Using grocery fliers to plan meals
How the fliers can help you produce a meal plan and also a very well organized grocery list.
One of our most frequently used methods for saving money on food is to create a meal plan each week based on the sales found in grocery fliers. I then prepare a grocery list -- based on the meal plan -- that includes many of the sale items found on the fliers.
This approach to meal planning is vastly different from what I once did and, frankly, it took some getting used to. I tend to learn such things through example and repetition, seeing what others have done and trying it myself until it becomes natural and normal.
This week, as I worked on my family's meal plan, I decided to write a post outlining the entire process, so you can see clearly how it works. Post continues after video.
Getting the fliers. Many grocery store chains have digital copies of their fliers on their websites. If your preferred grocery store does not, you can often find that week's grocery store flier inside your local Sunday newspaper.
I usually use digital fliers for the grocery stores I most often visit. I split my grocery shopping between Fareway and Hy-Vee. The former has the best prices for many goods, but the latter often has a better selection for specific items I might need.
Identifying interesting items. As I browse through the fliers for each store, I look for items that stand out because of the low price and items that stand out for flavor, inspiring me to get into the kitchen and cook. I focus in particular on produce deals.
In the flier on Fareway's website, I found these sales worth noting:
- Navel oranges, 10 cents each.
- Fresh broccoli, $1.49 per pound.
- Baby portobellos, $1.29 per pound.
- Red potatoes, $1.99 for a 5-pound bag.
In the flier on Hy-Vee's site, I found these sales worth noting:
- Asparagus, $2.97 per pound (expensive out of season, but sounds delicious).
- Mild yellow onions, $1.39 for a 3-pound bag.
- Baby red potatoes, 69 cents per pound.
Finding and choosing recipes. I needed to plan for five dinners in the coming week, as well as making sure we have things on hand for breakfasts (like plenty of oatmeal) and a few items for backup lunches in case we don't have enough leftovers for lunch.
I use a recipe search engine like Allrecipes.com, putting in the interesting ingredients I found in the fliers to search for simple recipes the family would like (with an eye toward my own dietary needs, too). I often go through our cookbooks and recipe box to see if we have anything interesting that matches well.
I wound up with several recipes, including a portobello penne, an asparagus ratatouille that lets me use tomatoes left over from last week, and another recipe that I'll be using in my Friday meal post.
Building a meal plan and a master ingredient list. I come up with the actual meal plan at this point, slotting in the various meals for various nights. That way I can be sure to use the fresher ingredients as quickly as possible, plan ahead for tasks that need to be done (like soaking beans overnight), and easily roll over ingredients from one meal to the next -- for instance, having meals with onions close enough together so that any extra chopped onion doesn't go bad in the fridge.
I also prepare a master ingredient list. It's a list of all the ingredients in this week's recipes sorted by where I will find them -- refrigerator, freezer, top pantry shelf, etc.
I do all of this on the computer. It's much easier for me to type all this stuff than write it down.
Turning the ingredient list into a grocery list. When I have a master ingredient list, I take it to each of the kitchen locations I've grouped things by on the list and cross off the things we already have. This also makes me check the quantity of items we use frequently, and reminds me to add such things to the grocery list.
Once I'm done, the grocery list is ready to go. Conveniently, it's already pretty well organized, as I've marked the sale items on the list so I know which store to buy them in, and the refrigerated and frozen foods are already grouped together for me.
I hit the grocery store, unpack everything, and follow the meal plan throughout the busy week.
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