Food on the Table: meal planning + recipes + savings.

I am always trying to streamline the process for efficiently running this house. (aka Grand Central Station) One of the areas I need the most help in is the age old question "What's for dinner?" My typical answer? "Geez, I wish I knew." If only, I thought, there was an easy way to meal plan using what's on sale at the store this week, that'd help. Oh, and if they had recipes using what's on sale that week, too. Sweet.

And then *poof* the meal planning fairy, emailed me and pointed me toward FoodOnTheTable. This is a FREE meal-planning site. But it is not your ordinary meal-planning site. It uses your local store deals for that week, along with your family's eating preferences, to create a meal plan based on what's on sale at your local store! And, it gives you recipes using those items. And, then it prints out a shopping list for you to take to the store! Voila, you don't have to think. And that's really my end-goal here, people. Not thinking. Just cooking. And, not cooking the same old 10 things I know how to make in my sleep. I'm sure my family is quite tired of that.

So I'm going to show you how FoodOnTheTable works, and invite y'all to sign up for free and give it a try. Helpful, yes? Maybe this will make my Thanksgiving holiday and the days leading up to it alot less stressful.

First, choose your three favorite stores. It will keep those in it's memory, to be able to call them up (and what's on sale that week there) whenever you log-in. I chose Kroger, Tom Thumb, and Whole Foods because those are the three stores I frequent the most.

Then, you'll choose what types of meats your family likes (and doesn't like) so it remembers to tell you when those items are on sale. This is a meal plan that starts with meat and builds around the meat for the meal.

Next, it will ask you questions like how many meals do you want to plan? What is most important to you right now: save time, save money, healthy meals, familiar meals, etc.? Since I'm planning 7 meals (one for every dinner) I chose 7. The free meal planning sign-up allows you to plan 3 meals at a time, the upgraded membership allows you to plan 7 at a time. I selected my 7 meats for those meals, based on what's on sale. Some I selected because I knew I had one of those in my freezer. In this way, I can use some of my stockpile this week. But, I am also aware of what is on sale, so I can stockpile some of those meat items for another week, while I'm at the store.

Then magically, FoodOnTheTable sorted it's recipe database based on the meats I selected, and the items that I chose initially that my family liked, and by what's on sale at Kroger this week. From that list, I chose 7 recipes. Zuppa Toscana, Mom's Beef and Beer, Spinach Beef Bake, Vermont Chicken Pie, Sweet Orange Chicken, Bay Shrimp and Avocado Salad, and Ground Beef Minestrone Soup. Some of these just sounded yummy, and some I chose because I knew, for instance, that I had just gotten 5 avocados for $1 yesterday. Or that I know I have a whole chicken in my freezer. Or that I like beer. You get the idea. Some things I have, some I'll need.

As the final step in the process, FoodOnTheTable makes me a grocery list for all the ingredients for the week to make these 7 recipes. From that list, I can delete the items that I already have on hand, and if I need to, I can add other items that I might need for sack lunches or breakfasts or whatever. From the list that's left, I can print it out or send it to my iPhone! Neato! And, on that list is marked which items are actually on sale at Kroger and the sale price. I can see my savings for the week based on the recipes I chose is around $27.

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