Fit Mom: 7 tips for meal planning on a budget

In an effort to save money many families are choosing to stay in for dinner, and eat out only occasionally.


In an effort to save money many families are choosing to stay in for dinner, and eat out only occasionally. In her new book 7-Day Menu Planner for Dummies, registered dietitian Susan Nicholson, shares ideas for helping people make the most out of eating at home. Here are some of her tips to help you keep costs down when grocery shopping.

Monitor your portions. Not only do extra calories run up your weight, they run up your food bill. Not many people need three or four pork chops (unless they are digging ditches during the day!). Make sure portion sizes are right for each person.

Watch for sales. Look for buy-one-get-one-free offers, they are an easy way to halve your costs at the grocery store. Especially on products you use often. When reading about specials at your local grocery store pay attention to the cost of protein (meat, fish, poultry) and fresh produce. These are the most expensive items and you can choose which store to shop at that week based on what the prices are for these items.

Clip coupons. People who devote some time and energy to clipping coupons save a lot of money. Also use online sites to ferret out valuable coupons.

Buy generic. You can save about half the price of a branded product’and the taste and quality are often the same. One pot meals, or stir-frys are a great way to use generic brands. And soups and stews all taste delicious when you include canned generic vegetables  Also try generic brands of staples such as flour, brown and white sugar, jam and canola oil.

Buy in quantity. Buy larger amounts of non-perishables if you have space to store them; you’ll save time and money. But be sure to check the price per ounce or pound of an item. Some times larger sizes are more expensive per ounce than a smaller size. Read the fine print on the shelf tag.

Don’t pay for waste. Lean meats and fish have little waste because their fat and moisture content are low.  Poultry that’s "plumped" up with water and salt loses a lot of moisture when cooked. You’re paying extra for water, only to watch it cook away. Remember to do the math and compare cost per pound. You’re better off buying lean meats to keep the ounces on the table rather than watching them go to waste.

Clean out your freezer and pantry. You could probably live out of your freezer and pantry for quite a while if you just surveyed them more often. Keep a list of what’s in the freezer so food doesn’t get buried and become an artifact.