Meal planning creates smart shopping

Smart shopping isn’t just for single households; it can save families stress, time and money, while providing health benefits.

Planning meals in advance is easier than you think. Whether you are on a limited budget or not, planning meals a week in advance saves time, energy and money. It helps you become aware of what foods your family is eating and how much you are spending on food. It saves money because you buy only what you need, eliminating time and the need of last minute searches for food to prepare, saving you energy.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) recommends easy steps to meal planning that will help minimize your stress, and benefit your health. First, determine how often you will shop and your budget.

To avoid buying too much food, know 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.

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 by using again.

There are several ways of saving money at the grocery store. 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 of 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. Prepared foods cost more than unprepared foods. Grated cheese cost more than a chunk that you could grate yourself. Buying fresh potatoes and preparing them yourself is usually cheaper than instant mashed potatoes.

When at the check-out lane, make sure you are being charged the sale prices. It is our responsibility to be smart shoppers, using these few simple steps can save money and time.

Michigan State University Extension recommends tips about shopping, cooking and meal planning through the USDA.

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