Although our current grocery budget is low for a family of 7 compared to the national average, I’d still like to find ways of spending less than $480 per month. I know what we spend because we’re on a budget that’s written down each month.
Yep, you may have guessed that my husband and I are working the Dave Ramsey plan, which is outlined in the Total Money Makeover book. That means all extra money gets piled onto debt until it is obliterated. In fact, we’re both proud of what we’ve accomplished in the past 22 months:
1. Kept an emergency fund of $1,000 in place
2. Created a written budget every month and paid cash for most everyday expenses
3. Paid off over $30,000 in debt (whew, that feels good!!)
4. And we are in constant communication about the family’s finances
And now back to the groceries!
I think families are all over the place as far as food spending goes. I personally know of a mother with 10 in her family who spends less than we do and we’re feeding 7. And I know families that are much smaller than mine that may spend twice what we do. How does my figure of $480 stack up to the numbers from the USDA Center for Nutrition Policy and Promotion? According to their website, the average figure for a “thrifty” meal plan for a family of seven is $786.00. It’s a rough average, but is useful for giving me some perspective on the $480 we currently spend. We’re doing good, but I think we could do a bit better.
Here are some of the ways I’ve kept our costs down:
Minimize the Meat: I make our meat go further by using only 1/2 of what’s called for in a recipe when I think it won’t make much difference in the final result. One example would be chili. Adding extras like tomatoes, beans and corn will make up for a smaller quantity of meat. In a chicken pot pie I’ll use a small amount of chicken with a large bag of frozen mixed veggies. If bulk sausage is on sale (sometimes the rolls are half the cost of beef) I will use it to fully or partially replace ground beef in my menus. For example, I will use 1/2 sausage and 1/2 ground beef in my meatloaf. Or I’ll make my famous (heh heh) John Wayne casserole using sausage and beef, or sometimes just with sausage.
We also have two meatless nights per week. One, of course, is Friday since we are Catholics. The other is usually Wednesday and I’ll make up for the lack of meat by making the meal fun or extra special. Last week we did homemade waffles, eggs made to order and fruit salad from a can.
Plan Meals Using the Sale Flyer: If Dillon’s puts pork on sale then guess what’s for dinner? This might shock a lot of you thrifty mothers out there, but I use coupons very rarely. Two reasons for this. First of all, I don’t store hop. I shop for food twice a month and my time is short. I just don’t have the energy or the patience or the gasoline to go to a lot of different stores so I can cash in on their specials. Baby Susanna, who is nursed, must be toted everywhere I go, and sometimes I’ve got 1 or 2 of the others as well. Last month, ALL 5 were tagging along. So…..I just look over the store flyers, pick where I’m going to shop and plan my menus around that.
Secondly, I get good deals on generic brands and that’s good enough for me. Plus, I find myself less likely to buy something “just because I have a coupon.” I know a lot of you ladies are coupon mavens and I give you high praise for that! But it’s just not my thing.
Check the Pantry and Fridge Before Making a List: Too many times I’ve discovered while unloading groceries that I’ve bought a few things we already had. Palm to the forehead! Make this mistake often and it could add up to a lot of unnecessary spending. One time, while going through my pantry and fridge before heading to the grocery, I found the ingredients for 2 complete meals! That’s sort of like stumbling on a 20 dollar bill in the parking lot!
Plan your Meals: This is really a no-brainer, but for the longest time I didn’t do this. Writing down what you are going to cook for the next week, 2 weeks or month helps you to buy only what you need, and nothing more (besides snacks, toiletries, etc.). I used to do a little chart in Microsoft Word. That was nice, and I hung it on the fridge like tomorrow’s headline news. But then I found it was even easier to just type the menus and my grocery list up in the same document. It saves a piece of paper. And it also means I have the menus with me for easy reference while I’m shopping, just in case there’s a last-minute change needed (like when I can’t find an ingredient at the store).
Big Breakfast, Small Supper: The foods we eat at dinnertime tend to be slightly more expensive than the ones we consume at breakfast. A pound of meat costs a lot more than 1 dozen eggs. Dinner rolls are pricier than toast and bagels. And the number of ingredients needed tends to be higher. Think about your typical casserole that calls for meat, a can of soup, some sour cream, a package of noodles and cheese for the top. Now compare that to a simple 2-egg omelet and a 2 pieces of toast. Around here, we try to make breakfast the biggest meal of the day, when food is cheaper and metabolisms are faster!
Quite often we will leave out bread and starch at dinner time. It’s not just cheaper, but also healthier. If I am enjoying a really delicious pork chop and some steamed asparagus I don’t feel cheated because there’s not a big pile of mashed potatoes on the plate.
So, do you have money-saving grocery tips to share with me so I can shave my budget even more?
Any questions for me?