Monday, April 9, 2012

107 How We Meal Plan For Our Clan

After the recent stint on HGTV, I have been getting quite a few questions about my meal planning process.  I actually did a post on it quite awhile ago here, however, it's since evolved a bit and I thought it was time for a little update.


First, it is important to take a moment to chat about why I go through the process:
  • To prepare for the week:  We typically meal plan on Sunday and plan out what we are having for breakfast, lunch and dinner each week.  Because we know what we are eating each morning and night, it means less stress, less money eating out and the ability to pull anything frozen out of the freezer the night before.  When my husband gets home from work, there is none of that, "What is for dinner?" banter. 
  • To save a little moolah: We save money on items we purchase often when we can combine a sale and a coupon, or even just use a coupon.  We also save money by only purchasing the items we plan to eat within a given week, vs. going to the grocery store hungry and winging it...
  • Scheduling: We always keep our weekly schedules and appointments in mind when we meal plan.  Nights we have baseball practice or golf league means quick and easy dinners and family nights mean we can pick something new to make and spend a little more time preparing a good meal.
Awhile back I wrote down all of the items we eat ALL the time.  Our family staples.  Items we like to have on stock for super quick dinners, produce we love to eat each week, items for packing lunches and snacks for after school...


I would reference this to quickly check it against our inventory {which is easy since I don't over purchase and everything is in clear containers}.  I would hate to not have any popcorn on hand when family movie night rolls around...  This also ensures that if for some reason a last minute obligation comes up on a night where we had a bigger meal planned, we have a couple of quick items to fall back on to avoid rushing out to eat...  It is also great for our weekly after school snacks, which typically include things like veggies, apple slices, raisins, graham crackers, etc...

Eventually, the list was engraved in my brain, but I always kept a copy on my meal planning clipboard, just in case.  I also found I needed it less when I was really good about writing things on my shopping list for the next week, as soon as it ran out.

When it comes to coupons, I just look for items that we often enjoy and use when preparing our meals...


I spend $1 for the Sunday paper for the coupon inserts and the rest of the coupons are printed off online.  So once I find enough coupons to cover that one dollar investment {which is very easy}, then the rest is gain for me.

Now, I will NEVER claim to be a crazy couponer, nor do I think I ever will be.  Here are a couple of reason's why it's just not for me personally:
  • I only wish to dedicate my kitchen space for storing my foods, and my kitchen isn't all that big.  I could sacrifice some of my laundry room for overstock items, but it's downstairs and much out of the way, therefore, it wouldn't be A} Convenient or B} Always thought about.  Many of the foods we purchase are perishable which we can't buy in abundance anyway.
  • I don't wish to purchase items we don't/won't use.  We have been trying to eat more naturally and organically, and we find many of the items that end up in the ads, are not things that we would typically purchase without a coupon.  Same with cleaning, we either make our cleaning products or purchase "greener" brands, so you won't find ten bottles of KaBoom under my bathroom sink.  Having a bunch of stuff we won't use or don't need, just because it was free or a really great deal, just is not for me.
  • We live quite a distance away from most major grocery stores, so I go once a week and I go to one {maybe two} places and that is it for me.  I just don't have the time to run to each market that has the best sale combined with coupons, or to even plan and map out grocery trips.
  • Time.  I never feel like there is enough in the day to accomplish everything I want to do, so adding in the time many invest in couponing just isn't realistic for me personally.  Could I do better?  Absolutely!  Are there websites that will make it easier for me?  My guess is yes.  Do I always try to improve and streamline our process.  For sure!  That's the important thing to note.  Our system works, but we are always looking for ways to make it work even better. 
It's all about finding that balance.  If I were to invest more time into the couponing process, I would have to give/sacrifice time in another area.  I do have endless respect for those that can spend $6 on $200 worth of items, and even have some amazing couponers right within our family that have put those coupons to fabulous use. 

Here are some couponing questions I have received:

Does Bryan really help clip coupons?  Yes.  He does help meal plan and occasionally clips {although the kids typically love to own the clipping part since it feels like craft time to them}.  He is the chef of the family so it is really important for him to weigh in on the meals we are planning for the week.  Back when I did daycare, I owned the daycare meals and he actually owned all of the planning for our meals.  We are a cheesy team I tell ya!

How much do we save each week couponing?  Sometimes $20, last week $60.  It really just depends on how good the sales are and how well I did meal planning around sales and coupons.  Some weeks I find the sales are not all the great for us, other weeks I feel like we hit the jackpot.  It's hard to put a number on the money we save by planning our meals, but I love that I am not over purchasing and that we rarely toss out food because we only keep on hand what we eat in a given week and plan based on our inventory first.

