18 answers

Meal Planning and Shopping with Coupons

I really want to be organized to use coupons. I work full- time, not meal planning more then 2-3 days in advance and I just need some advise. I feel like I end up spending more money then we need to with my multiple trips to the store to get that one or two ingredients that I do not have on hand. Is coupons the way to go? Maybe better meal planning managment?

Would love to hear what works and doesn't work for you all when it come to organization, meal planing and using coupons.

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Thank you that responded. Although I would like to be the "coupon" person and I think I can be at a smaller scale. Your suggestions for meal planning, shopping suggestions and helpful web-site's has been inspiring! I think first and foremost it's about good planning, Thank you for the idea!!

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I just started using www.plantoeat.com and so far I love it. You can plan 3 meals plus snacks every day, it stores my recipes for me, and it creates a shopping list based off of my meals planned. I do my main shopping every two weeks (plan 2 weeks at a time) so I can match up to the ads and print coupons (hotcouponworld).

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I'm not a coupon guru and I wouldn't say I'm highly organized but this is what has worked for me. I do one weekly trip to the store.
I wrote each of my meals that I make on an index card and listed every ingredient needed (even if it's simple like "hamburgers, buns, french fries, ketchup, lettuce, pickles)

Every week I pick about 4 or 5 cards and look what ingredients I already have on hand & write the ones I need to buy on my list. Dinners are covered for the week including maybe a day of leftovers and a pizza delivery. Then I add our school/work lunch items for the week and cereal, bread, milk, butter, juice, dog food & treats, etc that I basically buy every week.

I hate making special trips and stops. I cut coupons only for what I normally buy. I do find it keeps me focused. I hate feeling like I'm going through the store grabbing random stuff & putting into my cart.

4 moms found this helpful

There's a service called "Saving Dinner" Once a week you get emailed 7 easy recipes and a grocery list with everything you need to get on it. To that list we just added our breakfast stuff and had leftovers for lunch. You can get the regular version, the low carb version, etc. My husband and I used it for a year till we got the hang of it ourselves. Saved me a ton of time and trips to the store, plus less wasted food.

3 moms found this helpful

I just started using www.plantoeat.com and so far I love it. You can plan 3 meals plus snacks every day, it stores my recipes for me, and it creates a shopping list based off of my meals planned. I do my main shopping every two weeks (plan 2 weeks at a time) so I can match up to the ads and print coupons (hotcouponworld).

3 moms found this helpful

I am a full time working mom will 2 little ones under the age of 5. Seemed like I was spending way too much on food, too. Here's what someone recommended I do. Go to www.jillcataldo.com. She is an amazing super-couponing guru who will tell you all the basics. I just started doing this about 5 months ago and have a packed pantry of things I use all the time like pasta, spag. sauce, condiments, cereal, fruit snack- never paying more than $1 and usually paying less than .50! She matches up coupons and weekly sales if you don't mind hitting a couple of stores in a week. Sounds like you are going to the store a few times a week, anyway. Good luck!

2 moms found this helpful

We plan the entire week out and make one trip to the grocery store (rarely mid-week trip for milk or something unexpected).

Here's what I started doing... I put all of my favorite week-day recipes into a photo album so that I could flip through them easily. On Saturday afternoon, I flip through and pull 5 meal cards. My husband takes a look and if he's good with our menu, the grocery list is made from there. The "menu" is then put on the fridge for the week- reminds us all of what we are having and what needs to get started by the first person home.

I also keep an active grocery list on the fridge. As we are running low or run-out, it gets added. That way we're not poking through the fridge and pantry each week to see what we need!

2 moms found this helpful

Here's what I do & it has helped immensely with our food budget:

Once a week I sit down & go through all the local grocery store advertisements. I also have the glorious option of shopping at the Commissary here in Dover so that makes a huge difference. I base our weekly meals on what type of meat is on sale.

I generally will go to the Commissary, then maybe stop at 1 or 2 other grocery stores if they have something specific on a fabulous sale. I buy a lot of canned goods & make sure I have all of the staples I'm going to need (butter, sugar, flour, vegetable oil, toilet paper, clothes detergent, etc.).

We are a family of 4 and I have been spending an average of $140 every 2 weeks but then I don't need a single thing on the in between week except maybe milk or something simple like that. I separate all the meat into freezer bags when I get home from the big shopping trip which does take about 20 minutes or so, but once it's done I don't have to think about it again.

This way I don't have to feel like, "Ok, meatloaf on Monday, grilled chicken on tuesday" etc., because I have tons of stuff to pick from! Each morning I pull one kind of meat out of the freezer & toss it in the fridge to defrost before I leave the house & then just go through my mental pantry list to decide what to make that night!

