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Meal planning is a simple and effective way to save a lot of money each month, not to mention cut down on pricey (and unhealthy) dining out.

Serving home-cooked meals to your family not only reduces your grocery budget, but it’s also a healthy alternative to fast food. Here are a few tips and ideas to get you started:

1. Decide how you want to do your meal planning. Some people like to do bi-weekly, some weekly and a few will plan out monthly meal schedules. If you’re just starting out with this concept, start with weekly planning until you get the hang of it.

Woman taking notes in kitchen

2. Make a list of your family’s regular and favorite meals, including side dishes to go along with entrees; for example, spaghetti and meatballs with salad and garlic bread, or tacos and beans.

3 tacos on a plate


3. Print out (or buy) a calendar. Sit down with it and the list of meals that you made. Start by designating each day a specific meal (Monday-meatless, Tuesday-casserole, etc.), to make it easier to plan your meals around certain days. But don’t be too set on the plan; make sure you can switch around dinners if schedules change and unexpected meetings come up.

Calendar and coffee


4. Create your grocery list around your set meal plan. Check your pantry and freezer to make sure you don’t place duplicate items on your list if you already have them on hand. Scout your grocery store ads for sales on the items you need.

Asparagus and notepad


Need help getting started? Check out the app Mealime. This app is a favorite from some of the OE Federal staff! It offers meal ideas, recipes, and even grocery lists to make meal planning a breeze! To learn more about Mealime before downloading their app, take a quick look at their site