I have seen and read a lot of blog posts on feeding a family on a budget. I’ve used coupons, ad matching, generic brands and plain ol’ ingenuity to feed my family.
There have been times when money is tight and we need to save what we can. Once I learned that I could feed my family on less than a hundred dollars per person per month I didn’t want to spend our money at the grocery store. I wanted to spend it on fun! Lately I’ve been feeding our family of six on $400.00 a month. Here are a few of my tips and tricks. Hope they help.
1. Cook from Scratch
This is a big one. Ninety percent of our meals are made from scratch. The parts that aren’t from scratch are things like canned spaghetti sauce or taco seasoning. I can make those things on my own but if I’m in a hurry I love to grab a bottle. Sometimes I use canned beans although soaking my own is so simple that I’d rather buy them in a bag than in a can. Now that I’ve gotten that off my chest, I can tell you the reasons cooking from scratch saves money.
#1 I don’t pay for packaging. Many of the items I buy (apples, wheat, oats and etc.) aren’t packaged fancy. Basically, I’m not paying for a colorful cardboard box.
#2 I can buy in bulk. Things like wheat, flour, oats and etc. come in large containers that cost less per pound than buying smaller containers.
#3 Cuts back on doctor bills. Knock on wood, my kids are rarely sick. Since I started making our bread and cooking from whole ingredients we have cut back on our trips to the doc to less than two a year for our family of six! Who would have thought that eating right would boost our immune systems? Oh yeah – smart people. 🙂
2. Use Coupons
I used to clip coupons out of the paper every Sunday, file them in my folder, and rotate them every week. It took a lot of time. I still love coupons! In fact, if I get a packet of coupons from my mom or a friend it’s a great day. I mean, they just handed me free money! Love it. Instead of spending my Sunday evenings with scissors, I check sites like coupons.com or coupondivas.com to find coupons for items already on my list. Then I print out what I need right before I go to the store. That way, I’m not paying to print what I won’t use and I spend less time at it.
3. Ad Match
Here’s the fun part. Since WalMart started their ad matching campaign I have saved hundreds of dollars on food! Probably even thousands by now. Instead of combing through the ads on Tuesdays I now use this handy little service called Deals to Meals. For $4.95 a month they hook me up with a list of all the local deals. I simply select the items I want to buy that week and print my list. The savings on milk alone pay for my subscription. WalMart has milk listed at $2.49 and I ad matched it for $1.98. Since I buy 6 gallons a week we saved $3.06 on milk this week alone! I’ve joined their affiliate program so I could share this with you. Click on the button on the right to check it out for yourself. They are offering a free, two-week trial so you can see how it goes before you sign up. Our WalMart will even match their store brand against another store’s brand.
4. Canning Food
I live in a wonderful valley full of fruit and veggies. The local orchards and produce growers allow gleaning. Basically what happens is they only pick the pretty apples or peaches to go out to the grocery stores. They leave the ugly but perfectly edible ones on the trees. Then, for free or a very small fee, they allow locals to come through and clean off the trees. I’ve canned everything from apples and applesauce to peaches and pickles. This provides my family with a bounty of fruits and veggies all year long.
5. Freezing Food
Another big money saver is our deep freeze in the garage. I can glean or buy fruits and veggies, wash them, hull them and then freeze them for use in pies, cookies, smoothies or jams sometime later. If you are going to do this, be sure to label everything well. Frozen foods don’t look like non-frozen foods and what you thought were blueberries could turn out be be some type of meat. Don’t laugh, it’s happened.
6. Buy a Beef
It’s not too hard to find a beef cow for sale around here. By buying the cow and having it butchered we’ve saved tons of money on meat. Meat is one of the most expensive items in your grocery cart. Also, because we buy the cow we get all different types of cuts. Roasts, steaks, hamburger – you name it we get to try it. I can’t tell you how great my beef stew is when it’s made from stew meat. If you can’t afford a whole beef talk to a friend or neighbor about splitting it. Most butchers will take care of dividing it for you. It comes to your car frozen, labeled and packaged. All you need is a place to store it. You don’t have to just do a beef. Many families out here will also do a pig or a sheep to bring variety into their diets. We prefer chicken and fish to balance out the red meat. I buy them on sale and stock up.
7. Stock Up
It goes without saying but I’m going to say it anyway, “If you can buy two for the price of one – buy four!” You’ll save so much money. Of course, you’ll want to make sure you can use it before the expiration date. It’s amazing how this one little rule has built up a food storage for our family. I don’t feel a drain on our budget when I do this. Sometimes I have to make choices between buying the extra two and buying something else so consider what you need versus what you have on hand.
8. Shop Once a Week
My minimum trip to the grocery store is $35.00. It never fails, if I walk through the doors I’m spending 35 bucks no matter what good intentions I entered with. Therefore, I limit my shopping trips to once a week and make them count. If we’re running low on milk I may send Hubby to the store but lately he’s been as bad as I am so instead I have been mixing our store-bought milk with powdered milk. If I go half and half no one notices the difference. No one! No one thinks it tastes funny, smells funny or looks funny. I honestly don’t think they even know I mess with it. I mark the cap with an X so I don’t end up mixing the same container twice.
9. Buy Store Brands
There are times that I don’t have a coupon, I don’t have an ad to match and I need to buy something. In that case I will go with the store brand. I’ve had a lot of good experiences with store brands. Many times they are made with the same ingredients or even by the same company that makes a name brand equivalent. Why pay more if you don’t have too?
10. Carry Cash
Here’s the deal, if I have the debit card, I have way more money than if I have $80 in my pocket and no card. Leave the cards at home and carry cash and I guarantee you’ll never go over budget. It’s physically impossible! If you have to, and I do, keep a running total on your shopping list so you don’t have to wait until the register to see if you’re over.
So, I hope this helps. To see if I was really saving that much money I had my 11-year-old write down the asking price and amount of everything we bought on a typical shopping trip while I threw things into the cart. When we got home, we added up how much we would have spent and compared it to our pre-tax total. I was shocked to see that we saved over 65% on our grocery bill.
I’d love to hear how you save money at the grocery store! Feel free to leave a comment below and share your wisdom.