Food costs seem to always be on the rise, and that makes it increasingly difficult to set a grocery budget for your family that you can actually stick to. It’s no easy task feeding a family for cheap, but it can be done! I know, because we consistently stick to our food budget of $350 per month for a family of 4. Ok, there are some months where we go a little over- we’re not perfect! But for the most part, we stay within our budget by following a few simple tricks.
Let me share with you the secrets to slashing your grocery budget and sticking to it:
Create a Master Price List
The next time that you go to your regular supermarket, jot down the price of the items that you most frequently purchase. You could even just snap a picture with your phone, or use your receipt as a reference once you get home. Write out a comprehensive master list so that you have a general idea of what things cost.
You can refer back to this list, and even use it to compare prices at other supermarkets.
From there, you can break it down into cost per meal. The point is to start being aware of the average costs of the things that you buy and cook and that your family likes to eat. It doesn’t have to be an exact number, just get a rough estimate for your most frequently prepared meals.
Start Meal Planning
In my humble opinion, there are no hard and fast rules about meal planning that you need to follow. It can be as simple as listing out the things that you make often and then spreading them out over a few weeks.
Think about the ingredients that you use most often, and write those down. Whatever works for you as meal planning is what works best!
Next, take some time to browse online or go through your cookbooks for new recipes that you would like to try. Add these new ideas to your plan.
Once you have a basic outline of what you want to make, then you can start looking for the best deals! Refer to your master list if you want to do a more detailed breakdown of each meal. The great thing about meal planning is that you can do it once, then use that same plan for another week next month. It’s a great way to simplify your life.
Don’t Waste Time on Coupons
If you don’t have a lot of time to spare, then you don’t have to become an extreme couponer. Browse quickly through the weekly circulars or do a quick search online to find coupons for items that you buy. My favorite coupon and deal sources are Coupons.com and Target’s Cartwheel app.
Did you know that you can stack manufacturer coupons with retail coupons? One thing I love about Target is that I can use a manufacturer coupon, a Target coupon, and Cartwheel to really get the best bang for my buck.
Find the grocery stores in your area that will double coupons. Even a few coupons will help you save on a shopping trip, but they may not be worth spending much of your time on.
Digital coupons are becoming increasingly popular, especially at supermarkets. If you’ve signed up for a store loyalty card (hopefully you have), then adding digital coupons is ridiculously easy. They get loaded right on to that loyalty card, so you scan it once and the deals come off before you pay. Quick and easy!
Post the Weekly Meal Plan
Once you have the week’s meals planned out and the ingredients purchased, write it down and post it in the kitchen. Not only will this help you to remember what’s on the menu, but it will also allow family members to see what’s coming up, too. They’ll know what’s being prepared, so there are no surprises.
As a mom with a picky eater, I hate having to cook separate dinners. By planning ahead and making my daughter aware of the upcoming dinners, we can discuss it ahead of time. No surprises mean less stress for everyone!
Make Meatless Meals
If you’ve always made meat the main course of your dinners, then it can be hard to move away from that mindset. However, opting for meatless meals several nights a week will definitely help your budget.
Another way to eat less meat is to simply use smaller portions. Try meals with beans, rice, lentils, and even veggies with meat mixed in. One of our favorites is to make a big salad and add some chicken, pork, or sausage. This way, meat isn’t the main event, it’s simply another ingredient in the mix.
Don’t be afraid to get out of your comfort zone and try new dishes. Your family may resist at first, but eventually, they’ll come around and discover new meals that they’ll enjoy. Look for low-cost ingredients and fresh produce to come up with creative recipes. There’s certainly no shortage of resources on the web for ideas. I love my Pinterest boards when I’m stuck for ideas!
Cook in Batches
Preparing meals in batches is a great way to have food for several days without having to put much thought into it. This is also the perfect way to get lunch and dinner out of one dish. Eating leftovers isn’t a bad thing, it’s a great way to stretch your dollar!
Not sure where or how to start with batch cooking? These posts offer great guides for beginners:
Life’s busy, and we don’t always have time to cook amazing meals. Every meal doesn’t have to be an event or something special. Embrace simple recipes and simple meals that are easy to prepare and will stretch out over several days. Pick dishes that your family likes, but try new things, too. By figuring out how much your favorite meals cost, you’ll be able to plan ahead so that you can stick to your grocery budget every month.
Do you have tricks you use to reduce your food spending?