Since a few people have asked now, I thought I’d do a post on how we feed our family of six on $450 a month or less. It takes a bit of planning, but all in all, our technique is pretty easy. We rarely use coupons, so most of our savings comes from a well-thought out plan. How do we do it? Read below for the tips. Also, I’ve included a few links to other posts I’ve written to help you save money on feeding your family.
1. We “big shop” once a month. When we first started planning, we used a meal calendar. I’ve got that largely memorized now, so, now, at the beginning of every month, I write down a list of 15 dinner meals, with the goal of serving each one twice. Being the
technicalogically illiterate homesteading gal that I am, I use a notebook for this task. Below the list of 15 dinner meals, I make four categories of foods:
– Canned Foods
I then list every ingredient I’ll need to buy for the 30 dinner meals. I also add in the stuff needed to cover our breakfasts and lunches.
For breakfast in our family, we alternate on a rotating basis. Every other day the kids (who are home every day because we homeschool) get their choice of any type of eggs, cheese, nuts (sunflower nuts mostly), fruits or veggies. Then on the opposite days, we alternate between oatmeal and cinnamon rice. The kids can also choose to have two pieces of toast, either with butter or peanut butter, instead of the oatmeal or cinnamon rice. We also allow them 1 8oz. glass of 100% fruit juice on the eggs/cheese/nuts/fruits/veggies days. Otherwise, they drink water with breakfast.
For lunches, we usually serve leftovers, or some type of pasta dish, or sandwiches, so I also add these ingredients as well as the breakfast ingredients we’ll need to cover breakfasts. This minimizes what we spend on food, and forces us to stick with the meals we’ve planned on for the month. Also, Rick takes a bag lunch from home that consists usually of a couple of sandwhiches, some generic chips, a piece of fruit and some homemade cookies, brownies or banana bread. This really cuts down on his spending at work. Since I make most things homemade for him, it’s pretty cheap.
We do usually run in 3 times a month or so for fresh fruit, etc., if we run out, but we work real hard at sticking with our allotted amounts so we don’t over spend. Basically, we’ve found that the less we’re in the store, the less we spend. Gone are the days when we make a trip to the grocery store because we’ve got a hankerin’ for something special for dinner. This has allowed us to cut our grocery bill in half over last year.
2. Buying in bulk: Check the prices, but for the oatmeal and rice especially, we save TONS of money by buying at the club stores. But pasta is cheaper here at Walmart than at Sam’s Club in bulk. This is why it’s important to memorize grocery prices if you can. That way you can maximize your savings, and avoid the sometimes more costly foods at buying clubs.
3. Cheap meals. In my ideal world, I’d serve ALOT less pasta, bread and rice. But we are in a pretty serious debt situation right now, so for the next year or two, at least, those will be staples in our meals. Most of our dinner meals run between $2 and $5. We also have spending limits on certain items. For instance, for a 64oz. bottle of 100% fruit juice, our max spending price is $3.00. If we can’t find a certain item for a price that is reasonable based on what we’ve spent in the past, we generally won’t buy it.
4. Shop the sales. We often plan our meals around what’s on sale, or stock up big when something we use regularly is on sale.
5. Skimp on the meat. We do buy our beef from a butcher, which saves us a huge amount of money on beef. The average we spend by purchasing direct from the butcher is $3.50-$4.00 a pound for all of our organic, grass-fed burger, steaks and roasts. But we don’t eat meat real often. Also, we use it sparingly in cassseroles and soups. For instance, we’ll buy a whole chicken and use it to make 4 or more soup meals.
Changing the way we grocery shop has saved us over $450 a month since January 1st of this year. Finding the financial leaks in your money ship is, IMHO, one of the most important things you can do to pave the road to financial freedom.
How do you feed your family for less?