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Before we had kids, my hubs and I were not on a schedule. We ate when we wanted, slept when we wanted and went out when we wanted. That all changed when that first little bundle of chubby cheeks and blonde hair arrived. We quickly realized we needed to change our lives, including our budget.

I started researching money-saving websites and came across an article about meal planning. It was like a light bulb turned on! Planning our weekly meals ahead would not only make my life easier, but it would also save us money and time — something we desperately needed.

Thankfully, a friend told me about e-mealz.com, a meal planning website she heard about at a Dave Ramsey money-saving workshop. She explained that for $15 every three months you would get a weekly menu and grocery list. On top of that, I learned to use the code DAVE at checkout, which dropped the total to only $12.50 for the first three months!

On the website, you can choose your plan and your store. They have family meal plans, meal plans for two, points system plans for weight watchers, low fat plans and many, many more to choose from. I chose the family meal plan for the store Aldi. I like Aldi because of its small size, the ease of shopping and, of course, the prices! Since Aldi does not accept coupons, I only buy items there that I CANNOT get with coupons at another store.

Another great feature of this website is the way that the grocery list is broken down. Every item is listed into a category (produce, canned goods, meats, etc.) This makes it incredibly easy to breeze through the store quickly, even with two toddlers in tow! The list includes the price of the item and the grand total of what you can expect to spend for the whole week’s worth of meals. I find that the total averages around $70 a week. Not too bad for a whole week worth of yummy meals for your family!

I keep the grocery budget down even more by using items from my stockpile that I have managed to build over the last 9 months through couponing. I use coupons frequently to buy items that I can always incorporate into my meals (pastas, rice, soup, etc) which makes my weekly meal budget even lower! In the 9 months since I have begun couponing and meal planning, I have decreased our grocery bills by about 60%, which makes me pretty proud.

Before I started meal planning I was always lost when it came to dinner time. At 4 p.m.  I would frantically be looking through the freezer to find something to defrost. That has changed drastically! With couponing and a little meal planning, I now have a stockpile with all the ingredients I need and a list of recipes to use them in. My husband is happy because he has dinner waiting for him when he gets home from work. My kids are happy because I spend less time in the kitchen and more time playing with them. I am happy because they are happy. With just a little planning and a bit of coupon clipping, it is possible for everyone to save! Whether you use e-meals, another website, or plan yourself, meal planning is a must in any busy household!

This has been a guest post by Cathy from Sidney, IL
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