Central Valley Moms


The Fine Art of Couponing – Step One: Menu Planning

When people hear of couponing, they either think about the $.35 off two boxes of cereal, or the crazy people on the reality tv show—which is really NOT reality. I’m here to debunk these myths and share a few pointers on saving money. It’s a process, so let’s start at the beginning.

This is a hard first step, but to effectively coupon, you must change the way you shop. You must be aware of prices and know which items your family regularly uses. Knowing these things, you can stock-up (not horde) these items when they are on sale to avoid the last minute run to the store.

Read the sales ads before you shop. If you look at the sales ad and make a meal plan, you can save a great deal. A meal plan can be as simple as picking three meals you would like to make for dinners this week. Then you can use this as the basis for your grocery list.

For example, if I know whole chickens are on sale at my local grocery store, I can purchase one for this week and perhaps one for the freezer. I know that personally, a whole chicken will feed my family for at least two meals, consuming half a chicken per meal. If I am willing, I can stretch it to a third by making chicken stock for soup.

There are even websites that help you to meal plan. Some give free downloadable templates for you to use, others create online databases of recipes matched with grocery store sales.

Some weeks I seem to meal plan in a theme-like manner if we really need to stretch our grocery budget. Making a large batch of taco meat one night (for tacos) can be recycled into burritos a night or two later in the week, and if you’d like, loaded nachos for a third meal. These meals all work well with beans and rice, and what you use on Monday for a side dish could be used Wednesday as burrito filling, or Friday as a topping for nachos.

If you plan your meals (even a different meal each night), you will save money by only shopping for those ingredients and not running to the store mid-week for a last minute trip for butter or eggs, or chips. These last minute trips to the store are full of impulse buys and can wreck your budget.

Easy meals for our family include pastas, crockpot meals, and build your own Mexican dish dinners. I have found that if I keep the staple items to make these dishes on hand in my pantry, I can simply add the fresh ingredients to my shopping list. Having items your family regularly eats on hand, also helps reduce the urge to eat out, drive through, or pick up a pizza.

Want to save? Start by planning this week’s meals for your family. Let me know how you do!

Jen is a mommy of three and a local blogger. For more information on Frugal Living, Smart Shopping, and Couponing, visit her blog: www.fresnocouponing.com; follow them on Facebook, or Twitter.


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  1. [...] to save money for their family usually begins with reading the ads and meal planning. So I wrote this post. Please read it and let me know what you [...]

  2. I found a great way to check on food/grocery prices: ahasave.com, where you can compare prices of groceries across the board. For those of you who are too busy to check on the website, they even offer price alert: you set up the alert for prices of certain items, if the price falls below your desired level, an message will be sent to your email or even mobile phone.

  3. Menu Planning is a BIG saver!


  • Fresno Couponing Girl
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  • Jen Dote is blessed to be a stay at home mom of three kiddos: 13, 9,and 8 years old. This Fresno Couponing Girl has learned the art of couponing to stretch her family's income, and teaches others to do the same on her local couponing blog: www.fresnocouponing.com