How many of us see those supermarket circulars and newspaper inserts week after week and know there must be good deals in there - but just can't find the time and motivation to wade through them all?
What, though, if someone translated that sea of newsprint into five weeknight dinner menus that could save you - no kidding - $30, $40 or $50 a week for a family of five?
“We plan your whole weeknight meal around using as many of those specials as we can” is how Laurin Mills explains her TheDinnerDaily.com service.
For a subscription fee of $4 a month, she sends you five weekly dinner menus designed according to what's specifically on sale at one of six major New England supermarket chains, including Market Basket, Stop and Shop, Shaw’s, Hannaford’s, Roche Brothers, and Whole Foods. She also includes links to online coupons, so that if you use, typically, just one week’s worth of coupons, your monthly subscription price drops to an effective $0.
Mills is a former Ernst & Young accountant who became a mom of three, and both roles have shaped The Dinner Daily.
“I’m an ex-CPA, and I looked at this as a way to really help people save on their food costs by getting the sales flyers, and the basis of our plan is really built around what's on special,” Mills explained. “That allows us to write a weeknight meal plan that, on average, costs no more than $85 a week for a family of five. People find that astonishing when we tell them that, but it really works.”
Mills is rigorous about re-checking the prices of her ingredients the week after they’ve been on special to validate her savings claims.
“People will spend $30 or $40 more for that same mix of ingredients, just because they're shopping when they're not on special,” Mills said, adding that over the course of a year $120 or $160 a month times 12 months “is a family vacation - just by shopping a list that's based on specials.”
Lisa Ratte, a Westford resident and friend of Mills who is a Dinner Daily subscriber, said she finds can consistently make dinners she, her husband, and two boys like for $3 to $4 per person per night, or $60 to $80 for five weeknight meals.
Working part-time outside her home as well as being the mom and chef of the family, Ratte said, “The biggest thing for me is just knowing that there's a plan, and the plan will save us money as well. It also saves me time, because I don’t have to go to the grocery store three times a week to figure out what I’m going to have for dinner. I have a plan for the week, and I stick to that plain and it saves me time and money.”
Ratte said she is happy to outsource deal-hunting at the supermarket.
“For sure, this has made me in tune to how much you can save by using the circulars - but it's done for me, so I don't have to take the time to do it, and it's done for the price of going out for a cup of coffee at Starbucks each month.”
Mills noted that “we have a ‘no red meat’ option for people that don't eat red meat and we also offer a vegetarian” menu built around deals. She stresses that as a mother trying to make sure her children get healthy options and learn to enjoy a wide range of foods, buying cheap does not mean buying junk.
To qualify on her menu list, Mills said, “Everything had to be healthy. We don't use processed ingredients. There's no cream of mushroom soup dumped on chicken” recipes, and each week includes a range of meal types – a casserole, a stir fry, something made on the grill, a big salad, a typical meat and two sides dinner, and more.
“It’s focused on three things,” Mills said. “Saving you money, saving you time, and promoting healthy eating.”
With videographer Daniel J. Ferrigan and video editor Lauren Kleciak