Who would love to cut their grocery spending?
I always get tons of questions asking how our family of 8 eats on a grocery budget of $400-$450.
I want to share some of the tips that have helped us to frugalize our menu. They’re simple tips that you can incorporate into the way you shop and cook to help you save money.
If you’re going strong on your challenge from Day 5 to Cook at Home and Day 10 to Pack Your lunch, then you are off to a great start. Following through with those two challenges alone will save you lots of money over eating out and getting premade food.
Today’s challenge goes a step further into what to eat and what to avoid to help reduce your grocery budget.
But first I should give the disclaimer that I’m not a dietician. I’m just a regular mom feeding a family of eight on a budget. We are fortunate to not have any particular dietary restrictions besides having one child that chooses not to eat meat. By all means, please adapt today’s challenge to your family’s dietary needs. As with everything else you do with your money or time, base your decisions on your own needs and priorities. You do you!
Tip #1– Eat Less Meat
Depending on what you’re used to, this can mean different things. If you’re used to meat being the main dish every dinner and you want to make a SMALL change, you can start by having one day a week be a meatless dinner. Getting in the habit of “Meatless Monday” is a way to be more frugal and will save you money. But if you want to save more, you need to be a bit more extreme.
On nights that aren’t “meatless” eat meat more sparingly. You can include meat in your meals without making meat the main event. Make it a side dish. Make it a part of the main dish. Ground beef or chicken will go a long way when it’s in something as opposed to being the star of the show. Instead of eating meat solo, I usually incorporate meat into a soup, sauce, casserole or other clever disguise like a taco or burrito.
Since meat is one of the most expensive grocery items, you’ll notice big savings by reducing the amount of meat you eat. You can get protein from other sources like eggs, beans, nuts, yogurt, and cheese.
Tip #2– Eat fruits and vegetables in season
People often expect that if you’re eating on a tight budget, then you’re just eating junk, but there’s no reason why you can’t buy fresh fruits and vegetables, even on a tight budget. The key is to buy what’s in season.
Keep in mind that if you’re buying produce as opposed to growing it yourself, then we’re not necessarily talking about what is in season where you live, but where it is grown. You can easily see what is in season by looking at the front page of the grocery store ad. The in-season produce will be what is lowest in price.
If you want to take this tip to the next level, stock up on what is in season by freezing, drying, or canning what’s in season. That way you can enjoy it later when it’s not in season, without having to pay the expensive “out of season” prices.
But if you’re just starting out with lowering your grocery budget, don’t worry about canning and dehydrating. Just buy what’s in season.
Tip #3- Pasta, Potatoes and Rice
Carbohydrates get a bad rap these days, but grains and starches are what have sustained our forefathers for generations! They are filling and frugal.
Instead of planning your meal around the meat, let your potatoes be the main dish, and use meat as the garnish or side.
We try to alternate the base of our dinners between pasta, potatoes, and rice. That might sound boring, but with different seasoning, vegetables, and meat, you can make vastly different meals using the same base.
Tip #4- Make soups and stews
Experiment with new recipes for soups and stews. Not only do they hit the spot on a cool fall evening, but they can be extremely frugal. After some practice you’ll be able to whip up a soup or stew using whatever you have on hand.
In fact, soups and stews are a great way to use leftover vegetables and smaller portions of meat. You can prevent a lot of waste in the kitchen by sticking any vegetables in the freezer before they go bad, then use them in your soups.
Tip #5– Hot cereal instead of cold
Cold cereal is expensive, it goes fast, and it’s not very filling. Hot cereal, like oatmeal or cream of wheat, is much cheaper and it’s more filling. To maximize your savings, avoid individual packets and buy in bulk instead. Or if you want to make your own packets, that’s another frugal alternative.
Tip # 6– Drink water
Not only is water essentially free, it’s also much better for you than the alternatives. Most people don’t drink enough water. Serve water at meal times and throughout the day. If you want to feel fancy, add a slice of lemon!
Tip #7– Calculate the Cost of your Meals
You probably won’t want to calculate the cost of all of your meals everyday, but having a basic grasp on how much a meal costs will help you to make your menu more frugal. It’s also a good way to be aware of how much you’re saving by eating at home.
To calculate the cost of your home-cooked meal, simply add up the cost of the ingredients you use. Be sure to calculate the portion used for each ingredient. For example, if you use 1/3 of the block of cheese, use 1/3 of the price of the cheese.
To compare meal costs by serving, divide the total cost of the meal by how many servings it makes for your family.
When you know the cost of a meal or the cost per serving, you can easily compare your family’s favorite meals to see which are the most frugal. If you’ve never done this exercise before or thought about the cost of your meals, you might be surprised!
Challenge– Day 16
Look at your priorities when it comes to food and decide where you are willing to make changes. Maybe instead of having meat everyday, you can cut back to having meat only four days a week. Or, instead of making the meat itself the main dish, you can stretch your meat by incorporating it into a recipe like a stew, sauce or casserole.
As in other challenges, you can tailor this one for your family. Write your plan down in your Frugal Fresh Start workbook.