“That’s when I get to get creative”
I love finding ways to save money on everyday things, and even better when I can involve my children in doing it. These are the top 10 ways that I stretch our food budget every month so that we eat well without emptying the bank.
1. MAKE CONVENIENCE FOOD
I hate mornings, with a passion. One day I took a look at my grocery budget for the last month and realized I was buying a lot of pre-made breakfast items. So instead of buying more of these, I started making my own. I make large batches of muffins and muffin tin omelets on Sunday and then freeze them to pull out during the week. It makes mornings so much less stressful and my kids love having breakfast options besides cold cereal.
2. BAKING DAY
Every Sunday is a hot one in my kitchen. I love to offer bread, muffins, or biscuits at every meal as a filler, but I hate buying them at the store. On Sunday afternoon I send the kids to play outside in the kiddie pool, or let them help me if I want to clean up a big mess afterwards. I make one batch of bread since my recipe makes a ton, a batch of biscuits, and two or three batches of muffins for breakfast and for snacks.
3. DRY GOODS
I love my stock of dried beans, they are so pretty (and cheap). Besides that though, they are so practical. I throw a pound in the crockpot overnight to cook and in the morning I have the equivalent of four cans of beans fully cooked and ready for recipes or freezing. I keep plenty of rice and pasta on hand so that I can whip up a filling casserole or cold salad for supper. Dry goods require a place to store them, but the convenience and money you save more than makes up for it.
I love my homemade menu board I made, and I love the fact that I know what I am making for supper every night without having to think about it. I plan two weeks at a time and that way I can make just one trip to the store for everything I need. It saves me a headache, and a TON of money since there is no waste. I only buy what I will use and by the end of the two weeks, my fridge is empty and it’s time for another shopping trip.
5. BE CREATIVE
Between working and kiddos I do have some nights when I have to put off the shopping until the next day and don’t have a meal planned and prepped for. That’s when I get to get creative. Since I have a stockpile it’s not an emergency or a reason to spend money on pizza when I don’t have supper planned. Instead it’s a chance to find a new recipe using only what I have on hand. Sometimes you can make the best food from a can of tomato sauce, rice, and a few veggies.
I hate finding something to take to work for lunch everyday since I pack my own lunch (honestly, I don’t understand people who don’t). I plan my recipes so that I make more than what I need to feed the three of us. When I take leftovers to work, I plan it so that there are a few days in between when we had something for supper and the day I take it for lunch. It helps me from being burned out on leftovers. If I can swing it, I try to make an extra pan of Lasagna or Casserole that I can throw in the freezer for emergency nights.
I love living in a smaller town and knowing my neighbors. One of my favorite things about summer and fall is when trees and gardens start producing. I always let people in my church or friends know that if they have extra produce I will trade them for it. One year a friend let me come and raid her overgrown garden when she had too many tomatoes to use. In return I gave her a half dozen jars of homemade salsa. On my local Facebook group, people post when they have too many of something and invite others to come and pick some up.
8. SHOP SMART
There is a thrift food store near to my house that I use as often as possible. Before I go to the big store to fill my shopping list I stop at the discount store. This week I got All Natural Spaghetti noodles for 75 cents a box, and Mac N’ Cheese for 65 cents per blue box. Needless to say I stocked up on what they had. Since the store gets overflow or damaged goods from the big stores the inventory differs from week to week. I stop in every other week on shopping day to see how much I can save on what I need.
9. DONT IMPULSE BUY
I have a hard time with this when it comes to my kids. I love fruit snacks, or at least the idea of a fun and colorful snack, but my kids don’t. They would rather snack on a nice crisp apple or some tortilla rolls than anything processed. I went through my stockpile for inventory and found 3 boxes of fruit snacks that went to the local food bank rather than back in the cupboard. Now, if I am not sure that we need it for snacks or a side dish, I don’t buy it. Oreos for mommy don’t count though, I NEED those!
I make sure that my kids get plenty of veggies, fruit, and protein, but I also know that to feed them only those three things would be really, really expensive. In comes filler; potatoes, pasta, rice, bread, and other good mediums that take up stomach space and don’t cost a lot. There is a reason that grandpa and grandma always served a loaf of bread at each meal, it tastes good and gives you lots of fuel without costing a lot. I serve brown rice with a lot of meals, that way the beef stroganoff is still giving my kids lots of protein, but they aren’t eating $20 of beef and mushrooms just to fill them up.
How do you make your food budget last through the month?