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Organized Dinner Planning & Grocery Shopping

by Brandie Valenzuela
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If you are someone who frequently finds yourself deciding what to make for dinner at 5 o'clock in the evening, this is for you! Being more prepared in your meal planning and grocery shopping, not only can save your sanity, but it can save you money, save you time, and it can help to make sure that your family is eating better.

Step # 1
Make a master list (either on paper or on your computer) of the meals that your family enjoys eating. To make this job easier, you may want to think of smaller groups of food -- for example, think of meals that you make with ground beef, chicken, or other main ingredients. In my family, we often eat meals from one of four "categories", so I have my list separated according to those:

Step # 2
Determine how often you will shop -- for example: weekly, every two weeks, monthly, and so on. I find it easier to shop weekly, because that way I can take advantage of weekly store specials, and plan my meals accordingly.

Step # 3
With your list of meals, write down on a sheet of paper what meals your family will eat for your time period. In my case, I write the days of the week, since I shop weekly. If you do more than a week at a time, you may want to write the actual dates. I also use my grocery store ads at this time. If I noticed a great deal on chicken, I may purposely plan a dinner with chicken -- and visa versa, if no chicken is one sale (and I don't have any in my freezer) we will not be eating chicken that week. I also make sure to not to serve any two "categories" of meals on two nights in a row (for example, we will not eat tacos on Monday and Burritos on Tuesday).

HINT: Be sure to look at your families calendar when deciding what meals to prepare. On nights that I know we will be home late, I plan easy meals or meals which I can prepare ahead of time.

Step # 4
Next to each meal I wrote, I list the ingredients that will need to purchase for that meal. If we are having cheeseburgers, I will look to see what I do have and then I will list everything else that I don't have that I need to buy.

Step # 5
Now that you have your meals listed with the ingredients that you need to purchase, you are ready to go to the store. However, if you shop for more than one week at a time, I recommend that you prepare yet another list -- on this list you will want to list your needed groceries under heading such as produce, canned foods, frozen foods, etc. By following these steps, you will be on your way to more organized meal planning and grocery shopping. Now the trick is just to stick to it!

Brandie Valenzuela is the editor of The Family First Newsletter. You can visit her site, Family First, and subscribe to her free newsletter at: http://members.aol.com/BMValen/index.html.
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