How do you store your coupons?  I have tried every single method I can think of, and finally have landed on the one that is working for me.  I used to sort my coupons by type and product and alphabetically, blah blah blah.... However, I would get to the grocery store and it was so frustrating digging through so many categories to find what I wanted.  So now, I just store them all in one coupon envelope, by simple categories:


Fun, Dining, Fuel, Grocery and Clothing.  That is it.  That way, depending on what we are doing, is where I go for a coupon.  So much easier.  And the grocery section has a giant stack in there, but I go through them when meal planning, take out the ones I will be using that week, put those in a separate pouch and put the rest back here.  That way, when I am at the grocery store, I am only holding the ones that match my meal plan/grocery list, and not dealing with the extra clutter of all of the other ones I don't need.

Do you ever purchase in bulk?  Yes.  If something we eat frequently {something on our staples list}, is on sale plus there is a great coupon deal and I know I have the room to store it, then I will purchase a few extra.  Spaghetti sauce, chicken and waffles seem to be when this happens most.  All things we eat every week, and then I will just be sure to consider those items when meal planning down the line.

So once I have all of my coupons clipped, I start meal planning!

When I meal plan, I consider:
  • My current food inventory
  • Coupons/Sales
  • Trying something new

I start by taking a quick glance at the foods we already have and plan accordingly.  This might get us a meal or two since we really don't over purchase much.

Then, I look at the coupons/sales and also flip through our recipe binder, and plan the remaining meals accordingly.  A tip I actually learned from my bestest is to plan a different type of food each night, so we have a night where we make a type of sandwich or wrap, a night for an Italian or noodle dish, a night for a Mexican meal, seafood night, etc....  This gives us variety in our meals so we aren't just eating spaghetti every night/week.

We try to try something new each week, schedule permitting.  If we have weeks where we are home without too many obligations, we will scour Pinterest, cook books and our recipe binder to try something new, and we often time cook it with the kidlets, since they love to help in the kitchen.  We make this some of our family time.

Speaking of recipe binder....


It's basically just a binder that has pocket dividers and sheet protectors.  We keep it as simple as possible, organizing by type of dish.  When we find a recipe in a magazine, I clip it out and put it in the divider.  If I find a recipe online or from Pinterest, I print it out and pop it in.  If we have favorites from our cookbooks, I make a copy and put that in.  I like having one place for recipe reference.  It's super simple to maintain, and when I pick a meal for the week, I just put a flag on that page so we can quickly find it when the night comes to make it.

The pocket dividers are great for holding meal planning tools like extra shopping lists, weekly ads, etc...

We keep the shopping list {sold here in my shop} on a clipboard hung in our pantry cabinet...


By keeping it in the pantry, we can write things on it as we run out throughout the week {this is great for snacks and staple items}.  I put our meal plan items on the left and then jot down the items we need to prepare those meals, onto the list section on the right.  Then, I can just easily check things off as I go through the store, remember what we planned, etc...

I also toss the weekly menu on our menu board so the whole family can be on the same page...

When shopping, I whipped up a simple, laminated/reusable list for each of my younger boys to keep them busy at the store.  The items are again, items we purchase frequently and simple enough for them to be on the lookout while shopping.  Even just holding the list has been helpful in keeping their hands busy.


I started meal planning when I started doing daycare almost four years ago, because there was no way I was going to be unprepared each day with what I was making all the kids.  Then, I found the benefits and meal planned for our family as well, and it's stuck ever since.  That said, it's gotten easier and quicker each week.  If time is tight, I have even meal planned and clipped coupons in the car {of course not while driving, only as a passenger}.  Does it take a little time up front to save time and money in the end?  Yes.  Quicker grocery shopping trips, less time during the week figuring out dinner and meals and some money saved by using coupons....  All wins for me.

So feel free to let me know what other questions you have about our process, or chime in and share your money saving meal planning and coupon clipping tips!  What are your favorite websites to use for meal planning or scoring mega deals?

107 comments:

  1. These are amazing suggestions! I don't have a family yet but I know that meal planning is essential for a less stressful week. Thank you for the inspiration! xo

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  2. I've been thinking about meal planning so that our days will go more smoothly. It's not really in my nature, but I know that it would alleviate stress. This post was so helpful to me!

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  3. I am so glad you posted this because this was my biggest question after your HGTV show! I know you had made a post like this awhile back but I haven't had time to look for it. This post helps a lot, I meal plan as well but some weeks go better than others and sometimes my coupon intentions just dissolve and pay with no coupons- I always feel sick after that! My questions:

    1- do you grocery shop every week? on Sundays?

    2 - does it really only take you 15 minutes in the store? Is it a small store?!! How does this happen? This just boggles my mind. I'm always there for at least an hour, but I go to a big store and I don't shop every week. If I could grocery shop for 15 minutes a week, my world would be a happy place.

