So back before I got into this whole "Organized Homemaking" thing, I really struggled with grocery shopping and meal planning (or lack thereof). A lot of the time we would go out to eat, but when I would actually cook, there was zero planning. I would just say, "Let's have spaghetti (or whatever meal sounded good)." It was a totally different experience back then than it is today.
I would just go to whatever store was closest (usually Harris Teeter or Super Target) and would buy what I needed. I would grab some pasta noodles, sauce, lean ground beef/turkey, a green pepper, an onion, and perhaps some frozen garlic bread/texas toast. I would also usually end up grabbing some other random things (especially if I went to Target).
I wouldn't have a single coupon, but I would grab what brand was the best "deal" that day. I would spend probably around $11.00 just for the stuff for the spaghetti. If I added texas toast, it would be at least $13.00, not to mention the other random things (ie cookie dough/brownie mix for dessert).
Now, I coupon and only buy things when they are great deal and stockpile. I buy all of my meat on sale and individually package it for the freezer. I never spend more than $3.33 on lean ground beef/turkey and usually get it for better than that. I buy pasta noodles (whole wheat) for virtually nothing and spaghetti sauce (even the large jars) for under $1.00. I buy my peppers when they are 50 cents to $1.00 (I cut them up and freeze them in freezer bags). I still buy onions when I need them, but they are usually not that expensive (maybe 50 cents apiece). I also stockpile baking goods (like brownie mix) when it goes on sale. I don't impulse shop anymore.
So, even if I haven't technically meal planned, I can say, "Let's have spaghetti." I go to the pantry and grab my free pasta noodles and cheap spaghetti sauce. I grab a pound of lean ground beef/turkey and my diced peppers from the freezer. I either have an onion from my fresh produce shop or have Lee stop and get one (saving me money - he will not impulse shop). If we want garlic bread, I have it in the freezer (I probably got it for 50 cents). If we want brownies, I have mix in the cupboard that I probably got for free or maybe 25 cents. So, I cook the same meal (if not better since I only buy name brand with coupons) for roughly $5.00 (including bread and dessert).
So by doing all this couponing, stockpiling, and meal planning, I saved myself $6-8 (or more) for just one meal. Not to mention the headache of going, "What's for dinner?" "How about spaghetti?" "I have to go to the store." "It's not worth it." "Let's just get fast food." We have a healthy, home-cooked family dinner which to me means we are building family memories. For me eating around the dinner table at home is very different from eating around 10 other families at McDonalds while your kid plays (and doesn't eat). Of course there is the place and time for that as well (all moms need a break from cooking and kids enjoy playplaces).