MEAL PLANNING: Two Ways To Save

Putting a tasty and healthy meal on the table can be difficult for busy parents, especially when families are also trying to stay on budget.

Going to the grocery story is a challenge for Morgan Molden. She says, “I am domestically impaired. I hate shopping. I hate cooking.”

The busy mom of two says she found something to make the chore a little easier. She says, “The app that I’ve been using is called Food on the Table.”

The free app lets you create a weekly meal plan based on what your family likes. It finds what’s on sale at area stores, and creates a shopping list based on departments. Showing the app, Molden says, “So, here’s my list, it breaks it down.”

Molden says it allows her to plan the family’s meals on the go, and the list saves her time and money in the store. She says, “I’m not a big couponer, but it makes my life easier knowing I was going to get apples anyway, and hey, they are on sale this week.”

Whether you shop with your phone, or the old fashioned way with the ads, experts say the best way to eat right and stay on budget is to simply plan ahead.

Iowa State University Extension and Outreach Nutrition Extension Specialist Peggy Martin says, “The key is starting at home, not when you get to the store.”

Martin works on the group’s Spend Smart Eat Smart website and says, “It really started back in 2008 when we had the last time and gas prices were high and food prices were high. Now, we’re right back there again, aren’t we?”

Martin says the site has menus and shopping advice to get the most nutritious food for the least amount of money. She says the first step is to write down what you have in your freezer and pantry. Then, comb the ads for what on sale. Finally, make a meal plan based on the deals and what you have at home. Martin says you can save 15 to 20 percent by spending thirty minutes a week planning your meals.

Back at the store, Molden says she isn’t exactly sure how much money she saves. But, she says, “The time it saves me is enormous.” The Spend Smart Eat Smart website also has a calculator for you to figure out how much you should spend on food each week. It’s based on USDA nutrition guidelines.

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