I find that the best way to save money on our family's meals is to start out by scanning my grocery store's sale circular and planning our dinners based on the front page rock-bottom sale items. Many shoppers take the opposite approach. They plan the meals for the week, make a list, and go to the store to buy what they need regardless of what the prices are during that particular week. It stands to reason that my family eats the same foods as other families do, we just pay half the price for the same foods during different weeks!
The challenge can be not knowing how to cook the store's bargain, or getting in a rut of making the same meals all the time. I'm willing to try new recipes as long as they are very quick and easy to make, are healthy, and can be inexpensive. That's a tall order, I know.
After spending time on several recipe websites, I found some very helpful features that should help me add variety to my meals with recipes that fit my requirements. One of the sites I like is allrecipes.com. The site is made up solely of recipes submitted by its site users (over 40,000 recipes). It lists recipes in order of popularity among users as determined by reviews and ratings. I like that feature because it guarantees that the recipe is tested, so I won't waste my money buying ingredients for an untested cookbook recipe. This feature is similar to using my favorite cookbooks inherited from my mother-in-law who made notations on every recipe she tried. Her comments ranged from "Fab!" to "good," "awful" and "dumb." Needless to say, I haven't wasted any time or money making the "dumb" recipes!
Another allrecipes.com feature I like is that you can scale each recipe to make the exact number of portions needed. For example, if the recipe makes eight servings but you only need two servings, you simply enter the number "2" in the portion box and the site immediately recalculates the ingredient list accordingly. Since USDA statistics report that 5 to 20% of the average American household's grocery spending ends up as wasted food or unused leftovers, customizing recipe sizes could save money by avoiding wasting food. This feature is also helpful for controlling portion sizes if that is a concern.
Because I like to know whether or not a recipe is healthy, I also prefer the Allrecipes.com site because every recipe lists its specific nutrition information. Not all recipe sites provided the nutrition information for their recipes.
I also like to plan my meals around what is on sale at my store each week. For example, this week boneless pork loin is selling for half price, so I simply entered the term "pork loin" in the search box at All Recipes. It instantly listed several recipes in order of popularity. After narrowing my selection to recipes with a short list of ingredients that can be made quickly, I selected the 4.5 star rated recipe (out of a possible 5 stars) that took only 20 minutes to prepare and over 200 people positively reviewed. Not a single person said the recipe was "dumb!" That's good enough for me. Some reviewers gave helpful tips to improve the recipe, such as this review of the pork loin recipe: "Very flavorful, tender and juicy. One note.... ALWAYS use a meat thermometer; never trust your oven or a recipe to tell you how long to cook a piece of meat. My 2.25 pound roast took just over 1 1/2 hours to cook."
To find a good side dish, I scrolled down to the side dish search box under the main dish recipe and entered the name of my store's featured sale vegetable (asparagus). The site listed several asparagus recipes that complemented the main dish I selected. The entire meal ended up being quick, easy and inexpensive!
Try CoolSavings Recipes, too--where you can select recipes and match them to ingredients on sale at your local grocery store!