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OSU Extension

College of Food, Agricultural, and Environmental Sciences

March 14, 2016 - 8:25am -- Anonymous

So what do you have planned for dinner tonight?  It’s one of the age old questions that takes our focus on our way home after work, how much time do I have to get dinner on the table before our next event? Here’s something that might help save not only time, but research shows that it may save up to 30% on your grocery budget as well.

Planning your meals ahead of time may not take as much time as you think.  If I spend a few minutes over the weekend planning what I want to fix for the week and then making the grocery list, I can save time and money.  You can just write the days of the week and the meals you will be eating at home on a paper or use a chart like this one from our friends at the University of Iowa  Here’s where I begin:

  • Check to see what’s on hand- what’s in the pantry, the refrigerator and the freezer.  What needs to be used up?
  • Then check the grocery ads or websites to see what’s on sale or in season to get the most for your money.  If you have extra money and there are items that you use on a regular basis, try to purchase a little extra.  If you plan to use them and not lose them in the pantry, the bargains will be put to good use.
  • What are your family favorites?  Have everyone help by giving you ideas of food they would like to help prepare and eat.  Make a collection of nutritious recipes that your family likes and serve them often.
  • Review the meals you have written down and make sure that you have all the food groups included?  Look for a variety of colors, shapes, sizes, and temperatures to make the meal inviting to everyone.  Check out for more details on portion size and nutrients that your family needs.

Sometimes I may not feel like cooking what I have planned for the night, but I can easily switch with another night because I know I have all the ingredients to make it without stopping by the store.  That’s the beauty of planning ahead, I can have flexibility but I’m assured that I have what I need to make another meal without time guessing or an extra stop that will cost more than the one or two items I need to pick up. 

What’s your schedule like on busy nights and plan your meals around the time you have available.  If it’s a night that you have extra time, make extra of the meal and freeze it so you have a ready- made dish on a night when time is tight.  Make sure that everyone pitches in to make mealtimes happen even though it might be easier or quicker to do it yourself.  Remember you are building eating habits for life with every meal you make and eat.  These are life skills and will be great memories in the future