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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:
green peppers red peppers
boneless skinless chicken breasts olives
zucchini Greek yogurt
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:
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.