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How to eat well without breaking the bank

How To Eat Well Without Breaking The Bank- 5 Steps to Save You Money (and maybe improve your diet too)

Food can be a HUGE expense in a monthly budget. For a few weeks we lived in a hotel while my husband was doing his initial officer training. Although I tried to cook (think crock pot and electric skillet) it was way hard to do in a little hotel room so we ate out a lot. We were sick of it after 3 weeks and when I checked out our credit card bill for the month we had spent almost $700 on food!!! I about had a heart attack, that was just me, my hubby, and our 1 year old!! Thankfully we moved into a furnished apartment for the remainder of training and I was able to do a lot more cooking with what tools were available.

When my husband got out of the Army and we moved to California I knew we were going to have to make some big changes. One of those changes was going to have to be our food budget. It’s one of the few budget items within our total control. So for our family of four I spend $100 a week on groceries. To some people that may seem like a lot and to others it may seem like not very much. Obviously every family is different so what works for us may not work for you. What I hope is you can find 1 or 2 things that will work for you.

1. Shop the sales

If you read any money saving grocery article this is usually the number 1 tip. There’s a reason it’s #1, it’s the easiest way to cut back on your grocery bill. Find what meat is on sale and base that week’s meals around that. And if you can fit it in, buy a little extra meat to put in your freezer. You’ll be happy you did later.

2. Plan Your Meals For The Week

This is probably the hardest for a lot of people. It takes time and effort which you may not want to have to do during the week. It doesn’t necessarily have to be super time consuming or exhausting. For any given week I usually plan 4-5 meals. With those meals I make enough to have dinner one night and lunch for my husband and myself one day. It’s not usually that much harder to make a little extra food. This saves us money by not having to buy a lunch and makes sure we are eating healthier by not eating fast food.

I don’t necessarily go looking for new meals to cook unless I am in the mood to do a new one. Usually what I do is look at what’s on sale and what I already have on hand.

For example, this week these items were on sale:                      And I had these items on hand already:

cucumbers                                                                                                bacon

green peppers                                                                                          red peppers

avocados                                                                                                   lettuce

onions                                                                                                         bread

boneless skinless chicken breasts                                                   olives

tomatoes                                                                                                    Beans

zucchini                                                                                                     Greek yogurt

quinoa                                                                                                         Tortillas

roast beef                                                                                                  Rice

hot dogs                                                                                                     Tomato sauce

smoked sausage                                                                                      Beans

 

And here are the 4 meals I planned to go with what’s on sale:

BLT’s with leftover Easy Spinach and Sausage Pasta , Spaghetti Fest, Gyros, Fajitas with Mexican Rice and Beans

 

These are all meals that we love and haven’t had in a while. I already know what I needed for them and it took me less than 30 minutes to look through the grocery ads and my cupboards and make up my list.

3. Eat less meat

This can be a little more difficult for some people. I started doing this a few years ago when we were trying to implement a few healthier lifestyle changes. It has helped a ton though with our budget. We only spend $10-15/ week on meat and we are not starving or feeling deprived. Add veggies to your meat dish- think fajitas, stir fry, beans in the taco meat. Or try these recipes where veggies and meat combine for a great main dish- Cantonese Black Pepper Beef with Green Beans, Peanut Chicken Rice Bowl, Sweet and Sour Meatballs

4. Eat meatless occasionally

This is easier than it sounds. Have a soup and salad night. Make a quiche. Do a meatless pasta. Have breakfast for dinner like pancakes, waffles, crepes, french toast, huevos rancheros etc. Right there you have 4 meals to make one for each week of the month. Even if you use a dozen eggs to make dinner for your family for huevos rancheros or crepes or a quiche its still cheaper than buying meat.

5. Eat more vegetables and fruit

Again I shop the sales. I don’t just add veggies to the main dish I make sure that we have them as a side as well. And I make sure we have a fruit side as well. This means we are all more likely to get the recommended daily servings of produce and eat healthier all around. Plus, having more items to put on our plate means that we eat less of the main dish. So I rarely need to make more than a normal 5-6 adult servings of the main dish to have leftovers.

