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Thursday, August 7, 2008

Budget Meal Plans

By Rachel Cotler


For most Americans, juggling life can be very difficult. First you have to contend with long hours at work, endless laundry, dishes,paying bills and of course your children who ask the popular question, "What's for dinner?". Grocery shopping, planning meals, and the preparation of meals take a lot of time, and usually by the end of the week you are so burnt out you end up feeding your dear family hot dogs and mac-n-cheese. Did you know that 63% of Americans are overweight and many people suffer severe health problems because of the food that they eat? There are several ways to cut back on the time spent cooking and preparing food for your family without denting your budget or preparing less than nutritious meals.


The first important step in starting anything new is to have a plan. First things first, decide how much money you can invest every month on groceries. Make sure you take in account all of the extra items you need for breakfast, and lunch. The plan I have in place is simple. The basic ingredients you should always have in your kitchen should be purchased from a bulk retailer like Cosco, or Sam's Club, where you can purchase large amounts of certain ingredients for a fraction of the price.

For all of your fruits and veggies, try shopping at your local farmer's market. You will save a ton of money and you are supporting your local economy. Now take a look at all the meals you would normally make in a month and find all of the common ingredients. You will probably see, to list a few, Chicken, Pork, Beef, Olive Oil, Garlic, Rice, Pasta, Corn, Green Beans, Cheese, Eggs and Milk. Then you must decide which items will store for a long period of time, that can be bought in bulk, that you can save money on. Shop once a month for these items. Why go to the store several times a month for groceries.


Write your recipes in chronological order. I'm sure you are wondering " What does that mean?". I mean write your recipes down in an order in which one recipe could flow into another recipe. If your going to have Sausage and Peppers over Rice tonight, you should make 3 x the amount your family would consume. When everyone is finished eating dinner you simply throw your Sausage and Peppers into a blender and turn it into a sauce, then split it 2 ways. The first portion left over can be frozen for a quick pasta dinner some other time when your in a hurry, and the second portion can be saved for chicken Parmesan for another meal.

Now for the rice, save the first portion for a chicken and rice dinner and the second left over portion for a quick soup made with left overs. Did you notice the mention to the chicken? This is where time is your friend. When you prepare the chicken for your "chicken and rice dinner", you can prepare the chicken for your chicken Parmesan as well. Then you can just freeze your preparation for a different night. There are so many ideas you can come up with by making a simple list and finding common trends. With a little time and effort you can be feeding your family homemade, quick dinners, that are healthy, every night of the week.

Rachel, is a single mother who writes recipes and meal planning on a budget. You can learn more by visiting my website at

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