Well, I remember being newly married ten years ago and having a grocery budget of $50.00 per week. These days I can’t even fathom that! Obviously my family looks a lot different now but I don’t think anyone can deny that the food prices in our country continues to rise. I know as a mom, buying food weekly for a family of five, that jaw dropping moment comes too often as I am checking out at the grocery store. The price gap between quality food and junk food continues to widen as well. Out of necessity, I have been working out some tricks to keep my food budget down and everyone full and happy in our home. Here are some of the ways I buy quality food on a dime.
1) Get familiar with the bulk section~ I LOVE the bulk section! This is where I buy raw almonds,cashew and other nuts and seeds for my family to munch on. I also get bulk popcorn kernels, honey, agave nectar..even avocado oil. If the store you shop at does not have a bulk section, I highly recommend you find one that does. It is well worth the extra trip.
2) That brings us the next tip. Shop at two stores~ I have found that if I frequent two of the most affordable stores in my area then I save up to 20% on my groceries. There will always be different stores that have certain things cheaper. Again, for 20% savings, worth the extra trip.
3) Buy generic~ Seems like a no brainer but I know some of us get caught up on brand names. I know I can find myself leaning towards the pretty packaging too, but if the ingredients are pretty much the same buy the generic. Often times if you look at where the items were processed (milk for instance tells you the plant in which it comes from etc.) They are the same location.
4) Speaking of milk….limit dairy and meat~ This is a hard one but dairy and meat are EXPENSIVE. Limit the amount of meat you use in a meal and/or the number of meals you have meat included in at all. For example, if I buy one pack of lean no hormone ground beef, I will cook it up and then spread it out. One night I could add it to a cooked bean and rice soft taco, then add it the next night to my whole wheat pasta. If there is still some left over I will make chili etc. Then I can buy higher quality organic meat if I choose because I am covering three meals instead of one, and it is more for flavor instead of the main course. Dairy is a hard one. I am lactose intolerant so it is easy for me to say no milk. For the kids, they have milk with their cereal and that is it. So I buy organic milk..because I buy less. On occasion they have grated cheese to top homemade pizza or tacos but that’s maybe three times a week. In many countries dairy is not included at all in their diets. If you are concerned about calcium, remember there are many plant based sources for this.
5) Make things from scratch~ If you must have muffins cookies etc. bake them. I guarantee they will be healthier than store bought because they won’t have a ton of preservatives to keep them shelf stable for weeks. We have a pizza night every Sunday where my husband makes dough, the kids help top the pizza and I bake it. I know every night can’t look like that with all of the crazy schedules we have these days, but use meal preparation as a time to bond as a family and when you can bake from scratch. Bake up those granola bars on the weekend and then stick in the lunches all week etc. Sometimes I will even make a bunch of apple or pumpkin pancakes, cook them and then freeze them. The kids can grab them out of the freezer and stick them in the toaster and have breakfast all week.
6) Stick to whole food snacks~ That crunchy apple will keep you feeling fuller and more satisfied than those oily potato chips that are over priced and low in nutrients. Think of healthy easy to pack whole food snacks and avoid snack isles.
7) Find the outlet stores. My family loves bread..I try to abstain but with kids lunches and my husbands love for toast it is inevitable. So I found a Franz outlet store in my area where I can go pick up organic bread for a fraction of the price..also every five things I buy they allow me to pick a free item! A lot of the outlet stores have special deals like this.
8) Freeze it if you can~ speaking of outlet stores, I only go once a month and then freeze items. I can’t run all over town every week to shop, so this has been a great solution for me and my family. Those higher ticket items like dairy etc…when they go on sale you can buy it and freeze it. I do this with organic milk and yoghurt because I want quality but I wait until it is for half the price.
I hope you have found some useful tips as far as saving yourself some green AND making it a priority to eat healthy clean food. Take what you can from this and make it work for your family and circumstances. I know everyone’s living situation looks different, but if you put a little effort in you can be healthy on a budget.