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   Aside from couponing, one way to really see money savings is to plan your menus for the week and then shop for only the items you will need to make them.  When I first started shopping for my family of four, I spent an average of $100 per week on groceries (sometimes more).  We would shop at Sam's club a few times a month and often spent $200!!  Granted, that price was for bulk items that lasted 2 or 3 weeks, but my point is that I was still spending an average of $100 in the grocery store on top of the Sams trip.

   I started researching meal planning.  One key advantage I found was that it helped me to get organized.  I work full time out of the house, so I would find myself getting home late and needing to get dinner on the table for my family.  If I didn't know what to make or didn't have anything defrosted, then we would order out or go to a restaurant.  Now I am spending even more money while food sits in my freezer.  So for me, organization and preparation was a key factor in my desire to learn to menu plan.  The other, of course, was to save money.

   Next I started researching some sites and looking into "frugal menus".  I wanted to get an idea of what other families spent on groceries.  I would right down meals that sounded good, or like something my family would eat, or I would take Ideas and come up with my own meal plan.  I tried to balance the meals to make them nutritious.  I wanted to cut costs, but not sacrifice health.  I came up with about 21 dinner ideas.

   I then set a financial goal.  The goal I set for our family was to spend $60 a week on groceries - just food.  Paper products, toiletries and diapers were not factored in.  I was so nervous!  That is $40 or more cut a week!  There were a few ways I could see to tackle this.  1) coupon, coupon, coupon.  In theory this sounds good, but it often means going to multiple stores, clipping, organizing, worrying about sales, etc... 2) Aldi's.  If you live near an Aldi's or a store similar, check it out!  Basically the store is filled with off-brand name products at dirt cheap prices.  I decided being busy and having 2 young children to drag with me when I shop, I would give Aldi's a try.

   I took a weeks worth of dinner ideas and broke it up into a list of ingredients I would need.  I then headed to Aldi's.  Much to my surprise, they had everything I needed, and I only spent $43!!  I was excited and ready for week 2!  I cooked the meals that week for my family and they all really seemed to enjoy them.  I have a 14 month old who will eat anything, an incredible husband who eats everything I make him and never complains, and then my 3 year old daughter who rarely eats anything that isn't a french fry, chicken nugget, hot dog or peanut butter sandwich.  I took that into account and made sure we had those ingredients as well.

   One thing that made a huge difference was making things from scratch and not buying mixes or boxed & processed items.  For example, I could have spent $.99 per box for hamburger helper or rice mixes, but instead I decided to invest $4 for a 10 pound bag of rice.  This will last much longer and save in the long run.  Another biggie to save money - I made homemade pizza!  Dough and all!  And when I averaged it out, It costs me about $2.50 for a cheese pizza.  I made it on a sheet pan and it made 16 squares.  That would have cost about $16 at my corner pizza place

   Week 2 rolled around.  Again I deconstructed my menu into a shopping list and headed to Aldi's.  Again I found my bill to be only $41!  I am really starting to feel like this is the way to go.  I am working on meal plans for the next 2 weeks now.  I am hoping when the month test is all said and done that I come in well under the $60 per week limit.  Who knows - maybe next month I'll cut the budget to $50 a week!

I plan to post pictures, recipes and meal plans if anyone is interested.

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coupons, sales, deals, offers, baby, freebies, samples, giveaways, discount, bottles, diapers, formula, twins, triplets, free, matchups, stores, Tops, Target, Wal-Mart, Aldi