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4 min read

Time and money are two things that many families seem to always be a little short on. As fun as it can be to get into the kitchen and whip up a masterpiece for your family, preparing meals can eat up a lot of valuable time.


In a time when most households consist of two working parents outside of the home an average of more than forty hours per week, many families do not have time to invest in elaborate meal prep.


The first thing that comes up when you start searching for ways to cut your grocery bill or save time making meals for your family is coupons. But, honestly, coupons are the worst. Coupons encourage you to buy products that the manufacturer wants to push, not necessarily what you need. Plus, the work it takes to scour through papers and find appropriate coupons, organize your shopping list, and meticulously make sure every item rings up at the right price is immense. Any small amount of money that you might save is offset by extra time spent managing the coupon process. In short, I am not a fan of couponing as a way to save money. Instead, take a cue from these money and time-saving tips.

Keep Staples on Hand

Allow for greater variety on a whim without making dozens of trips to the grocery store by keeping a well-stocked pantry. One of the biggest mistakes that most people make when they get on a new meal planning kick is to try out a bunch of new and adventurous recipes. While it sounds fun and exciting, venturing into unknown culinary territory requires ingredients you may not have.


The real shock comes at the grocery store when your total doubles your usual grocery budget because you had to stock dozens of new ingredients to try all of your new and exciting dishes. You can avoid that sticker shock moment by maintaining a well-stocked pantry and keeping a substitute list handy for last-minute recipe swaps.


Keep a Grocery List Handy

Streamline your grocery shopping efforts by making sure that you only head out to the store once. Keep a grocery list pad on the refrigerator and jot things down as you use up the last stock throughout the week. Check your fridge list and do a quick inventory before making your grocery list.


Make your own list of go-to staples based on your family's preferences and base your grocery budget on these items. Learn the common price for your staples at different stores so that you can recognize a good price to stock up on and a high price to pass on.


Use a Meal Planning Template

Plan by the week or month, it doesn’t matter as long you choose a system and stick with it. The idea of planning meals ahead of time is to make sure that you have the appropriate ingredients on hand without having to make unnecessary trips to the store.


Limit the Number of Trips to the Store

Every trip to the grocery store adds up to extra spending. Every trip back into the store takes time and lures shoppers into adding extras above and beyond their intended purchases which is good for the store, but bad for your budget. The very action of limiting your grocery trips to just one will save money.


Add Flair with Themes

Make the process of meal planning go a lot quicker by planning by theme. Not only does it streamline the planning process by providing a framework for selecting meals, but the themes add a bit of fun to the dinnertime routine. You can usually get away with repeating meals in a different sequence no more than once every six weeks.


Meal Theme Ideas:

  • Soup and Sandwich
  • Slow-Cooker Meals
  • Italian
  • Tex Mex
  • Stir Fry
  • All American
  • Casserole or One-Pot Meals


Prep Before Putting Away

Plan your weekly grocery trip to allow time to wash, cut, and repackage food for convenience when you bring it in the house. This practice can save time in a few different ways. The first is by cutting and washing all produce, it will be ready for grab and go convenience throughout the week. As you move on to prepping individual meals, you can reap the benefits by saving time on prepping the produce.


Cook in Batches

If you are cooking something that freezes well, try doubling your recipe and stashing the extra in the freezer. A whole menu of freezer meals is a bit bland, but they are a saving grace on a busy night. Freezer meals prepared in batches alongside your regular cooking is the ultimate power play in saving time.


Outsource the Leg Work

Meal subscription boxes are hot these days. There are dozens of companies that provide anything from sophisticated culinary experiences to a worldly dash of flavor to your dinnertime line up. You can take the pressure off by signing up for a meal kit to be delivered to your home, complete with ingredients and detailed instructions for three or four meals per week. There are several great options that aim to offer family-friendly meal options to cater to families with picky eaters as well.


Prep a Grab and Go Snack and Lunch Station

If you have several people taking lunches or eating meals away from the home, save time by buying prepackaged, or bagging your own in Ziploc snack bags. With a prepped lunch station, kids can pack their own lunches by grabbing items from the appropriate bins before heading out the door. An over the door shoe organizer is great to hold prepackaged snacks in the pantry.


Push the Water

This one is not only important for hydration, but it cuts down on snacking and wasted food. It is pretty common, especially with kids, to confuse the sensation of hunger and thirst. In some cases, thirst does present like hunger so it is not that odd. If you push the water throughout the day and before meals, you can actively cut down on the amount of food that is eaten and trim back your grocery bill.