    I am wondering if I could streamline my way of doing things better. Your system sounds pretty simple.

    Thanks!

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    1. Hi Lynnsey!

      1. I do grocery shop each week. It just is what works best for us since we eat so many breads, fruits and veggies.

      2. Nope. I totally love HGTV but their numbers were a little skewed. 30-45 minutes shopping is typical. If I need more items like home staples and toiletries, it may take a bit longer.

      Thanks so much!

      xoxo,
      Jen

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  4. I recently made a recipe binder too and I love it. It has become so helpful. I keep a copy of my menu plan in it and pull any recipes I plan on using that week and keeping them in the front pocket so they are easily accessible when I need them

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  5. I have a daycare in my home and I do my meal planning very similarly to yours. I'm not quite as organized, and typically forget my coupons at home, but the procedure is about the same.

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  6. can u do a post about pantry's? what u should keep in on eand how to stock up on stuff? I am just starting to (hopefully) make a pantry, but have no idea what I need to put in it! thanks!

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  7. Thanks for posting this jen - its so helpful! Meal planning has helped our family so much. My husband loves having a plan, knowing what will be for dinner. I started years ago thanks to orgjunkie.com's MPM. I check each week and use lots of recipes from all the links too.
    Thanks again for all your inspiration! God Bless!

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  8. this is fabulous - I'll never become a couponer for similar reasons to yours but I still make sure I get the best pricing on what I do purchase. I am starting a binder so I can keep it in the kitchen :D thanks for sharing!

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  9. This is very helpful! I have a hard time with meal planning - cooking for two isn't so easy. Plus, we're coming off of YEARS of NYC life (ie delivery or out to eat every night!). Thanks for sharing.

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  10. I could never be a crazy couponer either! Not only do I live super far from grocery stores but I am only one person -- so I can't ever eat all the food that pro "couponers" buy! Like you I totally stock up on staples and keep a recipe binder -- and a list? ohmygosh is that mandatory! Otherwise I have to live off chips and salsa ;)

    great post girly!

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  11. I agree with you Jen. When you have a meal plan you spend less. It is not chaotic at dinner time and having some simple meals planned in with some more involved because things change makes for stress free dinner times. I too go with what is on sale. I also like to make things that yield some leftovers, so I don't have to worry about dinner the next night or two (spaghetti, soups, etc) I am not a huge extreme couponer and save more some weeks than others. I am a little closer to the Twin Cities so I tend to run to Cub. Things seem a little cheaper over there. Hubby works in Mpls, so it is easy for him to stop on his way home, or if I have errands out that way.

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  12. I agree meal planning helps me save a ton of time. I will admit some weeks I plan better than others and I always remember why I try to plan weekly when I hear the Mr say "What's for dinner?". I think it's hard to just shop and cook for two people. I swear no matter what meals we try we always have left overs. I coupon to save money. Am I extreme? No way! If I find a good sale on something we use all the time I might buy multiples if I have extra coupons. I do need to get better of buying what is just on our weekly list. I will make that a challenge of mine for the next few weeks. Thanks for sharing about your meal planning!

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  13. Thanks for reposting this! I actually searched your blog for the older meal planning posts after the HGTV episode. Great tips, and thanks for being honest about couponing...took me awhile to make peace with not spending hours weekly on it; I know I could save more money, but I just don't have the time. Balance, right? Great post.

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    1. Absolutely - balance is the thing for me. I like to spend time with my kidlets and on blog stuff, so extreme couponing just doesn't make the cut. :)

      xoxo,
      Jen

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  14. Yikes...french fries, chicken nuggets, mac and cheese, hot dogs and frozen pizza all on the "staples" list but no fruits, veggies, or whole grains? Great tips for staying organized with meal planning and grocery shopping, but I'd challenge you to strive for better eating habits (less processed junk food and more whole foods) than these!

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    1. Ha, I guess I should post the entire photo of our staples - majority of our staples are fruits, veggies and healthier snacks, we just like to keep some of the other items on hand. We do purchase all natural and organic items majority of the times as well {which includes chicken bites/strips, organic frozen pizza, etc...} We are a busy fam, we do eat some of that quick and easy stuff, and we do pay the price to eat it as healthy as possible...

      xoxo,
      Jen

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    2. haha...I love that you keep it real! We eat lots of fruits and veggies at our house, but pizza and frozen food, too! It's a balance!

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    3. Who are you to judge what their family eats?

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  15. I just starting putting my recipes in binders...The only problem that I've found is that my dividers don't stick out and show up like yours do so I can't see where things are located. I place the recipes in clear sheet protectors, but they stick out farther than the dividers do. Any suggestions? What type of sheet protectors and dividers do you use so I can prevent that problem? Thanks for the help.

