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How to shop for food and plan menus on a budget

Aimee Fortney is “Not the Perfect Cook.” Retiring at age 31 as a bilingual political consultant, Aimee is now a cookbook author, blogger, recipe developer and inspirational food lover, who lives in Nashville, Tennessee with her husband a...

Shop and save

Follow these simple steps and budgeting quickly becomes a way of life. By shopping the sale ads, using coupons and planning your menu for the week, your savings really add up!

Woman with shopping list in grocery store

In this tough economy, it is essential to plan ahead and stick to a list. If you start early and plan your week, you can really see your savings adding up.

Stock up the freezer

Plan your weekly menu around the sale items wherever you shop. Look to see what is on sale each week then plan to eat that or have what you bought weeks before that you store in the freezer. For example, when you see that chicken breasts are on sale, buy several packages and just pop them in the freezer. Same goes for all of your proteins. If ground turkey is on sale, buy extras to freeze and plan turkey tacos, chili and meatloaf.

Butter freezes, so buy two or three boxes when they are on sale and pop those boxes in the freezer. Cheese will freeze, so if you see shredded cheese on sale, load up and stock your freezer. Chocolate chips go on sale, so buy extra bags to toss in the freezer. The seasonal, flavored chips that you love will be gone as the seasons change so buy extras to freeze. Have a coupon? Use coupons when items are on sale to often triple your savings. (Every little bit counts, and the money that you saved can be used for vacations, furniture purchases or that cut and color you need every six to eight weeks!)

Make a meal out of what's already in your kitchen >>

A full pantry

Stock your pantry with beans for chili, pasta for spaghetti and chicken noodle soup. Want to give back to your local community, but feel that your budget is too tight? Not so at all. Take advantage of buy-one-get-one-free sales. Place one item in your pantry and start a donation box and place the "free" item in the donation box. When the box is full, drop it off at a local food bank or family in need.

Ways you can help others and fight hunger on a budget >>

Don't waste

When freezer bags or plastic containers are on sale, stock up and store them under a cabinet, out of the way. (Or in your basement or attic.) This way, leftovers never go to waste, and you can freeze extra foods for busy weeks. When bananas are on sale, buy extras of those, too. Pop them in the freezer for morning protein drinks, banana bread or mock banana ice cream. (Place bananas in your food processor and just pulse until the bananas create a creamy texture. Add nothing else but maybe chocolate chips or strawberries and enjoy a guilt-free frozen treat!) Get in the habit of making extra foods like pancakes and waffles; wrap them in twos and freeze. On a hectic weekday, take the homemade frozen waffles out of the freezer, pop them into the toaster, and you can have an inexpensive, homemade breakfast!

With just a little extra planning, great foods can be purchased and meals can be planned... even on a budget!

Other ways to shop and plan on a budget

Save money in the kitchen
Top 10 healthy and budget friendly foods
5 ways to save money on groceries

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