2 moms found this helpful

I think two important parts of being able to create a meal are:

1/ having a pantry with the basic staples on hand that are used frequently by your family.

Think about the basics like baking soda, baking powder, flour, butter, herbs and spices, canned foods like tomatoes and beans. Some ingredients like baking powder can be difficult to substitute. Evaluate what kinds of foods your family enjoys (baked goods, Mexican, Italian, comfort foods, spicy or mild, soups, etc) and then consider what fundamental ingredients are the ones you use often. Stock those fundamental ingredients, in various ways. For example, if you find yourself frequently using milk in recipes, consider keeping dry milk or canned evaporated milk on hand, which can be substituted for fresh milk, and you won't run out. Find a way to organize your kitchen so that you know where your baking supplies are, the canned goods, the spices, and the dry goods like rice, pasta, oats, flour and sugar. Ask yourself what you have run out of recently. Is there a way to stock those ingredients in a different form?

2/ Being flexible.

So you don't have an ingredient. Instead of running to the store, is there a substitute? It can be an established substitute, or it can just be something you see in your kitchen. No potatoes? No problem. Do you have rice? Or bread you can toast? Or a box of pasta? Or what happens if the recipe calls for potatoes and there's not a single starch or carb in your house that night. Ok. Is there another vegetable? Be bold. Don't make yourself a hostage to a recipe. Learn a few basic swaps. If you don't have a can of cream soup, make a quick roux with oil or butter and flour (equal parts), and then stir in milk. Cook it till it's thickened, and season with salt and pepper. 10 minutes. You have soup. Or if you're making a recipe and don't have an ingredient at all, just leave it out. You can type what food you have into google and recipes will come up when you hit "search". Or there's a website called LoveFoodHateWaste where you can enter the foods you have and it will help you come up with something.

That's what works for me.

2 moms found this helpful

Check out the website: www.southernsavers.com. It has some tutorial videos on it that are wonderful for learning the ropes of couponing and organizing yourself. I'm not sure what grocery stores you have in your area, but she even does a list for Walmart with what coupons to use with the sales.

My tips:
•Get a file box, save all your Sunday coupons and file them in there with by dates.
•Get a small check file to place your clipped coupons in to go shopping. (That works for me as I didn't want to haul around a big coupon binder everytime I go grocery shopping.)
•Only by what is on sale, and buy it in bulk with your coupons. Never pay full price for anything!

Good luck!

1 mom found this helpful

I do weekly meal lists. I also super coupon -I never knew how much you could get for free!

I am moving into monthly meal planning, using Sunday as a big cook day, where I cook up a roast and make baggies of taco meat for the week for instance. I also cook at least one chicken a month, and make chicken noodle soup, either for "soup/sandwich" night or for the kids lunches. So for me, it's been about learning how to take a cheap cut of meat and turn it into 3 or 4 meals, for a family of 4.

1 mom found this helpful

We have a couple things each week we like to eat often and I make sure I always have that on hand. I'm pretty good at remembering those things, but if you may not remember, start a list.

If you have some staples in the house like chicken breast/fish (usually frozen), some sort of rice (we like brown rice) and a frozen veggie, it's an easy and healthy meal to put together. All those things can be bought in bulk and saved in the freezer/cabinet and last a while, so they are always on hand. When you use the last of whatever, put it on a list.

Also, I think about meal planning once a week, the night before I go to the grocery store. I make a list of whatever I need that I don't have and bring my list to the grocery. Even if I get inspired at the grocery store, I'll add the items I know I'll need to the list while I'm there so I don't forget to get it all.

Lists are my friend. I have at least one always on the fridge with grocery items, and a notebook for my other lists.

I don't really use coupons unless it's for something I would have bought anyway. Usually the coupons are for the boxed and processed things, which we try to keep to a minimum. One time I brought 5 coupons to the store and ended up with a cart full of junk food.

As far as meal planning, I like to put frozen chicken in some maranade in the fridge in the morning - you could stick it in the before work, or even the night before. When you come home it will be nicely maranaded and mostly defrosted and you'll just have to stick it in the oven. Super easy and we do this a couple times per week.

We do this once a week - I'll add chopped veggies to Ragu and that will be our meal. If you add enough veggies you don't have to worry about making another one. I'll do this with 4 jars and freeze them in meal sized servings. Just put in the fridge before you leave for work and when you get home all you have to do is make the pasta and warm up the sauce. Very easy.

1 mom found this helpful

Having active high school students and me going back to school a couple nights a week we've taken to planning at least one week in advance if not more. Depending on the schedule we have quicker meals like sandwiches, frozen dinners, or leftovers once or twice a week. On the nights we'll all be home at a decent time we plan better meals and on weekends the dinners that take longer to prepare. Sometimes we'll plan a meal that can be used a couple nights or re-done. Recently we had leftover chicken tenders (home-made) that we converted to chicken parmesan.

