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Save Hundreds By Meal Planning

Living Smart

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Meal planning is a simple and effective way to save a lot of money each month, not to mention cut down on pricey (and unhealthy) dining out. Serving home-cooked meals to your family not only reduces your grocery budget, it's a healthy alternative to fast food. Here are a few tips and ideas to get you started:

1. Decide how you want to do your meal planning. Some people like to do bi-weekly, some weekly and a few will plan out monthly meal schedules. If you're just starting out with this concept, start with weekly planning until you get the hang of it.

2. Make a list of your family's regular and favorite meals, including side dishes to go along with entrees; for example, spaghetti and meatballs with salad and garlic bread, or tacos and beans.

3. Print out (or buy) a calendar. Sit down with it and the list of meals that you made. Start by designating each day a specific meal (Monday-meatless, Tuesday-casserole, etc.), to make it easier to plan your meals around certain days. But don't be too set on the plan; make sure you can switch around dinners if schedules change and unexpected meetings come up.

4. Create your grocery list around your set meal plan. Check your pantry and freezer to make sure you don't place duplicate items on your list if you already have them on hand. Scout your grocery store ads for sales on the items you need. 

What tips for meal planning do you have? Share them with us on Facebook.