Friday, January 20, 2012

Customizing your weekly meal plan (E-MEALZ)

It's no secret that I use and love E-mealz!  Today I wanted to share with you exactly HOW I use it in conjunction with my couponing and money saving efforts.

First things first--what IS E-mealz?  E-mealz is a meal planning service.  You sign up for a subscription based on store, diet, family preference, etc.... Then each week you log on and download your 7-day meal plan with complete instructions and suggestions for sides.  You also get a grocery list--conveniently divided by sections of the store--that you can take when you go shopping. Check it out and see ALL the meal plans they have for different stores and diet preferences (including organic and gluten-free meal plans!!) 
Emealz - Easy Meals for Busy People!

Today I want to share with you my FIVE steps for customizing my weekly E-mealz meal plan for our family.  It takes about 10 minutes TOTAL, but helps me make it work best for our family and save me some more money in the process.

1. Print your list and decide your meals
Some weeks I make all 7 meals, while other weeks I may scale it back to 4 or 5 depending on what we have going on that week (or what leftovers we still have in the fridge.)  You can see this week I am cooking 4 of the meals on the list.

2. Cross off ingredients
Next I work off my grocery list and cross off any ingredients from the meals I am NOT making (in this case meals 1, 2 and 3) so I don't have to search through the entire list while at the store.  I also cross off the staples list at the bottom for the meals I am not cooking that week.

3. Shop your stockpile
As a couponer, I have a stockpile in my pantry, freezer and fridge, so that is my first "shopping trip!"  I consult the remaining ingredients and cross off any I already have in my stockpile.  I also make any necessary changes to quantities.  For example, if I originally needed 2 onions for my meals, but I have one already, then I change that quantity on my list to just 1 onion.  
I also use this opportunity to decide what substitutions I can make.  If one of the meals pairs the Tilapia with some brown rice, but I have a box of Rice-a-roni in the pantry, I make a note of that on my weekly menu.  Then I cross the brown rice off my grocery list.
By simply shopping my stockpile I am using what I have and reducing my out of pocket expenses when I go shopping.

4. Highlight purchases
Next, I go through my list with a highlighter and mark what I will be purchasing at the store. Although this isn't a ground breaking step, it certainly helps you to shop quickly when you have two cranky toddlers with you right before lunch time!  Plus I ensure that I don't miss anything when I am at the store.  This is just one little thing, but it has really made a big difference in my time in the store!

5. Search for coupons
Finally, I look at my list of highlighted ingredients and I search for coupons.  The easiest way I find to do this is by using a Coupon Database that you will most likely find on your favorite coupon matchup website.  
For example you can see from my list that one of my ingredients is Keebler Townhouse crackers and the E-mealz team has noted it is on a BOGO sale at my store this week.  So I will go to the coupon database and search for those crackers to find any coupons that I can use to go with that sale.  You can also simply search the term "Crackers" if you aren't brand specific to also find coupons that way.  The coupon database will tell you WHERE to find the coupons--either in a past insert, or in printable form.  I love taking just a few minutes to check some of the ingredients with this database as I find I can usually shave another $5 off my total weekly grocery bill for this meal plan.
Here is an example searching for cream cheese coupons:

After I have all that done, I do some quick math to add up what my total should be (pre tax) after coupons and sales.  You can see from my list that I am going to be able to get my 4 meals this week for just $35!  That is under $10 a meal that will feed us and leave some left overs for our "left over" night we have every week.

Not bad!

This really does make my life so simple and I am never left to wonder what we are going to do for dinner!  I usually go shopping over the weekend in a separate trip from my weekly "couponing shopping trip." This is my Monday- Friday menu, so I want to pick up the necessary items, along with the fresh ingredients, only a few days before I use them.
I hope you will give E-mealz a try!  They have been so so kind and given my readers an EXCLUSIVE code to save 15% off your subscription. Click any of the E-mealz icons to get your subscription started!   I ask that you become a follower here and on Facebook in order to use this code and save 15%: MOMUMENTAL.


Diane said...

Awesome! That's how I do my emealz shopping, too, and I save so much time and money!

We have the Aldi's meal plan for 2 (we're still newlyweds ;), and this week I went shopping for both last week's and this week's menus... and after shopping in our pantry, only spent $45 for 10 nights of dinners! Fantastic!

I save so much time and money with emealz! Thanks for spreading the word!

Jaime Jackson said...

Thanks Diane! Isn't it awesome? I can say whole heartedly that E-mealz changed my life!