We try to do our shopping list right after we've scheduled our meals and then I go through my coupon book to see what coupons I have that can be used.

1 mom found this helpful

I "try" to meal plan for the next 7 days before going to the grocery store. My ideal plan is to mix things up between meals previously cooked and in the freezer (I do this when a recipe makes a lot), items from Market day that are easy to throw in the oven, and newly prepared items. I sit down with my recipes for the new stuff when making my grocery list and double check that I have everything. Before going to the store, I go through all of my coupons (kept in a coupon organizer and sorted by month) and take out any coupons for items on my list or any really good coupons that are about to expire. When I go through the paper on Sunday, I only keep the coupons that I think there is a chance we'll use.

1 mom found this helpful

Here's another vote for weekly meal planning. I do it on Wednesday when the grocery store ads show up in our newspaper. I plan all meals and snacks for 7 days, sometimes more if there is something special going on. My menu is generally from Sunday to the next Sunday. I go shopping on Saturday mornings usually. I don't have time to go chasing to different stores. I go to one grocery store. I don't use coupons. I honestly don't have the time or the organization to ensure those coupons get used in a timely manner. It just causes more clutter for me.

When I put my menu together, I look at what we have in the freezer or pantry that needs to be used. If I have something that I'm not sure how to use, I'll go look for a recipe.

I try to use the slow cooker about once a week. Leftovers are frozen.

We are realistic with our portions. We're a family of 2 adults and 2 small children. A 9 x 12 lasagna works for 3 meals, as we add in a side of vegetables on that meal. We freeze left overs. My family is ok with leftovers, just as long as it's not in the next day or 2.

Supplement meals with frozen veggies. They are cheap and healthy.

We stay away from processed foods. They are generally more expensive.

We hit Costco for certain items - chicken broth is cheap there.

I keep it simple. My husband is home before me and gets dinner ready. I keep it as easy as possible for him so it gets done. I'm a lucky girl, but it really comes down to the list of dinners that were preselected that he can whip together.

Best of luck.

1 mom found this helpful

I started meal planning for the month. I bought a magnetic meal planner list from Michaels for $1(I bought several). I took out a piece of paper and wrote down all our favorite things to eat, and thing we like to eat once in awhile. Then I went through all my recipes I torn out of magazines to "one day try" and put them in a pile. Then I sit down (I do this the first of the month) and make a menu for four weeks. On another piece of paper I make a "grocery" list. Then I go through my cabinets/pantry/freezer/fridge and cross off what I don't need to buy. Then I use that list or make a neater on and buy groceries with that. I do add breakfast, lunch and snack stuff to the list. Then I look through the coupons I have to see if I can save any money with them. I belong to several different mommy savings sites that email me list of what is on-sale, going on sale and coupon links. I look at the stores flyers and see where I can get the best deals. I always make sure we have certain things in the house for about five meals that we love, so if I change my mind about what is on the menu I know I have them in stock. I shop once a month for a big run, then go for small runs for milk, bread, fruits and veggies.

I also make double batches of pancakes and waffles once a month and freeze them to so breakfast is quick and easy. I have learned that some of the meals I make I can double and then freeze the other have and put it out again. Some meals, not so good after frozen, I had to learn that and then improvise how to make it better. The ones that do freeze well are perfect for when someone in the house is sick and I don't feel like cooking or I know we will have a busy night. Most of the meals thaw out when I sit out the night before or that morning.

I think you need to sit down and think what system is going to work for you. Would weekly planning be better than monthly planning? Would two weeks be better? Also, couponing can get crazy and you need to think how much time I want to allow for that. You can also you a coupon clipping service where you just look and then buy the coupon, because then you can just search for which ones you need.

Good luck!

1 mom found this helpful

I don't know if you really want to start couponing to save big or are just looking for a way to streamline and save some money in the process. Either way a website I was introduced to a few weeks ago might help. It is www.e-mealz.com. This is a weekly meal planning site that plans dinners for you (sides and all) and provides a shopping list. They charge a fee of $5 dollars per month, but I think it is well worth the time I save. There are a couple of great things about this site. One great thing is that there are many options to choose from. They offer meal plans for 2-3 people for 5 days or 4-6 people for 7 days. From there you can choose diet type, i.e. low fat, low carb, gluten free, vegetarian, they even have a points based ones if you are doing weight watchers. You can also choose a specific store if you shop one of the stores listed. The stores available are Walmart, Kroger, Aldi's, and Publix. There is also an any store option. The second thing I really like about this site is that your menu plan, if you choose a specific store, is based off regional sale prices that week. So if something is on sale it will be used in one of your meals that week. If you have any coupons that just adds to the savings. So far we have liked all the meals from the plan. I love that I don't have to sit down and figure out a weeks worth of meals (usually without any sales knowledge as I don't get the paper) and then write the list out as well. I don't do any serious couponing, but I do get coupons online at coupons.com and that seems to help a little bit. I have notice that our grocery bill has dropped by about $30 since starting e-mealz.com. Hope you can find something that works well for you since we all hate the dreaded words, "What's for dinner?" when we don't have a clue.