So this week I will do Greek Quinoa Salad with the gyros and Corn with Cumin Butter with the fajitas. I’ll do a side salad with the BLT’s and pasta and the Spaghetti Fest is so chock full of veggies I’ll have a side of bread and lots of fruit.

I anticipate having enough leftovers of all of this food to feed us at least dinner and lunch and most likely at least one leftover night.

 

It really only takes a little extra effort to be able to make some huge cuts in your grocery bill. If these 5 steps seem to daunting all at once, choose the one that you think you could do the easiest and add that in to your routine. When that seems normal try adding another step in. I didn’t start out doing all 5 of these steps at once. I probably would have thrown my hands up. I figured out these tricks over time and am so grateful that I was already doing most of them when my hubby took that pay cut.

Do you have any tips that have helped your family cut the grocery bill? Join me on Facebook or Twitter and share your tips and maybe you’ll see your tip shared in a future post!

16 Comments

  1. Great tips! Menu planning really does save me time and money. Thanks so much for linking up at the Totally Terrific Tuesday Link Party last week. Please come back again this week…we’d love to know what you’ve been up to. The party starts at 10pm. I hope to see you there!

  2. Jade…really good tips. When hubs and I first moved in together, I started meal planning for the week the way my mom always did…. 7 years later I still do it…it’s a time saver and a money saver for us! I also find making a little extra out of things you find on a good sale, ie a stew or a pot roast and then freezing half really helps too! I love doing that with soups!

  3. Love your tips. My one tip is when I make a large portion dish (shepherds pie, lasagna) I put what ever we don’t use in aluminium loaf pans. I find the food saves better and makes the perfect frozen dinners. Also with 2 kids under 5 it makes great lunches and my buck goes further.
    Stopping by from Bloggers Brags Pinterest Party. Pinned this post to our board

    1. I agree with buying meat at Costco. If nothing is on sale that is where I go and some things are just always cheaper there. The trick is not getting sucked into buying all the other cool stuff.

  4. Love your post. I totally go for the making extra & freezing, not just to save $$ but to save time too. I usually prepare 3-4 turkey meat loafs so I cook 1 & freeze the others so they are ready to go into the oven. Big time saver. I also have one more tip for saving, but it isn’t always possible depending on where you live & the season.. farmers markets- if you go towards the end, the prices are marked much lower than the beginning. They don’t want to bring it back with them. The negative, lots of stuff is sold out. The positive, you can get a lot of good fruits & veggies marked way down.

  5. What great ideas! Food blogging has definitely increased my grocery spending, so I also look at sales all of the time. We also eat eggs a lot! My hubby loves protein – meatless Monday’s don’t seem as bad to him if there is a quiche on the table. 🙂

  6. Groceries are so expensive here in Southern Maryland. Even after coupons I am spending $150 – $200 a week for a family of 4. My grocery store has digital coupons so I load them to my loyalty card. I also shop what is on sale. My family hates left over so I have been creative with turning leftovers into different meals. For example Pot Roast gets reinvented into Shredded Beef Tacos and Steak Fajitas are turned into steak egg and cheese breakfast burritos.

  7. All great tips! Meal planning is huge for us. I spend so much more when I go to the grocery store without a real list. I have 3 teenagers and our grocery bill is a lot bigger than i would like, but I am making a concerted effort this year to cut it down. Going meatless once or twice a week is also a great suggestion and I do have a bunch of meatless meals that the kids really love.

    1. I agree that meatless kind of gets a bad rap but going meatless even just once a week can cut back the costs so much- and it can be super tasty too!

  8. Yes, yes, yes, yes, and yes! If I menu plan and prepare myself for grocery shopping (i.e. getting the e-coupons on my store’s card) I save a ton of money, and less likely to “impulse-buy”. Also, having left-over friendly meals (like stews or casseroles) helps out too, because I’m not throwing away uneaten food or the mystery leftovers that got shoved to the back of the fridge!

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