If you have ever attended one of the
cooking classes at Doctor for Life you have heard Chef Rodney mention many
times, one of his most frequently-used methods for saving money on food is to
simply create a meal plan each week based on the sales found in grocery flyers.
He suggest to then take that meal plan and prepare a grocery list based on it,
which naturally includes many of the sale items found in the flyers. In our area, these sales flyers are published
on Wednesdays for the next week. It’s a great
start to Hump Day for the week.
For most of you, this approach to
meal planning may be vastly different than the way you do it. If you are like most people you tend to learn
such things through repetition and example, seeing what others have done and
simply trying it their self until it becomes natural and normal. Let’s see how it’s done.
Getting the Flyers
Many grocery store chains carry digital copies of their flyers on their
websites. If your preferred grocery store does not, you can often find a copy
of that week’s grocery store flyer inside a copy of the Wednesday and Sunday
newspaper in your area.
Identifying Interesting Items
As you browse through the flyers for each store, try to look for items that are
either on sale low enough that they stand out to you or ones that stand out for
flavor reasons, inspiring you to get into the kitchen and cook. Chef Rodney
suggest to particularly focus on produce and meat deals.
Finding and Choosing Recipes
We know that you need to plan for five dinners in the coming week, as well as
making sure that you have things on hand for breakfasts (like plenty of oatmeal
and eggs, for example) and a few items for backup lunches in case you don’t
have enough leftovers to cover your lunches.
You can use a recipe search engine
like allrecipes.com or
cookinglight.com, putting in the interesting ingredients you found above
to search for simple recipes you can make that the family would like (with an
eye toward your own dietary needs, too). You can also go through your cookbooks
and recipe box to see if you have anything interesting that matches well.
Building a Meal Plan and a Master
You should have come up with an actual meal plan at this point, slotting in the
various meals for various nights. The biggest reason for doing this is so that
you can be sure to use the fresher ingredients as quickly as possible, to plan
ahead in terms of tasks that need to be done (like soaking beans overnight or
overnight oat jars), and to make sure you can roll over elements easily from
one meal to the next, like having both meals with onions close enough together
that any extra chopped onion doesn’t go bad in the fridge.
You also prepare a “master
ingredient list.” This is basically a list of all of the ingredients in this
week’s recipes sorted by the place where you would find it in your kitchen –
refrigerator, freezer, top pantry shelf, etc.
Turning the Ingredient List into a
When you have a “master ingredient list,” you then need to take it around the house
to each of the places you have grouped things by on the list, then you will cross
off the things you already have. This also makes you check up on the quantity
of stuff you use frequently, like milk, and encourages you to add such things
to the list.
Once you are done hitting the spots
in our kitchen, the grocery list is ready to go. Conveniently, it’s already
pretty well organized, as you marked the sale items on the list so you know
what store to buy it in, and all of the refrigerator and freezer stuff is
already grouped together for you.
At this point simply hit the grocery
store, back home unpack everything, and then just follow that meal plan
throughout the busy week to make sure you stay on target for your Healthy
Lifestyle way of eating.