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    1. I had the same problem, I found manilla folders cut in half stick out further than the plastic pages, as well as the Up & Up brand of plastic dividers found at Target.

      Hope that helps!

      xoxo,
      Jen

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    2. Hmmm...Sounds like I need to try those. Thanks so much for sharing!

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    3. I had the same problem until I found Avery Big Tab Dividers with Pockets. The pockets hold 8.5x11 sheets so consequently the tabs stick out past the sheet protectors. I use the pockets to hold new recipes to try for the category the divider is for.

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  16. I have one quick question. Is your pantry staples list in any particular order? I see it's not alphabetical, so I was just wondering if there was a rhyme or reason to it. Thanks! LOVE the blog!

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    1. Hello!

      I actually just updated the photo to show everything... I made it a few years ago, and basically did it in category order {fridge, produce, freezer, pantry, etc...}

      xoxo!
      Jen

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    2. It takes a few extra minutes, but I organize my shopping list by where it's located in the store. That way, I'm not circling back around to the produce department for something I overlooked.

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    3. I do the same, great point!

      xoxo,
      Jen

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  17. Oooo thanks so much for this post...my goal this year is to definitely cook more. Do you have a post that goes more into detail about your recipe binder? Also do u have any posts about how u organize your finances? I def help in that area too lol

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  18. Hi Jen,

    Love your blog & all your wonderful ideas! I caught most of your spot on HGTV last weekend, and there was one part I wanted to ask you about. I think it's great that you wash, prepare and store all your items as soon as you get home - and I liked the part where you said you pre-portioned out your snacks for quick grabbing on the go. But my heart SUNK when I saw that you were using plastic baggies to do this! I wondered if you'd ever considered using the eco-friendly snack bags? We use them in our home and not only are they great for the environment, they are super easy to use. Maybe you could have one for each of your 3 adorable boys to grab & fill on the way out the door? They sell tons of cute designs on Etsy (and I'm sure many other places). Just a thought!

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  19. Hi Jennifer!

    We have thought about it but because we make at least 25 plus snack bags per week {think - three boys times seven days a week plus some for us adults}, that purchasing that many eco snack bags at $5+ each hasn't been an option. We have recently been looking into BPA free plastic snack storage containers, that we can use in the dishwasher as another alternative to our method. I try to be as earth friendly as possible, we actually wash out the baggies and reuse them a couple of times whenever possible, and never use them for packing lunches either.

    xoxo!
    Jen

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    1. I use zipping plastic bags as well. But I reuse them, just like my plastic grocery bags. I find that I can reuse them (in a diaper bag which gets more traffic thus fall apart faster) for about 2 weeks. So maybe reuse them every other week? Just a thought. :)

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  20. I agree with you on the couponing. Believe it or not, my hubby is totally into it, but I have discouraged him from bringing in the junk because I won't eat it. If only I could find coupons for organic stuff and Method cleaning products! Oh well. We do stock up on laundry soap with our coupons though, so they are handy and save us money there.

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    1. There's a printable coupon for Method cleaning products on the Target website right now and then there's also a printable coupon for Method products on their facebook page.

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    2. Saw the Target one, thanks for the heads up on the website! Target had all sorts of great natural and organic coupons this week which I wish they would do much more often! xoxo!

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    3. WOW! I didn't even KNOW Target had online coupons!!!! I feel like a light has just been shown on Target, LOL. Thanks ladies for pointing this out, I will now check there before paying FULL price for everything that's not on sale in the ad at Target!

      THANK YOU, THANK YOU :)

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  21. I am a big fan of once a month cooking or in my case I cook 80 meals at a time. That said I still have to make a menu for the week and make sure I have things for sides and produce is available. I also can and put up as many items as I can so for me my "grocery store" is often the back yard garden or the food storage in the basement. I have been noticing that I hardly use coupons anymore they just aren't available for what I buy. By cooking once every 4 months or so I save tons of money since I buy everything in bulk for a cooking session and then don't purchase much the rest of the time. I have even been able to get good deals on meat since I buy well over 30 pounds at a time and will easily use up the larger sizes of spices, oils, and other bulk items. I don't have a real pantry in my kitchen, just some extra pieces of furniture I store food in, this makes it tricky to remember what I have.
    I love your list of pantry staples, I could really use something like that it would save me from finding 4 bottles of vinegar stashed here and there. :)

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    1. WOW! How do you do this? do you freeze your meals?

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  22. Hmmm....it's 4:30 and I was just wondering what I was going to do for dinner. :-) I AM learning from you, though....baby steps.

