Is it possible to go to the store, get healthy food to feed your whole family and save money? YES! I will share with you what healthy grocery shopping on a budget looks like. These are things that you can start doing now and requires no crazy antics or jumping through hoops.
You read about those women who coupon and spend one penny on a billion paper towels…sure it’s a great deal but is it practical? I saw those shows and these women spend 40 hours a week planning and preparing and clipping to save money for their family. The most I have ever spent on groceries in a normal month is less than $500 – I wouldn’t take a full time job that pays $500 so why would I spend that time to save that amount? It just doesn’t make sense to me. These are REAL things I do that don’t take much time and save around $100 a month (probably a bit more).
Probably the most expensive thing we buy. A lot of stores have discounts on meat that is approaching the “sell by” date. At Kroger they call it Manager Specials. Most have certain times of the day that they discount their meat. Whenever I move to a new area I call the closest Kroger store and ask them directly about what time they put out their Manager Specials.
It is worth it to buy direct from a farmer to get a side of a cow and split it with a friend. What you end up paying per pound is less and you get much, much better quality than similar product at the grocery store! Keep the bones for broth and fat to cook different meals with.
Sometimes you can get creative and use what you buy for several meals! This Rubber Chicken recipe is one of my favorites. Each meal is so easy and it gives you ideas on how to use every part of the animal.
Shop the specials! Fish is expensive and if you do not live in a place that you can go to a local supplier it will always be expensive. Most places across the US, you have the ability to go fishing. This doesn’t cost more than a fishing license and a pole to fish for the whole year. It creates awesome memories with your kids and you teach them the valuable lesson of respecting the animals they eat.
Load up on Fruits and Veggies
There is a stigma against fresh fruits and vegetables that they are expensive. If you shop the ads and buy what is in season, they really are not expensive, especially for what you get. You don’t have to buy the pre-cut, pre-washed, all organic when you are feeding everyone on a tight budget. Buy what you know you will use. Increase your intake and you won’t crave the extra frilly things that you are probably buying.
Having a large salad for lunch or a 4:00 snack is much better for you and if you add a little oil for some healthy fat and a big glass of lemon water you will be surprised at how little it costs and how full you stay. You can give the kids a similar meal. Here are some tips to get them to try new foods.
On the off-season buy frozen fruits and veggies (or freeze your own) and get creative with how you use them. Smoothies are amazing with frozen berries, put them on or in your pancakes. Stew or soup with frozen peas and carrots or other vegetables is so good and good for you!
Use variations of potatoes and onions. These are possibly the cheapest veggie you can buy and they go with everything! Homemade fries were discovered when I was broke and shopping on a budget and they are still our favorite over any other fries we can buy.
Forgo the “extras”
Put back those crackers and hostess cupcakes! If you want something sweet, buy flour, cocoa, and sugar. My 13 year old LOVES to bake (and she is GOOD at it) ingredients for a whole chocolate cake rival what you are paying for only a couple of those cakes. When you bake with your kids you teach them so many lessons and you get to create those little moments of memories for you and for them. Totally worth it.
I love love love cheez-it’s but they are SO expensive. Crackers in general are very expensive. I don’t buy them unless it is a special event and even then I buy them from Sam’s Club or Costco (go with a friend that has a membership) because you get much more bang for your buck. Potato chips can be a good buy when you shop the sales. They last a long time before you open them so stock up when you see a good deal. The kids like them in their lunches; I buy the big bag and put a handful of chips in their lunches (pennies compared to buying the individually packaged bags)
The sugar cereals are just empty calories, the only thing the kids are benefiting from eating that is the milk that you put on top. Making something just as sweet and simple will save a good amount for your tight budget. Pancakes and waffles are cheap and sweet, put some peanut butter on them and serve them with a glass of milk and you have a protein-packed sweet treat for breakfast! Make the batter the night before so you just scoop, cook and serve in the morning. Eggs with some toast and cinnamon and sugar on top is one of our cheap favorites.
Don’t even think about fast food!
I remember very distinctly one time I didn’t have much money at all, I was tired after working 3 jobs all week and had 2 children to feed at the end of the day. I wanted so badly to stop and get some fast food. I thought to myself, I could go spend $20 on this one meal OR I could take a few minutes more and go the grocery store. I wanted to put on this little experiment so I went to the grocery store. I knew I would spend around $20 for the 3 of us at the restaraunt so I put a budget on myself to only spend $20 in the store. I bought rice, some cheese, eggs and some staples to get us by. I spent $18 and some change and I fed us for 2 and a half DAYS! Take THAT Dollar menu empty calories!
Other Great Ideas
- Make Your Own Bread. It really isn’t as hard as people try to make it seem. The first time, sure, you will have some things to get used to but by your 3rd time it will be a sinch. It’s so cheap and SO yummy. Plus there is no better smell in your home than freshly baked bread.
- Substitute rice for noodles. In that same time in my life I shared above, we created cheesy rice! I couldn’t afford noodles so I bought rice, we made homemade mac and cheese except it was rice and cheese and thus cheesy rice was born. Still a favorite!
- Buy the store brand cheese when it is on sale. It doesn’t go bad!
- Have the kids make butter, talk about making memories! (hint: go to Starbucks and ask for a venti cup of heavy cream with no ice. They almost never have a problem with it, you get 26 oz for a few dollars instead of the grocery store that is much more expensive. Let them know you are making your own butter! They will get a kick out of that!)
- Pay with cash! This will influence your buying decisions and keep you from overspending in a very real and subconscious way. If you have $100 for the week and your total is $101-you are putting something back-this doesn’t happen when you spend with a card.
- Remember your own bags. Most stores either charge for bags or will give you a credit for bringing your own bags.
Plan your meals
Having a plan is the ULTIMATE budgeting tool! When my oldest was a baby I would go to our Kroger store once a week. I would follow the guy marking down the meat on Manager Special and pick up everything he put down hehe! I never spent more than $2 a pound for anything and most of the time it was around $1 a pound. I would only buy meat and any great specials they had for food that I KNEW we would eat.
We would then go to story time at the library and head home. She would take a nap and I would bust out my recipes and get a shopping list together for some meals for the week based on the meat I just purchased. Great deal on roast? Guess what’s for dinner within the week? Chicken legs on sale? BBQ sauce in a slow cooker and baked potatoes it is! After nap we would go to the cheaper grocery store and buy everything else that we needed for the week.
This is the MOST important thing about shopping with a list…STICK TO THE LIST!
Please share your simple cost-saving tips and tricks below in the comment section. We want to hear it!
Make a plan
Start by changing one thing
Stick to it
Peace and Balance,