Sunday, May 19, 2013

How I Save Money on Food

My family lives on one income.  I'm not going to lie and say it's easy, because it's a lot of work.  Being a homemaker is more than just cooking and cleaning.  It is my job to be our family's financial adviser.  This includes being in charge of our monthly budget.  Our monthly budget for food is anywhere from $180-$200 a month for our family of four.  A lot of my friends and family say that is what they spend on food in one week!  But with one income, we have to stick to our budget.  The first thing people think when I tell them our budget is that we must eat like birds.  That couldn't be further from the truth.  My family is able to eat great food on a budget.  It takes a lot of planning to be able to do so.

Every month I sit down and determine what nights we will not be at home (usually Friday nights when we go to the in-laws for dinner).  I create meal plans so that I can cook similar meals near each other to save on ingredients.  To ensure that my family does not eat the same meal in the same week, I sometimes cook a double batch as I prepare dinner, serving one to my family while freezing the other for later in the month.

My biggest source of savings comes from coupons!  No, I am not an extreme couponer.....more like a semi-extreme couponer!  I only buy what my family will eat.  I like to sit on my coupons and wait for sales so I can get  the most bang for my buck.  Since coupons are generally for pre-packaged foods, I am able to stock up in large amounts.  Some of the foods I like to buy using coupons are rice, pasta, oatmeal, condiments, cereal, canned foods, drink mixes, meat, dairy, and bread.

By saving on my pantry staples, I am able to buy more fresh produce.  My produce is purchased from a local produce coop.  I pay one price for a basket full of fresh produce from local farms.  By doing this, I am also able to enjoy new produce that I normally would never have tried.  In addition to the coop, I also hit up local farmer's markets.  I like to go later in the day right before they close.  I do this because the farmers will often lower the prices in order to get rid of as much of their crops as they can.  I was once able to purchase 5 lbs. of peppers for $1.  Knowing how to store your foods properly to extend their life will also help lessen the amount of waste.

Until recently, we had a local discount bread store.  We would be able to purchase bread that was near the end of it's shelf life for over 50% off the retail price.

I find myself scouring the discount/clearance shelf at our local grocery store.  The foods you'll find in this section usually just have damaged packaging.  I was able to buy fruit cups for my kids for $.15 a piece this week.  These fruit cups cost $2.50 for a 4 pack.  They were only missing the outer cardboard packaging.  I also found a 5 lb bag of rice for $1.  My local Walmart also has a discount rack for their bakery items that cook a little too long.

Meat takes up a large part of our food budget.  To help lessen the cost, I like to use meat as an addition to a dish rather than the main focus.  What I mean by this, is instead of making steak and potatoes, I may make goulash or a stew that I can serve over pasta or rice.  You still get the taste of the meat, but you can use 1/4 of the amount of meat you normally would have used for that meal.  I also purchase lower cost cuts of meat. A lot of people would normally be scared to try pork necks.  However, the taste of pork necks does not differ from a pork roast.  Since these lower cost cuts of meat may not be as tender, I find it is best to slow roast or braise them.  Shred the meat off the bones and use in sauces or dishes.

Now that we own a home, I have been able to set up a garden.  Each year it gets a little bigger.  Growing your own produce is very rewarding.  I save money on seeds by saving the seeds from my crops to use for the next year.  I also regrow any vegetables I can (mainly celery, onions, garlic, and lettuce).

Feeding your family great food on a budget can be difficult, but it is possible.  What are your biggest tips for saving money on food?

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