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  23. Yay! I'm so glad you posted about this because when I saw your HGTV stint (SO GREAT-CONGRATS!!) I was like "wait..pause this-I want to see more about how the heck she grocery shops in such an organized, efficient way!". Thanks for sharing this!!!
    http://veggie-kids.blogspot.com/

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  24. I used to use coupons and realized that everything I was putting in the grocery bags for the Boy Scout food shelf collection was stuff that I purchased because I had a coupon. I think that meal planning and really paying attention to what we eat/use and ultimately throw out has saved us wayyyy more money than using coupons ever will!
    I have had a recipe binder for several years, found a nice one at a stationary store that we love! So, it is just a matter of planning ahead.
    My husband does all the grocery shopping and I have to say, he's got us down to less than $50/week for groceries. It is amazing! I think I used to spend $125 every trip to the store.
    I go so far as making our own waffles for the freezer. My kids won't tough an Egg-O anymore.
    Thanks for your tips on planning. I really like all of them!

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    1. Wow...$50 is A-mazing. I just had to randomly chirp in and say that last weekend I did the waffle thing for the first time. My son eats lots of Eggos on school mornings, so I decided it was time to cook and freeze. It took me forever (3 hours start to finish) to make a big double batch and cook all of those waffles, but I felt like Jen herself when I took a plastic Itso bin and carefully labeled it "Waffles" and put my pre-packaged little bundles in the freezer! It's the small things sometimes. Ha!

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    2. Way to go! It's the small things for sure... and a few small things lend their way to big things... just wait... you'll be blogging about it in a few years :)

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    3. Catherine - that rocks! Congrats, I bet it felt great and has already helped you out in the mornings!

      xoxo!
      Jen

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  25. hey Jenn & readers looks like they fixed the glitch in the hgtv video, your segment kept cutting off, but now its finally fixed yay! Loved your segment. Lola -miami

    *p.s. is that a tattoo on your side chest on your renewal wedding pics i keep wondering what it is, it looks pretty cool, just curious :)

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  26. I currently do not meal plan.. but I found this post to be very inspiring/ helpful. I'm excited to go home and give this a shot!

    Thank you!

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  27. For those that want meals for just two of you, Quick cooking/Taste of Home has a cooking for two section in their magazines, and probably could find it on their website as well.

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  28. I absolutely love this whole process and it is something that I am still working on. Thank you for the awesome tips. ; )

    Kristin
    theocdlifestyle.blogspot.com

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  29. These are great tips. i took your advice and put up a weekly menu board (it's actually in my blog post today!), along with a whole mommy-command-central which has our calendar, a mirror for my kids to apply sunscreen, and a chalkboard.

    I loved your HGTV appearance, it was so inspiring for me to see how you organize (especially your kitchen) and I am so much happier now that I followed you lead:)

    Jessica
    stayathomeista.com

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  30. love the tips! i also meal plan, clip coupons, and make a weekly grocery trip on sundays. i have noticed that by planning ahead, we save money by only buying what we need and we don't waste food by all of it going bad before we can eat it.

    i love the printable, but do you sell the one that has the grocery categories on it?

    thanks!
    jordy liz
    http://www.jordylizblogs.com

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  31. Love the idea of a recipe binder. I'm a single gal and meal plan two weeks at a time. I find it saves me money and it makes me eat healthier since I'm only cooking for myself. Chips and salsa or dheese and crackers were sometimes meals before this. I also love that meal planning cuts down on waste.

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  32. I have a similar process as well as the same recipe binder. I recently began exploring coupon/deal sites. I tried couponing 8 years ago. I hated it. This time, I love it! I have saved tons and have not used any newspaper insert coupons. Those drive me crazy since I don't buy most of what's advertised. I have 3-4 sites I spend 5 - 10 min a day checking. They list all the best deals for the week at Target, for example, as well as other stores. One site lists all the organic and natural food sales. Oh, I'm in the Twin Cities, by the way (Roseville). There is a great Twin Cities coupon/deal site: www.pocketyourdollars.com. My other fav is www.moneysavingmom.com. Thanks for this post, very interesting to hear others meal plan!

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  33. I am a retail manager and my husband works nights, we have a 2 year old and a 6 month old....crazy couponing takes up time I just don't have!! I started using your system from the last post and its great! We just buy what we need! My kitchen is tiny and storing excess isn't an option!

