With 3 teenage boys in the house, along with 5 more of us, many ask me how I manage to keep everyone fed. Many assume we must get some sort of assistance or something, because how can anyone possibly feed that many people on a reasonable budget. Let me show you how.
Our weekly grocery budget is about $100-150 a week. It varies weekly, depending on overtime, and other expenses. With that, I manage to keep us all healthy and full.
Just like with the house extras, cut out the food extras. We only eat out maybe 1-3 times a month. Cut out the junk. Chips, candy, ice cream, soda and cookies are NOT a necessary part of your daily diet. Reducing your processed sugars will have a massive impact on your grocery bill, as well as improve your over all health. If you MUST have these things, I suggest strict moderation, or making them yourselves. It is healthier, and more cost effective, to make things from scratch.
Cut out the garbage at breakfast. Boxed cereal, even the “healthy” ones, are not super awesome for you. When you have teenagers, the kids can go through 1-3 boxes in a single meal between them. This also goes for those frozen waffles, pancake coated sausages, and pre-made breakfast sandwiches. Clear out your freezer space for meats, fruits and veggies. We keep Hungry Jack pancake mix, because it only requires water, and a box costs $2 or less. Oatmeal, grits, eggs, fresh or frozen fruit, milkshakes, bacon and sausage are our breakfast staples. Go with the larger packages of grits and oatmeal, not the individual packets. It will save money and is easier when making for several people at a time. Breakfast is THE most important meal of the day. Don’t start your day with fast burn sugary garbage. It is not healthy and will eat your grocery money faster than you can eat it!
Plan your meals. Many of you work and think you do not have “time” to plan a meal. I assure you, you do. It takes moments to lay something out before work, if you plan ahead when you shop. Start by buying your meats in bulk, and separating them out into meal size portions, and putting them in baggies. This will save freezer space, thawing time, and reduce your over all meal costs. I keep a few baggies with 2-3 extra portions in the freezer too, for when guests join us for dinner.
Portion out your meals. Many people start freaking out at this notion. “OH MY, you want me to portion out our FOOD?!” Umm, yes, I do. This will keep you from over eating, which is not healthy for you, and will allow you to control your food budget a bit better. Keep the portions reasonable. You do not want people walking away hungry, but you also do not want to waste any food either. America is one of the leading countries of wasted food. We throw away more food in a single week than many other countries have to eat in a month! It really is rather damaging to ones budget.
Many are under the impression that all you can afford for $100-150 a week is simply potatoes and rice. That is simply not true. You just need to learn how to shop a little differently.
Chicken leg quarters come in a 10 lb bag at Walmart for about $5. You can cut those quarters in half, and make several portioned out meals out of that $5 bag of chicken. Ground beef is rather expensive most places, but you can get it for about $2.29/lb at Aldi, when you buy the larger packages. I suggest having a meat scale at home, so that you can portion out 1-2 lb baggies (depending on your family size). When you get them in the baggie, flatten them out. This will save space in the freezer, and they will thaw faster. Also, Watch the “reduced” section. You can find awesome deals in the reduced priced meats section. If you have a butcher, or meat market near you, they often do package deals. Watch your prices though. Some meat markets like to throw things like potatoes into their packages to make it look like you are getting an awesome deal.
I am not overly fond of feeding us canned veggies. They are not the most healthy. If you are somewhere that you can grow a garden, even a small container garden, it is something I HIGHLY recommend. You do not need a large space, to grow a large amount of food. Many people think that since they do not have space for a huge elaborate farm style garden that they can’t grow their own food. This is simply not true. Start with the basics: potatoes, tomatoes, sweet peppers, onions and beans. Get GOOD soil, and compost, and add that to your plot/planters BEFORE you start your planting. Trust me. You will thank me later.
If gardening is indeed something you are incapable of, I suggest Aldi or Save-A-Lot for your canned veggies. There is no need to pay $2 a can, when you can get them for $0.59 or less a can. If you have a bents and dents store, all the better. Again, just watch your prices.
Fruit and veggie stands can be nice, but try hitting that early morning farmers market instead. You will be supporting a local farmer, and getting nicer fruits and veggies than you will in a grocery store. You will also find a larger and healthier variety of fruits and veggies at a farmers market than you will in an average grocery store. If you can’t grow your own, this is the next best way to go. Aldi also has good prices on their fresh fruits and veggies if you have one near you.
We do not buy a bunch of processed foods. I have found that by the time I get them in large enough quantities to feed us all, it actually costs less to make a meal that is 1 meat, 1-2 veggies and a starch. The only exception to this would be the occasional lasagna, taco kits, and pasta sauces. While I prefer to cook most of my meals fresh, sometimes a Momma just needs a night off.
We found that with cutting out a large portion of the processed junk food, we where able to feed the kids more food, at a much lower price. Reducing the amount of sugars, junk, and processed garbage has also had great health benefits. Our energy levels have come up, and our weight is coming down. We are more healthy, and energetic than we where before. The kids are not complaining about being hungry ALL THE TIME, like they where before, because the meals are more satisfying for longer.
So if you want to eat more for less, this is how you do it. You reduce or cut out your junk food, plan and pre-portion out your meals, and eat things that are more satisfying for longer periods of time. You will see your grocery expenses go down and your money savings go up! This is how we feed many with little.