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Meal planning, preparation, part 1

September 13, 2018
Amanda Bohlen , MOV Parent

One of my favorite movies growing up was Disney's Beauty And The Beast. Naturally, I wanted to be Belle. However, as I've gotten older I find that I can relate more to others in the movie. When I don't get my sleep I can turn into The Beast. When I'm organizing events I channel my inner Cogsworth and make sure everything is running as smoothly as it should.

Most days I related to one of the towns people. During the first song of the movie "Belle", there is a woman with three babies and two toddlers pleading to a gentleman that she needs six eggs.

While she is pleading, her children are tugging and pulling on her. I can relate to her more now as a mother of three children under the age of six then I can with Belle having her nose stuck in books.

There are times when I feel overwhelmed with my to-do list and the amount of time I have to do it in. I have found that meal planning is extremely helpful. When I started living in the country I quickly learned that the grocery store was no longer ten minutes away and I would have to plan what I wanted to fix for meals. Delivery was no longer an option nor was running into town, last minute, to grab some buns or ketchup. Within the last year or two I've also added in some meal preparations ahead of time to make dinners even quicker when I get home.

I'm going to do a three part series on cost and time saving measures for your grocery store trips. The three areas that will be focused on are: before shopping, during shopping, and after shopping.

Cost and Time Saving Tips Before Shopping

Create a grocery game plan for your week. Plan your meals for the entire week including snacks. Planning for the whole week means one list and one shopping trip. You will spend less than if you were going to the store every day or several times a week.

If planning for the whole week seems overwhelming, start with three or four days and then work up to a full week. As you work on your menu keep in mind balance-using MyPlate as a guide, variety-within each group, and moderation-portion sizes and use fat, salt and sugar sparingly. You can find a two week sample menu plan on the MyPlate website. On their menu, lunches are designed to be packed or use leftovers. Customize the menu to make it work for your family. Meals can be moved and switched to fit family schedules and preferences. Switch out lunch for dinner or swap different fruits during the day.

Have your freezer and pantry stocked. Pantry staples are going to include condiments, spices, dry/canned goods and baking supplies. By doing so you can see what items you already have on hand that can be incorporated into your "game plan". This will also help you know what ingredients you already have at home vs. what you need to buy at the store.

Utilize grocery store sale ads/coupons. Pick items that are in season or have been marked down while making your "game plan". Find grocery sale information at the store entrance, in the newspaper or website.

Coupons can be found as inserts in the newspaper, downloaded from the internet or digital coupons to add to your store loyalty card. Sign-up for the store's customer loyalty program. You will receive discounts and rewards for free as a member.

Consider your schedule for the week. Plan easier meals on busier days when you know you won't have a lot of time.

Make a list and stick to it. You can use scrap paper, type it up on a computer, add to the notes on your smartphone, or use a grocery app. Don't be tempted by convenience items that could be more processed and more expensive.

Plan for leftovers in your menu. Leftovers can be eaten for lunch the next day, repurposed into something else later in the week or frozen for a quick meal at another time. Using a recipe with larger quantities can reduce the number of ingredients you need and can save time on prepping another meal. You could also double a recipe to freezer for later in the month to make dinner a breeze.

Amanda Bohlen is the new family and consumer science educator for The Ohio State University Extension in Washington County. She received her bachelor's in family and consumer science education from Ohio University and her master's in curriculum and instruction from Ohio Valley University. For the last seven years she has been in the classroom teaching high school students' financial education, child development, nutrition and culinary skills.



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