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  34. my april goal was to get our meal planning sorted and i just popped over to check some inspiration for today only to find this post!! fantastic timing. i'm from australia and coupons aren't a big thing here, i suppose it could be the same as our weekly catalogue sales for which i generally save an average of $20 per week! i have recently started online grocery shopping - with 2 kids and working (paid) part-time it's the best thing i have done especially with groceries delivered (and put away) by 8.30am on our day off and then the day is better spent with them than an agonising hour in the supermarket! thanks again

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  35. This post came right at the right time! How weird! I just started to write down and really plan out my meals...and made a decision to STOP the crazy couponing/stockpiling and buy only what I need for the week. Thanks so much for this!!
    -Lani

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  36. Hi Jen,
    I'm finally getting around to commenting on your blog even though I've been a fan for months. I really appreciate your meal planning process as it jives with mine (http://rootsandshootsblog.wordpress.com/2012/03/10/meal-planning/). I think using coupons in moderation is key to not going crazy, and I appreciate that you pointed out how a good majority of the items that are common coupons are terrible for you and for the environment. Thanks for all you do!
    Pam

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  37. I think the bloggy gods told you to write this post for me! One of my resolutions for this year was to do more menu planning. I'm nowhere near your system but I do find that the weeks I do spend time on it, I'm a lot happier when it comes to meal time.

    Thank you for your tips and inspiration!!!

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  38. Hey Jen! Curious as to how much you budget for groceries? I know how much you actually spend depends on how much you save by couponing/meal planning with weekly deals. Just curious for an average weekly trip & monthly budget amount. Continue to love your blog! Loved the HGTV show and wish it would be a series! :)

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  39. I meal plan very similarly to the way you do it. I do a little more with coupons and the sale ads. My meal plans revolve around what I have in the freezer/fridge already and then I fill in with what is on sale. If I can match a sale with a coupon - even better! I almost never buy food that isn't on sale and I shop at multiple stores each week (all on the same day). It definitely saves a lot of time and money to plan ahead. :)

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  40. Awesome! Awesome! Awesome! So much great information - and it's all pretty to boot! :) One quick question... How do you get the dividers in your recipe binder to stick out past the page protectors? I have tried combining dividers and page protectors in the same notebook before, and the dividers always end up hiding behind the page protector sheets. Do you use a special type of divider that's bigger? Or do you use those adhesive divider tabs and stick them on the edge of one of the page protectors? Thanks! :)

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    1. I had the same problem, I found manilla folders cut in half stick out further than the plastic pages, as well as the Up & Up brand of plastic dividers found at Target.

      Hope that helps!

      xoxo,
      Jen

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    2. Oops! Just went back to read through the comments, and saw that you've already answered my question about the dividers. :) I'm assuming you used the Up & Up brand dividers in your recipe binder since they don't look like manilla file folders. :)

      Delete
  41. Hi Jen. I'm always in awe of your organising skills but I menu plan a little different. I don't 'plan' as such but am similar to you in that I have a basic pantry supply and my meals are planned around what protein I buy on special and what seasonal produce is available. I wrote a blog post about it. http://domesblissity.blogspot.com.au/2012/03/to-menu-plan-or-not-to-menu-plan.html Maybe it might be of some use your readers. Menu planning works for some but I choose not to. This way works better for my family.

    Anne xx

    ReplyDelete
  42. Hi Jen,
    I do have one question about your recipe binder - I have a subscription to a food magazine over here in the UK and get a lot of my meal ideas from that as well as cooking shows and websites but I do have quite a few recipes that I've cooked for years and we eat quite often. Do you have a system for keeping these in the running when meal planning; something like a list at the front of your binder? I guess what I mean is, how do you still incorporate the meals that you and your family ate before your recipe binder existed, things that you maybe don't need the recipe for anymore?
    Thanks
    Tori

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hi Tori!

      I just type them out in Microsoft Word and print them and pop them into the binder. You could always make copies as well.

      xoxo!
      Jen

      Delete
  43. Thanks for this post Jen! I'm not very consistent with our dinner meal planning but I know that the weeks I do a plan I'm much less stressed at 4:30pm. :) Plus I'm not running to the grocery store 3 times during the week if I've made a plan. I only do meal planning for dinner (not breakfast & lunch like you) but I recently came up with a weekly breakfast plan for my 9 year old DD. It's the same every week and a copy of it hangs in the cupboard so she can look at it in the morning when she comes down & knows exactly what to grab. Last year I decided to make school lunch preparation easier on myself by writing down what main food/sandwich to make each day. Like my breakfast plan, I only had to do this once since it's the same every week. (I pick the fruit different every day, depending on what we have in the fridge). The plan is taped inside my lunch bin (where I keep all my supplies) for easy reference. I included my daughter in both the breakfast plan and the lunch plan so she's eating foods she's chosen. I can't believe how much these 2 simple plans have simplified my life! Thanks for the reminder about the importance & benefits of meal planning!

    ReplyDelete
  44. Can u go more in depth about Ur homemade cleaners?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Absolutely! I am hoping to post on it in the near future! xoxo!
      Jen

      Delete
  45. I just started reading your blog a few weeks ago and am HOOKED! And now I have to ask the silly questions: Did you make that fun green clipboard? And what is the gorgeous blue and white patterned surface your books are on in that first photo?

