For me, this is what meal planning used to look like:
- Look through newspaper store circulars to get some ideas for dinners and try to narrow it down to only ONE store to venture.
- Spend time looking for a few coupons to cut down expenses. Go through old coupons and throw away things I never did use (most of them). Note: this practice went down the drain many, many months ago. This added nearly an hour to this already arduous task.
- Pull out cookbooks, recipe card box, miscellaneous recipes in folders, etc.
- Thumb through said recipes trying to decide if it's been long enough since I made it last time to make it again this week. Attempt to come up with at least 5 meals to make a grocery trip worthwhile...without pulling hair out.
- Develop a mealtime grocery list using all recipe cards/cookbooks pulled. Add everything else that's been written on scattered pieces of paper that need to be picked up. Peruse pantry, frig and freezer, bathroom, and cleaners to determine what else might be left off list.
- A minimum of two hours later, (and that's only if I haven't gotten up 142 times to beat my head against the wall), head out to the store. For the first time of the week.
THEN I found out about e-mealz. I'm trying really hard to not sound like an info-mercial here, but hear me out! You will not believe the difference this tiny investment has made for me!
What it is:
Two sisters from the southeastern United States have started a business taking grocery store circulars and planning meals around the sales in our local stores. They post 7 new dinners for my plan each week, including the recipes, and the corresponding grocery list (broken down by store sections for easy shopping!) You can save and print the meals and grocery lists for the store you have chosen each week!
They offer plans for WalMart, Kroger, Publix, Aldi, and Ralph's. If you don't shop at any of those stores, then you can use the "Any Store" plan! Most meals serve 4-6 people, with the exception of the Dinner for Two option, for obvious reasons.
That leads me to the other options for certain stores (like WalMart): dinner for two, low-fat, low-carb, points system, and vegetarian! I just don't know how they do it!
And I can't understand where they get all these wonderful recipes, but I'm here to tell you...my family is chanting "We love e-mealz!" at almost every meal!
Here's a short list of some of the best mealz we've had from their collection recently:
- Western Bacon Cheeseburgers, corn on cob
- Tortellini & Sausage Soup, garlic bread
- Chicken Parmesan, Italian salad, garlic bread
- Filled French Toast, bacon, sliced cantaloupe
- Smokey Orange Chicken, warm potato salad, green beans (this has been my favorite so far!)
- Foot long BLT, watermelon wedges
- Gourmet Chicken Quesadillas, Spanish rice
OH, I could SO go on.
I have noticed that most weeks include at least one crock pot meal, something kind of fun and easy (like Hawaiian pizza...oh, man, that was GOOD), and most weeks there is some kind of meat that I cook once, but use it for two meals! Anywhere that I can cook something for two meals at once, it will be mentioned in the recipe. Pure genius.
The total cost of all 7 meals (should I choose to do them all) is always somewhere around $70-80 per week...to feed 5 people! That's an average of $10 per dinner! For 5 people! The reason they are so reasonable is two-fold: 1) I'm buying for meals that were planned around sale prices; and 2) these meals are not weighted with a burdensome ingredient list; there are usually not much more than 5 or so ingredients in each recipe (aside from staples, like salt and pepper, etc.)
The grocery list actually has the prices on it, too, so I can see how much each item currently is at Kroger. This helps me tremendously, because I will take that list to WalMart only twice a month (which is all I can handle of WalMart...sorry, I'm not an avid WalMart shopper!) and I can compare prices! It has saved me tons, I'm sure.
Now, I can already hear some of you out there...yeah, yeah, yeah...how much is it? Well, I am confident that you will be as elated as I was (being the
frugal-minded cheapskate I am) to find out that this exceptional service only costs $5 per month! Yes, that's what I said.
Close your mouth, dear. I know, it's a lot to take in. I was floored, too.Now, they do ask that you sign up for 3-months at a time, so that's an even $15, but here's the conclusion I came to: each week, I hole-punch my meal/recipe list and mark which ones we had and especially enjoyed. Then I keep that sheet in a small 3-ring notebook (current one on top, so I can readily see my working menu).
What's my point? At the end of 3 months, I will have collected somewhere around 84 recipes...most of which we will have tried! Well, I ask you, how could I go wrong with that?
'Course, I'm pretty sure I'll be renewing my membership when it comes up...if I don't, I just might have a kitchen mutany on my hands!
Plus, my meal planning strategy has taken on a whole new look: print out new e-mealz plan, add to grocery list what's been recorded as being low all week, decide if I'm going to use all 7 meals or if I want to supplement with my own, traditional, "regular" meals! That is so significant to me, my friend. I add my stuff when I want to. Can the world buy such a jewel?
Click on the banner below to learn more and sign up!
It sure works for me...I'll bet it'll work for you, too!