Thursday, May 21, 2009

Food Budget Maximization

Last week, my total grocery bill was $28.27. I fed my family of 5. Well, ok, ONE of them is still nursing…but the rest of us all ate well for that amount. I was asked by a few people how I did it, so I’m giving some advice. My only qualifications on this are experience, so take what you want from this and leave the rest!

1. Use Meal Planning to Organize Your Needs

Start with a Breakfast Menu. We have two weeks (M-F) of menu that we flip back and forth. There is no question of what’s for breakfast for the kids, and it takes stress out of the mornings.

Next, plan your dinners. Dinner is the most expensive meal (usually), so take that to heart when you’re looking at what you want to cook (or eat!). I usually plan mine a few weeks or months out, but you can do it week by week too.

2. Incorporate a Vegetarian Day Each Week

Beans are cheap! Learn to cook and eat them! I hated beans growing up, but now that I see the price of meat, I am broadening my horizons. Buy a pound of different kinds until you see which ones you can stomach (I can’t do pinto!). Buy them dry, since they are even cheaper than canned ones, and they don’t have the added salt and potential preservatives.

3. Make EVERYTHING from Scratch

Don’t buy pre-packaged anything. This includes Hamburger Helper, Uncle Ben’s, Bisquick, Pancake Mix, etc. All of these things can be made with the staples you probably already have in the cupboard, for pennies on the cost of their packaged and preservative-laden counterparts. Plus, buying ingredients instead of packages is better for the environment!

4. Buy Generic!

There are not many things that I buy that are name-brand. Does flour, sugar, and oil really need a brand name on it? I’m not saying that you have to give up everything that you like here, I mean, if you just have to have Kraft Singles, buy them. But when you can, buy the generic version of everything. You’ll find that couponing becomes impossible because stores don’t publish coupons for their own brands usually (Target is the exception here). I still look for coupons though, because there are some things that I like to have the “real thing” on, and if you can combine a sale with a coupon, then you can get the name brand for the price of the generic or less.

5. When Shopping, Use a List

This is easy when you have a meal plan in place! Make your list from your plan, and stick to it! Don’t buy anything that’s not on your list. If you want a candy bar, it better be written down.

6. Use Your Reusable Bags

It sounds piddly, but you get a refund at most stores! Even if you get $.50 back, hey, it’s better than nothing at all. And, you’re being “green” too.

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