    LOVE your blog, and taking much inspiration from you!! :)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hi Emma!

      The clipboard and table cloth are both from Target, most likely found last year sometime.

      xoxo!
      Jen

      Delete
  46. Hi Jen

    I wanted to purchase the grocery list...I have toyed with the idea since your original post...but it said SOLD - do I need to try and find it a different way?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thank you so much! More have been listed in the shop.

      xxoo!
      Jen

      Delete
  47. I have been a meal planner for as long as I have been a grocery shopper, I think! It just seemed to make sense to me! My process is similar to yours - check the freezer and cupboards, check the sales and coupons, then plan accordingly. I also jot down any plans we have for the week so I can plan simple meals on the busy days.
    I was especially glad to read that you are not that into couponing. I struggle with feeling guilty that I should work at it more because I know there are great savings, but the savings are proportionate to the time you invest. And there just isn't any area where I want to sacrifice the time to sit with my scissors or hitting the print button!

    ReplyDelete
  48. I really like www.frugalfritzie.com It compares coupons with local ads like Target, Walgreens, and Kroeger stores. Like you, I don't have time to go to all these stores, but if I am going to a Kroeger brand grocery store, this is an awesome site to use! It also has awesome deals all on one site! Have gotten lots of free shampoo coupons!! Love, Love!

    Really enjoyed watching your snippet on HGTV! Great job--keep it up!

    ReplyDelete
  49. Thanks for the tips! I have been spending way too much money on groceries lately. We have been attempting meal planning for a while, but haven't pinned down a routine yet. I think I'll work on putting together a better system for our near future. My 15 year old daughter actually enjoys clipping coupons with me. My problem is I always forget what coupons I have and they go unused... Little by little, right? ;-)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Absolutely! Just paperclip the coupons to your list?

      xxoo!
      Jen

      Delete
  50. Love your coupon divider! Where did you find it? I hate the plastic ones...just not as cute.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. It's Real Simple brand from Target. I agree, I have gone through a couple of plastic ones, they always crack on me and are bulkier...

      xoxo!
      Jen

      Delete
    2. I'm glad I read all the way down... almost asked this myself... SO CUTE!!

      Delete
  51. Wondering how technology can be used for grocery lists and recipes. I'm not very technologically savvy, but I keep a "recipe" folder in my bookmarks and just add a bookmark when I see a recipe I want to try, and use that folder for menu planning each week. I also use google documents for my grocery list, Target list, Home Improvement list, etc. Any technology tips are appreciated!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hi Heather,
      I use a website and app called Pepperplate. Here is the website so you can check it out: http://www.pepperplate.com/

      It is a FREE recipe manager, meal planner, and shopping list, which equals HEAVEN for me, LOL!! You can import recipes from certain websites with a click of a button, and for others you can manually type it up. You can add your own tags (to categorize them), such as "chicken", "dessert", "pasta", etc.

      The meal planner is awesome! It's like a calendar, where you can place the recipes you want for certain meals and days. Then, with a click of a button, you can add all the ingredients for each day's recipes to the Shopping List! This is one of the reasons I love Pepperplate so much!! I highly recommend it!! The other great thing is that they have an app, and it's good on iPhone/iPad, and Android. We just bring the iPad in the kitchen when it's time to cook, and we're all set! :)

      Hope this was useful for you.
      Nicki

      Delete
  52. Curious on how much you send a week at the grocery store?
    Also are the binder dividers marked by week or category, if
    so what are the categories? Thanks a bunch.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hi Nina!

      We give ourselves a $150 per week budget for groceries. And if I break it down, Seven days per week, three times per day for five people is about $1.43 per meal per person. Plus, we purchase snacks, deserts and beverages with that budget as well, so the cost per meal would be even less.

      The binder dividers are by category, just appetizers, main dishes, side dishes, deserts, etc... I want to actually break them down even more since we like to plan our meals by types of foods - that will be a future project, I will share more details on the blog when that happens.

      xoxo!
      Jen

      Delete
  53. Your recipe binder is so cute and it looks so neat and tidy. I hope you find time to do a post about how you organize it. I would love more info on it!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Sounds great Sadie - I will keep that in mind for a future post topic! <3

      xoxo,
      Jen

      Delete
    2. I agree with Sadie. I'd love to hear how you organize your recipe binder.

      Delete
  54. As far as coupons in terms of savings on groceries go I find this fascinating. I am in Canada, no way can you get $200 worth of groceries for $6. My husband, who is from the states, actually said he noticed the difference too. We are lucky here to save 10% on our groceries.
    Anyhow saving money on food is always good, having good food for less, is even better. The more you can save the better food you can get. Bonus all round. My husband and I are nearly vegetarians, and we try to grow some of our own food, but when it comes to shopping, quality, healthy quality, is very important. Great blog. Enjoyed.

