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Meal planning can save money, make meals healthier

There is a lot to consider when deciding what to fix for dinner: Likes, dislikes, budget, what's already in your cabinet or fridge...just to name a few. That's where meal planning comes in handy.

Making a weekly menu is the best way to plan. These before, during and after shopping tips will make meal planning easy and efficient, save money, and help you provide more nutritious meals.

Before shopping

- Check the circulars. Circulars with coupons and advertised products come along with your newspaper. If you don"t get a weekly paper, go to your supermarket's website. Note or print the items you would like to include in your meals that week.

- Choose recipes based on family favorites and the week's specials. Look up recipes in your cookbooks or online and decide which day of the week to prepare each one. Ask your family for ideas, too!

- Make a list. Choosing your recipes in advance will allow you to make a list of all the ingredients needed to prepare your meals. Take your list to the store so nothing gets left out. Don't forget to list items you need for other meals and snacks as well.

While Shopping

- Take advantage of unadvertised specials. Not all sale products may be advertised. Look out for other specials.

- Be aware of prices. Larger containers are not always cheaper! Check unit pricing; this is listed on the shelf under the items. Also, use unit pricing to compare the prices of different brands.

- Be aware of brands. Higher price doesn't always mean higher quality. Different brands of the same product are often of equal quality. Take a moment to compare.

After Shopping

- Use fresh fruits and vegetables early in the week. Fresh produce tends to spoil faster so put it on your menu early in the week.

- Use frozen and canned fruits and vegetables at the end of the week. Prepare items ahead of time. Wash and chop vegetables for tomorrow night's dinner then store in a closed container in your refrigerator.

- Plan for leftovers in your menu. Make enough for two meals. Transform leftovers into something else; today's roast beef can be tomorrow's beef vegetable casserole. Pack leftovers for lunch. Include a "smorgasbord" night to use up the odds and ends.

Web posted on Thursday, April 09, 2009

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