Meal planning plus sale prices equals savings
Rockwood residents website helps curtail household grocery costs
Savvy shoppers know that saving money at the grocery store is like being a superhero with their budget.
But who has time to peruse weekly ads and plan meals based around what is on sale?
Meet Rockwood residents Michele Es-Sahb and Judy Hart, the dynamic duo behind Dinner Dynamo, a website designed to marry meal planning and saving money at the grocery store checkstand.
Were looking at the ads so you dont have to, said Es-Sahb. A well-planned shopping list saves the average person about 20 percent on their grocery bill by eliminating impulse buying and multiple trips to the grocery store. It also saves time. And to me, thats priceless.
A former marketing rep and event planner, Es-Sahb, 39, made the leap from power suits to stay-at-home mom nearly five years ago. But her vision of play dates with other moms and idyllic trips to the park with her son didnt work out quite like she planned. It wasnt long before she realized she missed the challenges from her former working life.
The isolation was intense at times, she said. After three years, I decided I had to do something besides count diapers. I was talking to a friend on Facebook and it just popped into my head I should do a website for meal planning based on whats on sale at the grocery store.
Es-Sahb began investigating the intricacies of small business ownership with an attorney earlier this year. She employed some creative personal financing to get her idea off the ground, hired a web developer and enlisted Hart, her newly retired mom, to help. In August, the pair launched Dinner Dynamo (DD) at the Bite of Oregon.
We had about 50 people sign up for the free trial, but we didnt have any follow-up procedures in place to see how the service was working for people after their trial period was over, Es-Sahb said. Were changing that now.
Heres how it works. DD features an extensive database of recipes that includes everything from main dishes to desserts. Members establish an account within the site, which sets the parameters for a personalized recommended meal plan using the recipes on the database. For example, if your family isnt fond of pork, DD wont include dishes using pork in the recommended plan.
Weekly, Es-Sahb and Hart enter ad circulars from Fred Meyer, Walmart and Safeway. DD matches the database recipe ingredients with those on sale at the store and generates a recommended menu plan for the week, along with a shopping list. All members have to do is hit the print key on their computer to receive a weeks worth of meals, using items on sale at their favorite store.
And you dont have to be Martha Stewart to use the recommended recipes.
Our criteria was that the recipes had to be family-friendly and on the table in less than an hour, Es-Sahb said. The shopping list lets you shop at stores where you normally shop, and you dont have to go several times a week.
DD members are not bound to utilize the recommended menu plan, however. A journal feature is like a favorites file, where members can save recipes from the database to try or repeat at another time. So if the weekly recommended plan includes Baked Mediterranean Tilapia and it doesnt strike your fancy, simply change that meal.
I recommend people look through the database and save ones they would like to try later, Es-Sahb said. The journal is also where you can save the recipes your family likes.
A lot of cooks these days prepare meals with a tablet or smartphone propped on the kitchen counter while they follow the recipe. But have you ever gotten into the recipes instructions and had to scroll back up to find the measurement for the ingredient youre adding? Ingredients in DDs instructions are underlined simply touching the item reveals how much to add.
And who hasnt had a late afternoon text message from a family member asking, Whats for dinner?
You can email your dinner recipe to your teenager and they can start dinner while theyre waiting for you to get home, Es-Sahb said. I wanted DD to be a tool for families, so kids could learn about meal planning, budgeting and cooking. DD is designed to be a fun and functional product to help get dinner on the table.
Budget experts all agree that taking the time to compile a weekly meal plan is key to keeping grocery costs under control. DD is a tool, Es-Sahb says, designed to make shoppers a superhero in the battle against the Evil Dr. No-Plan.
Planning meals for the week in minutes, then going shopping and knowing that half the items in the cart are on sale, gives you a sense of pride and accomplishment, Es-Sahb says. I imagine its similar to leaping a tall building in a single bound!
Who: Dinner Dynamo
What: website designed to help with weekly meal planning by recommending recipes based on item sale prices at the grocery store; members pay $8 a month or $80 a year for the service; a two-week trial period requires no credit card and provides immediate access to recommended meal plans and recipe database.
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