Monday, July 7, 2008

How To Feed Your Family For Less: Set a Limit; Stay Within It

There are many ways to feed your family for less money. Set a limit, plan carefully, and you will be surprised how far your money will go. At the beginning of 2004, I decided to feed our family for $100 per week. There are six people living at home. This averages to be less than $2.50 per day per person. I thought this would be difficult since I was spending about $150 per week last year. For the past two months, I have had extra money and extra food each week. With the extra money, I can stock up on staples. I could feed us for less if I wanted to.

The most important change I have made is setting a limit and sticking to it. You determine your limit based on what you can afford or just cut back to have a challenge. When your money is gone, it is gone. Don’t try to buy more no matter how good the sale. Just eat what you have for that week and learn from your experiences and mistakes. When determining a weekly amount, make sure you figure out enough for the extra days each month if you are setting aside money monthly instead of weekly. I get cash each week before going to the grocery store. By using cash, I am more careful. Some people don’t feel comfortable carrying that much cash. Choose what is best for you. If I have extra cash after a week is over, I put it into an envelope and use it the next week or stock up on non-sale items. I have a list of things I want to stock up on and I buy something from that list when there is extra money. Stay within your budget. When the money is gone, you are finished.

Plan Menus. We subscribe to the newspaper because I save so much money from the ads. I go through the grocery ads when they come each week. I see what is on sale and circle things I am interested in. I do not use coupons. I could save more money doing that, but my time is more important to me. Next, I plan a menu for the week, including snacks, around sale items and things I have in my freezer. If you have a list of what is in your freezer, you can use it to plan meals and rotate the food properly. For example, if broccoli is on sale, I make chicken casserole with broccoli, cream of broccoli soup, stir fry vegetables, or have it as a side dish. If chicken is on sale, I make different chicken casseroles, chicken soup, chicken stir-fry, or chicken fajitas. If you hate to plan menus, ask your family what they would like.

Make a list. Write down the ingredients to make the meals you have planned for the week. Planning saves you money in the supermarket. Next to each ingredient or item you wish to purchase, write down approximately how much it will cost. It is good to have a general idea about how much you will spend. The amount you plan to spend for groceries at all the stores you go to should add up to the amount budgeted for the week. After you make a list, leave it for a day and then go back and see if you really want all the things you wrote down. Sometimes I have planned to buy too many cans of a certain item or I decide it isn’t worth the trouble to go to another store for just a couple of things. By leaving it for a day, you can be more objective and make a better decisions about what to do.

Stick to the list. It is important to buy the things on your list first. After that is done, you can use the extra money to buy in-store specials or stock up on staples. Ideally, you will have enough food stored so that you have greater flexibility to buy sale items. It takes time to get to that point, so be patient. It is not wise to buy 20 brownie mixes and have no money for fruits and vegetables. But, if you have bought the items on your list for the week, you can spend the extra money stocking up on brownie mixes. I save hundreds of dollars each month from shopping sales, but I stay within my budget and don’t go over. There will always be a sale sometime, somewhere. When we buy more food, it is easy to eat more. I used to get outdated dairy items for free. It was such a good deal! I spent more time going to the store and I went to the grocery store three times a week. I noticed that we ate more dairy and my kids got to the point where they didn’t want to eat it because there was so much. They got sick of it. I have stopped getting the free dairy items and I now spend less overall than I did when I got the dairy items free.

It is nice to have a limit. It gives you freedom. I go shopping only once a week and go to different stores if I want to. I spend about 30 minutes planning my menu and shopping trips and about 1-1/2 hours at the stores. If you calculate how much time you spend, it may not seem so emotionally draining. When my money is spent, I don’t buy anything else. We eat very well and I often have money to buy fruit snacks, granola bars or fish sticks for the kids. My freezer is full and I have a good amount of staples. Grocery shopping is not as bad as it used to be!

1 comment:

  1. I know your post has been on for a while, but I just saw it. I try to do the same when food shopping, take cash, etc. but the key is what you said, don't go over your limit and eat what you have at home and learn from your mistakes. Food is getting so pricey, anything that helps stretch the dollar is helpful.