1 mom found this helpful

I plan the meals a week ahead and try to make meals according to what is on sale. We get a flyer from Meijer weekly so I have that to go by. I write a list of exactly what I need and don't get anything else. I cut coupons every Sunday when I get the paper, sometimes that helps me out a ton, but sometimes it is just cheaper to buy store brand then to use a coupon-just pay attention to prices and get the better deal. Store brand food I have learned almost always tastes the same and sometimes better. Also, if you have time you can get coupons online at coupons.com or by going to the manufacturers websites to see if they have any available.

If you are having trouble coming up with recipes, I love the website allrecipes.com. You can type in what ingredients you have or would like to use, and it will give you a bunch of recipes. I have made TONS of recipes from that website and some of them are just amazing and it doesn't always take a whole bunch of ingredients to make them.

It does take a lot of time to go through the ad paper, come up with recipes, clip coupons, search for coupons online and come up with a list. I am a stay at home mom and it takes me an entire week to put it all together, but I only end up spending $50-$70 a week. Before I started doing this I would spend well over $100. It is time consuming but totally worth it!

1 mom found this helpful

Start buying things when you see them on sale. You can stock up on things like sugar and other staples at really good prices. You can look at food storage books at the local library and see what you can learn about storing food and what to buy so you can have some things always on hand.

For instance, Food Pyramid had sugar on sale for $0.99 this last Fall and every time we went we bought several bags. You could only get one with each purchase so we did divide the groceries up and get two bags each trip. We are still using that sugar, we don't use much sugar so it will alst some time. I found salt for about $0.25 at a store going out of business and I bought all of them. We may NEVER use all that because I only use a few teaspoons per month if even that much.

When chicken leg quarters are on sale I buy the big bags and put it in my deep freeze. Same with Pork Roast and other meats. If you shop with the idea of storing food for future use that is food you eat all the time then it is always used up withon a month or two. so keeping an eye out for sales and stocking up for the next few weeks/months is a really good way to save money.

We just don't eat white meat. I would rather eat veggis then eat chicken breast so I only buy the big bags of leg quarters. I boil them and then de-bone them. I put the bones and stuff back in the pot and let it cook down to make broth. I strain it then put it in the fridge to skim off the congealed fats. Then I freeze it in gallon or quart size zip top baggies. I put the meat in freezer bags and when I am in a hurry I can make chicken and noodles or biscuit dumplings rather quickly. Peal the plastic bag off the broth and plop it in a pan, bring it to a boil, drop inthe uncooked noodles/biscuit pieces in the boiling broth, get them done then add the cooked chicken. You can defrost the chicken in the microwave to speed things up. Cooking like this saves me time and money.

There are many books that help you plan ahead so you can buy stuff on sale and still have everything you need on hand.

Planning a menu also helps. You can figure out to the cup how much you'll need of every ingredient if you try hard. When I cook dinners for a hundred or more I know exactly how many cups of sugar I'll need, flour, pasta, salt, lbs. of meat, spices, etc...it's a thing you have to figure out what system works for you. Then once you get the format that works you have only a few trips per month to the store.

1 mom found this helpful

I have never saved money with the Sunday paper coupons, because it's name brand stuff that rarely comes close to the generic price. What has helped me with cost is to go through all my store ads and buy the "door busters." When one store puts boneless skinless chicken breast on for 1.68 a lb I go buy 20 lbs! That might be all I buy in that store. Walmart has a matching policy if you don't want to go store to store. In my case I have 5 grocery stores within a few blocks, so, I might just pop in to 1 on the way home from work and buy the loss leader item. But save my big trip for the weekend. I've found that if you can stomach the lines at WalMart and Sams, you can get out cheaper overall. I'm no help in cutting down trips, other than I started buying 2 of everything nonperishable that we always need. I never buy 1 bottle of catsup or mayo or whatever. Things we routinely use, I always buy 2. I figure it'll cut down on my visits in the long run. In my mind when I shop, I think breakfast lunch and dinner and plan on the fly. I kind of let the store inspire me. Not the most organized, but I'm a passionate cook. Sometimes I just need a muze!

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