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Local blogger helps readers shop the sales

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Red Bank resident Ashley Murphy works on her blog, weeklymenus4chatt.blogspot.com.

For those struggling with budget and time constraints, planning affordable and healthy meals can be tricky.

Red Bank resident Ashley Murphy is making it easier for Chattanoogans to eat well on a budget through her new blog, Weekly Menus 4 Chatt. Murphy looks at what Bi-Lo has on sale for the week and then creates a meal plan using recipes that feature ingredients on sale that week.

She said she has been creating weekly dinner menus for herself based on Bi-Lo’s sales for about a year and a half, and she recently decided to begin posting the menus to her blog.

“I wanted to share my knowledge to help people realize you can have really good meals for cheap if you shop the sales,” Murphy said.

Some companies charge $20 a month for similar meal-planning services, she said.

“I do it for free because it’s my passion and I enjoy doing it,” said Murphy, who creates meal plans weekly.

Bi-Lo’s sales start on Wednesdays and run through the following Tuesday night, and she typically has her meal plan up for that week by Friday or Saturday. Meal plans are for dinners only and run Monday-Sunday.

“I start on Monday so people can get their shopping done over the weekend,” she said, reminding users that they must do their shopping by Tuesday night for that week’s sales to apply.

Instead of creating a shopping list for the entire week, Murphy said she makes one for each day so users can shop for just one or two of the week’s meals if desired.

She said every ingredient included in her recipes is on sale, aside from herbs and spices and other common pantry items.

The average cost for a week’s worth of groceries using Murphy’s meal plans is around $60, she said. Groceries for this past week’s holiday menu cost her $56 including tax for 34 servings (dinners only), which Murphy said is about half of what it would have cost if the items were regular price. Included were all the favorites: turkey, green bean casserole, stuffing, herbed corn, mashed potatoes, cranberry sauce, rolls, turkey gravy and pecan pie.

Murphy said she gets her recipes from sites on the Internet such as allrecipes.com or budgetbytes.com. She includes a starch, meat and vegetable in each meal, aside from Wednesdays, when she makes vegetarian meals, and Saturdays, when she focuses on seafood. Almost any of her meals can easily be made vegetarian by adding extra vegetables or beans for protein, Murphy added.

“I get excited about making really good food for me and my boyfriend, and I mainly do this because I want to help people,” she said. “I just think people don’t have the time to meal plan. You don’t have to eat ramen noodles or beans and rice to save money on food.”

Murphy said users can save even more by matching coupons to what is on sale using a site such as local blogger Kacey Trenum’s time2saveworkshops.com.