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Meal Planning Made Easy
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It's no fun trying to decide what to make for dinner every night. Planning your meals ahead of time often saves you time as well as money. 

·  Weekly meal planning
There are many different ways to plan your meals. How you plan yours depends on how much time you want to spend now to save yourself time later.

Plan your meals once a week. If you have limited refrigerator/freezer space and a small family of three to feed, this plan might work best for you. You’ll only go to the grocery store once a week. When you are getting ready to go to the store, sit down and starting planning your menu for the next week.  

·  Clean out the refrigerator
This is a good time to go through this week's grocery ads to see what's on sale this week. Also take this time to clean out your refrigerator to see what needs to be thrown away and what can be re-used as leftovers in the next couple of days. Cleaning out your refrigerator weekly is crucial in avoiding wasting food that could still be used to make a perfectly good meal.

So after you've cleaned out the refrigerator and scanned the grocery store ads, you can start your shopping list. Try to plan around what you already have in the freezer. For example, if you know you have a pound of hamburger in the freezer and you know you have spaghetti noodles on hand, then you just need to put spaghetti sauce on your list in order to have spaghetti for dinner one night.

You may also find that, often, we don't need as much meat in our meals as you might think. For our family of three, a pound of hamburger can be used for both spaghetti and tacos. If you cook the hamburger all at once, you can just put half of it in the refrigerator for the next meal (a big time savings!). If you already have taco shells on hand all you need is to make sure the sour cream you have in the refrigerator is still good, and add lettuce and tomatoes on your shopping list.  

·  Stock up on sale items
You should always stock up on meat when it's on sale. If you do you'll find that at some weeks you'll end up buying almost no meat at all, if any. Also stock up on items, like jars of spaghetti sauce, when they're discounted. Then you’ll always have a quick dinner ready on a moment's notice if you already have hamburger and spaghetti noodles on hand.

Some weeks you realize that you already have much of what you’re going to need for the week. Some of the staples you can keep on hand: sour cream, cheese, taco shells, spaghetti noodles, egg noodles, cream of mushroom soup, onions, potatoes, garlic, tuna, spaghetti sauce, tomato sauce, black olives, canned clams, and rice. These ingredients make a lot of the meals we eat, like: hamburger and rice, beef stroganoff, tacos, spaghetti, clam chowder, and hamburger gravy and mashed potatoes.

This system might work really well for you and may save you lots of money. Plan once a week, shop once a week, and don't give a thought to meal planning for the rest of the week. And you don't hold yourself to cooking a certain meal on a certain night. I usually decide that day what I'm going to cook for dinner to be a little flexible.  

·  Extra room in the freezer?
There are many other ways you can plan your meals. Some people cook once a month and freeze their meals for later use (requires a lot of freezer space).  Meal planning doesn't have to be hard. Modify your plan to suit your family's needs. Just make sure you HAVE a plan. It will inevitably save you time as well as money.

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September 23, 2017

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