Are you spending a fortune just on food for your kids? Are you trying to find ways to lower your food bill but keep ending up spending more than you expected? There are many reasons why we spend more than we need or intend to, like buying too much food for our kids, wasting what’s not eaten rather than making leftovers, snacks, or eating out.
It is possible to feed kids on a tight budget provided you’re really wised up to what will help make the food stretch further.
Evaluate how much you’re currently spending. You need to know just how much you’re spending because this will allow you to determine where you could save some money. It will also help you to know what you’re spending the most or wasting your money on.
Draw up a budget and note down everything you spend on food now. Include the snacks and meals out to reach your total.
Make room in your budget for each food item and columns for comparing brand and type prices. This way, as you start cutting down on your spending, you can start to see that buying fresh tomatoes in season is cheaper than a can of tomatoes or that fresh eggs, butter and bulk flour works out cheaper than a store bought cake, etc.
Determine what kind of real food your kids enjoy eating. This means what kind of vegetables or meat they enjoy and not fast food treats. This is aimed at targeting the healthy foods they prefer and helping you to eliminate what kind of food you shouldn’t be buying. Involving them in this process can be beneficial because they “buy in” to the choices.
Go online together as a family and look at nutrition sites. Check out enticing images of healthy foods and look at the recipes showing what you can make from healthy foods. This way, your family can help plan the meals they’d like using basic ingredients.
Remove unnecessary food items from the grocery list. What you and your family may consider to be “necessary” and what your body’s health actually needs may not meet eye-to-eye. But concentrating more on the healthy, unprocessed food products will reduce the grocery bill and keep you healthy. Some things to consider include:
Quit soda addictions and stop getting “store bought” juice. Instead, only drink water, with the occasional homemade squeezed juice for a treat. It’ll obviously save you more money this way. If you must drink soda, learn to make your own.
Eliminate all prepackaged junk food. There are just no realistic arguments to justify including expensive processed junk food in your diet. Not buying it will keep your food bill down and improve your overall health. This includes frozen junk food. Make your own junk food on rare occasions or just simply stop eating it.
If your family complains at losing the junk food treats, have a talk about cutting down on it and explain how you will work treat food into the family’s regular diet. Creating your own healthy junk food once a month should have an aim to cost less than $20 and be both nutritious and filling. Even better if there are some leftovers for another meal. Good examples include:
Vegetarian quesadillas and orange juice
Baked potatoes with sour cream and green onion; homemade garlic bread as a side and flavored milk or homemade milkshake
Chicken wraps or burritos
Homemade fries or wedges from a bulk bag of potatoes.
Try to buy in bulk. It’s common sense to buy items in bulk because you can get cheaper than smaller packages of the same thing. Make the space for the items in your home and purchase scoops and large containers to keep the food insect, humidity and light safe. A little investment in the storage containers up front can save a lot of money long term.
Use coupons and keep your eyes out for in-store specials. Those will help you keep costs down. However, be careful not to buy items just because you have coupons for them; this is false economy unless you usually eat the food in question and like it as a family. On the other hand, savvy coupon shoppers can make tremendous savings on an entire grocery cart of shopping, so provided you’re willing to invest the time in collating and using coupons, you can reduce grocery costs considerably.
Try not to buy full-priced canned goods. Food usually costs more if it comes in packages or cans. Obviously, the manufacturing companies need to cover the costs of materials used to package the food, as well as increased shipping costs. However, canned food can be a good buy when it’s on special or if it’s reduced in bulk amounts. There are benefits to having less canned food in your diet anyway––less salt and less exposure to the chemicals used to seal the cans means a healthier diet overall.
Draw up seasonally adjusted, cheap but nutritious meal plans. This is both a creative and eye-opening part of reducing your food costs. First, focus on what is seasonal and prepare to buy this more than any other types of food; seasonal food is always cheapest. Second, always prefer food with high nutrition levels and focus on how to get the most nutrition out of a single meal. Third, see whether each meal can be created as a single portion or be made into smaller portions for the family.
Use online recipe sites or your own software to create your own family’s cookbook that records favorite recipes by season. Add to it during the first year and you’ll have a cookbook to guide you for years to come. And given its digital, it’s easily adjusted as family income, tastes and size changes.
Consider leaning towards a partially vegetarian diet (or wholly if you so wish). This will generally cost less and provided you read up on nutritional requirements, it will provide high levels of nutrition. Good examples of cheap healthy meals that even meat eaters would enjoy are (and you may add bits of meat if you desire):
Tomato soup with basil and garlic bread as a side
Three bean chili and water with crackers
Fried rice with egg