want to get paid. Even with sales, those box meals are just not worth the money.
2) Sodium – Look at the amount of sodium in most prepared foods, it’s enough to send your blood pressure to the moon. It’s not a healthy long term strategy.
3) Fat – Along with sodium, most of the prepared meals are loaded with fat as well and you’re really not getting your calorie’s worth.
4) Taste Like Crap – Let’s be honest, you can have a nice grilled chicken breast that you just pulled out of the over or you can have a microwaved pre-processed “chicken breast” made from left over chicken parts bleached white. One tastes like chicken, the other tastes like a huge chicken nugget shaped like an emaciated chicken breast.

Preparing a menu also means less trips to the grocery store which for us costs us only time, but most folks can’t walk and need to drive to the store which means gasoline.

The thing we don’t really do, which a lot of frugal shoppers do, is comb through the coupons and circulars trying to match up the great deals. We do look through the coupons that come with the paper but usually they’re for prepared foods anyway which we are ultimately trying to avoid. We also don’t stockpile large quantities of anything. We’ll buy a few extra cans of soup when they’re on sale or a couple more boxes of pasta, but we’re not talking filling up shelves worth of goods we’ll use maybe a year from now.

Consumerism Commentary does a great job discussing the article as it relates to his personal experience and plans [4], so I invite you to read his take on it.

(Photo: lyza [5])