    ReplyDelete
  55. Awesome! So much great information - and it's all pretty to boot! :)

    ReplyDelete
  56. I really need to whip up a shopping list for my almost 3 year old. Half the time in the store he is either whining, wanting to put everything in the cart, or running away from me like it is some fun game. Maybe this would help!

    I also have a recipe binder, but for some reason I never thought to put copies of my favorite recipes from my cookbooks in it. That would save so much time and space (since I could put the cookbooks out of the way).

    ReplyDelete
  57. I just blogged about how I organize my recipes on the computer. LOVE the search function and the ability to tag recipes and the fact that my recipes are all in the same format.

    I should venture into the world of couponing though...

    ReplyDelete
  58. Jen,

    I love your system for meal planning. It just looks so pretty, lol! It seems to really work well for you.

    Like everything else I seem to do, I do all my meal planning electronically. I use a website and app called Pepperplate. Here is the website so you can check it out: http://www.pepperplate.com/

    It is a FREE recipe manager, meal planner, and shopping list, which equals HEAVEN for me, LOL!! You can import recipes from certain websites with a click of a button, and for others you can manually type it up. You can add your own tags (to categorize them), such as "chicken", "dessert", "pasta", etc.

    The meal planner is awesome! It's like a calendar, where you can place the recipes you want for certain meals and days. Then, with a click of a button, you can add all the ingredients for each day's recipes to the Shopping List! This is one of the reasons I love Pepperplate so much!! I highly recommend it!! The other great thing is that they have an app, and it's good on iPhone/iPad, and Android. We just bring the iPad in the kitchen when it's time to cook, and we're all set! :)

    I love your blog and am so inspired to do so many projects!

    Nicki

    ReplyDelete
  59. This is absolutely amazing. I loved reading it. Thanks for sharing everything...it looks like it's time to revamp my meal planning plan!

    ReplyDelete
  60. Thank you for showing this!


    Nina von Ordnungsliebe

    ReplyDelete
  61. Congrats on your hgtv special! You were awesome! I was wondering where you bought your grocery totes? I am looking for insulated ones to keep my cold stuff cold since I need to travel far for groceries.Thanks!

    ReplyDelete
  62. I loved your HGTV special! The couponing site I use is southernsavers.com. It helps me to look at what is on sale. Also, publix.com will allow you to browse the weekly add and create a list on the site, ensuring the things I pick are the things on sale that week. I go once a week, when the new sale cycle hits, and it makes me feel like I am saving. I would love to get in the habit of meal planning.

    ReplyDelete
  63. Do you still iae your coupon envelope you made awhile back? Also what label/ fonts did you use for coupon organizer thanks!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I still have one for popping current shopping trip coupons within, the rest are organized in the new coupon file.

      xoxo,
      Jen

      Delete
  64. I love your good staples list!! Did you make that on excel?? Any possibility for you to make. A template or tutorial for us?? Thanks!

    ReplyDelete
  65. Many people begin diets and try to lose weight only to slip back after a short time to their old eating habits. This is the nature of diets. Permanent weight loss will only be achieved after taking up a healthy eating plan for the long term.

    ReplyDelete
  66. I just found your blog from google, thanks to a search about meal-planning. This is something we need in my home! I'm already looking towards going through the rest of your topics as well, as organizing is one of my quirky interests, lol. Thanks for the tips and tricks! xoxo, Jess

    ReplyDelete
  67. I saw you guest post on emeals today. I have a question about recipe binders. I really love to cook...when I have the time. I started the binder with plastic sleeves over 10 year ago. It is now so full of recipes (that I have already made and would make again). Any ideas how to handle this? It has so much stuff crammed in there that I dread opening it. I can't find a thing and it is too full. Multiple volumes?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I would weed out the recipes you no longer love and haven't used in quite awhile. From there, consider how your binder is divided, and yes, maybe snag a second one. Maybe if you created a few additional categories, it wouldn't be so overwhelming to find specific items. You could also add an index behind the front cover for reference.

      xoxo!
      Jen

      Delete
  68. Thanks for the share!! I think this is the best way to keep a healthy diet chart for the family!! Thanks a ton!!

    ReplyDelete
  69. I am super happy I "bumped" into your blog...I am already in process for setting my daily planner, and now found your recipe binder! I have been struggling with recipe keeping for ages, and now I think your system might actually be the one I've been looking for. The Sternberg family thank you!!

    ReplyDelete
  70. I would love to see an update on if you have made any changes to your meal planning?

    ReplyDelete

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