Last week I wrote a post sharing about how we feed our family of six for roughly $400 a month. If you haven’t read that post, click on the preceding link and read that one first. This post will go into more of the secrets we use to keep our grocery costs so low. The average per person cost with our method is $67 per month, per person. We do this by using a combination of several different shopping and cooking techniques. Now, let’s build on what we talked about last week.
I was reminded this week about a story in one of the documentaries on food that we watched. Not sure, but I think it was Food Inc. In it, they shared the story of a “poor” family of 5 that was “forced” to eat at McDonald’s and have burgers and fries because that $12 dinner meal was “all that they could afford”. Are you freakin’ kidding me??
I can’t remember the last time we spent $12 on a dinner meal – under $5 is the goal and rest assured the meals we serve are MUCH healthier than a burger and fries. Society has been duped into believing that fast food and junk/processed food are cheap – they’re not.
Let me give you an example. For our food-loving family of six, we need to prepare 5 boxes of boxed macaroni and cheese to fill our tummies. On sale, I can get these boxes for 75 cents each, which brings the price of the mac and cheese to $3.75. On the other hand, by purchasing our cheese in bulk at Sam’s Club each month, I can make my Creamy Homemade Mac & Cheese for our family of six for $3. And it takes no more than 20 minutes to prepare. So, we have a healthier meal with real food for less than the boxed stuff that has God knows what in that cheese powder. Now, this is not a rant on those who eat boxed mac & cheese – although we don’t serve it often it’s one of my favorite meals. But don’t tell me that it costs less to eat the boxed stuff – it’s just not true.
Okay, now that I’m finished with that mini-rant, let’s get onto the good stuff. We talked last week about our detailed steps for planning well and shopping well. Here are our other tips for feeding your family for less.
Cook From Scratch
I cannot tell you what a money saver this is. From dinners to desserts to everything in between, we work hard to cook from scratch in order to save money. For instance, the pack of 24 flour tortillas we buy at Walmart costs $4.38. I can make these homemade tortillas with organic flour for less than $2.50 for 24. I can make 36 of my delicious chocolate chip cookies for about $2.00, complete with organic flour, sugar and butter. Ditch the organic ingredients (you were eating processed before, so what’s the difference?) and save even more money.
Worried about time? Yes, it does take time to cook from scratch. Put down your smart phone, turn off the TV and carve out some hours during the weekend to make and freeze some homemade goodies. Which brings me to our next trick:
Stretch your Ingredients and Stockpile Meals
One of the ways we save money on groceries is to get creative and “stretch” ingredients. For instance, on weekends we’ll occasionally make up a batch of homemade pancakes. The recipe calls for one egg and one cup of milk, and we quadruple the recipe, which means 4 eggs and 4 cups of milk, but we don’t add that. Instead, we add 2 eggs, 2 cups of milk and 2-3 cups of water. The pancakes taste delicious and we’ve just saved ourselves 99.5 cents on milk and another 45 cents on eggs. It seems menial, but the savings add up over the course of the month and year.
Soup is another area in which we save money by stretching ingredients. I mentioned last week that we buy only organic, non-soy, non-corn GMO free, antibiotic-free whole chickens from an area farmer. These babies aren’t cheap. I bought 4 a couple of weeks ago and it cost me $56. Expensive, yes, but again, you have to pick and choose your non-negotiables when shopping and this can be done while still feeding your family for less.
One of the ways we “stretch” our chicken is to use it for soups and casseroles. I’ll boil a chicken, transfer the broth into a separate pot, add more water and boil it some more. By doing this I can get several pots of broth from one bird. From there, I add the (organic)veggies, the noodles for chicken soup, the wild rice for wild rice soup, or the beans for the bean soup, whatever, and can get several batches of soup out of one chicken. I then let the chicken cool, take the meat off of the bone, chop it into little tiny pieces to make it spread further, and put some in each soup and some in the freezer for casseroles later. No, there’s not a plethora of meat in the soups/casseroles but there’s plenty to be tasty. I often too will use plastic containers or freezer bags to store the broth with just the chicken until I’m ready to make another batch of soup.
These are all techniques I learned by studying the Great Depression. By getting creative and substituting where I can, using less where I can, and stretching where I can, I save tons of money on our grocery bills while still serving quality food. The soups and soup mixes you get at the store are FULL of chemicals a genius would have trouble pronouncing, but the soups I serve at home are wholesome, healthy and delicious.
Buy in Bulk
There are several items that are ridiculously cheap when you buy them in bulk. Spices are one example. Almost any type of spice can be found at the warehouse stores for about a 75% savings on grocery store costs. Coffee is another. I don’t drink coffee, but Rick does. We buy a 2.5 bag of Colombian Supremo coffee beans at Sam’s Club each month for $14.98. We grind them ourselves (using our $15 grinder from Walmart) and Rick has freshly-ground, delicious coffee every single day for 50 cents a day. Oh, he does add flavored creamers, so that would bring the cost up to roughly 65 cents a day. Still MUCH cheaper than hitting a coffee shop and quality coffee to boot.
Beef also can be bought in bulk by checking around with farmers in your area. This isn’t an option in every area, but it is an option in many areas. Our particular farmer feeds his cows on grass as long as he can, and then finishes them off with corn and hay in the winter. No antibiotics. No hormones. $4.00 a pound after butchering costs. I can’t even get the crap meat at WM for 4.00 a pound! Remember that this price includes our steaks and roasts too. We invested in a deep freezer (which at this point has more than paid for itself after 15 years) and the beef will last for a year or more and still taste wonderfully fine. I can feed Rick and I a wonderful Ribeye steak dinner for $10 by purchasing the meat in bulk and adding some baked potatoes and steamed veggies in the mix. Again, the money savings is ridiculous when you buy in bulk. The key is to not fall into the mindset that you can be liberal with your usage and waste it because there’s so much. Another key to buying in bulk is to only buy what you’ll be certain to use.
Okay, we’re up past 1200 words again and I’m getting long-winded so I’m going to end on that note. I’m working on an e-book that shares all of our techniques for feeding your family well on less, including specific meals, etc. One of the reasons I always hated those kinds of books is because they often focus on low-quality meals. That’s not the case in our family. We serve a terrific balance of healthy, organic and delicious meals and still manage to stay within our budget. In our e-book I’ll be sharing specifics about these meals and other specific details on what we buy and eat.
I hope we’ve helped give you some tips on how to feed your family well for cheap. Stay tuned!