We are a family of 5, and being we are always on the go, we have been trying really hard to eat better and stop going to fast food so much. I am by no means an expert in this department, and I am still learning ways to save on food, but this is how we buy for our family of 5.
Let me just put this out there, I don't coupon. I know this is terrible right? I mean I have seen so many people save so much by couponing, but I'm going to be real with you, I just have not figured out the knack of it yet. I've tried couponing about 5 times in the past and the truth is, I save more money by just getting the store brand than buying the one I have the coupon for. I know there is a skill involved in it and I just have not picked up on it and honestly, I don't have the extra time to do it, so I threw away the coupons. Here are my tips for saving money and feeding my family of 5.
- Shop at Aldi - If you don't have an Aldi in your area you are missing out on some great savings. We have tried Save a Lot and other discount food places, but my kids hated the taste of the food and honestly so did my husband and I, that is until we discovered Aldi. Their food tastes just as good as Publix and is way less money. They even have healthy choices, and an app you can download to help plan dinner, lunches, and snacks! We save a good $200 just by shopping at Aldi. You have to bring your own bags, and you do need a quarter for the cart, but honestly, it's worth it and again the food is high quality!
- Shakes - We are trying to eat better and part of that is cutting out a lot of our prepackaged foods. We have not been able to do this completely, but for breakfast a lot of times my husband will make a fruit and veggie shake. We use almond milk, and all the veggies and fruits he can pack into the blender and he serves that as our breakfast. My 2-year-old son loves this and we add his baby cereal to the shake to make it a little thicker. My daughters feel full after drinking it, and it's a great healthy breakfast that's fast and easy to make. You can also add things like protein powder, and vitamins to boost this as well!
- BOGO - If we are running out of something like ketchup, for example, I wait until it's BOGO at Publix and then buy it. I save money because I'm getting 2 items for the price of one. I've heard some sites say that Publix bumps up the price on the BOGO item so that you really don't save but in my experience, I have not seen this to be true. I've added the cost of the item before BOGO and at least at our Publix it really is the same cost.
- Rice - My husband is Hispanic so needless to say he eats rice with almost every meal. The good thing about buying rice is that you can buy it in bulk and save money. We have cut out white rice and have now been buying brown rice. There is also quinoa that we have started using as a rice alternative. I really like it. This is great for feeding a large number of people on a budget and you can make some wonderfully delicious and healthy recipes with rice!
- Bulk Nation - This is a new store that just opened in our area, but it's amazing. They have bins and bins of baking essentials from rice, to candy! It's great. So, if I want to buy nuts for a quick snack in my lunch box, I just fill up a bag and weigh it. Then you pay by weight. Buying in bulk will help you save in the long run. However, I will admit that we have had a BJ's membership for years and maybe went 2 times total. Not because we didn't like the store, but because we go over our budget. Yes, it last longer because we are buying more but we can’t' maintain our food goals using the bulk membership clubs!
- Meal plans - This is essential for saving money on food each week. Knowing what you are going to make for dinner is a great way of knowing what you will need to buy each week. I don't always follow this plan and when I don't that's when I get stressed not knowing what to cook, or what to buy. I know many people do food prep and have everything ready. I have not gotten to that point yet. It's a goal no doubt but for right now we have meal plans. Every Monday, my husband cooks rice, black beans, and ground beef. It's his go to and what he grew up on. We switch it up once in a while so we don't get bored but we know to have ground beef in the fridge each week. On Tuesday's we like to have tacos or some type of Tex-Mex dish. Quesadilla is one of our favorites. We do a big salad once a week as well. Either a chicken salad or a beef salad. Everyone loves it and it's easy to make. Having meal plans also helps keep you on track for eating healthy. I have found that when I am scrambling to make dinner in a short amount of time, that's when the mac & cheese, pasta meals or quick micro meals come to play, so plan ahead. We keep the same plan on the refrigerator, and again we switch it up a little but for the most part, we know what we like to eat and what we want to buy each week. Friday is always pizza day, although I do end up ordering pizza most Friday's, I have promised my hubby that we will try to make it going forward! The kids are excited to help mommy make pizza, so this should be fun. Sunday is our bacon day so we either have bacon and eggs for breakfast or for dinner on Sundays!
- Snacks - This can get expensive if you are not being careful. I recall spending $200 on just the kid's snacks once. To avoid spending so much we started getting snacks that are a little more filling therefore they are not needing to run to the fridge every 20 minutes. We get yogurt, and cheese because it's one of our favorite snacks. We buy the large applesauce bottles and do corn chips. I also buy popcorn. Not the microwave kind although you can, I got myself an air popper from Amazon. I've had it for almost 5 years and I still love it. I get the big jars of popcorn and honestly, one cup full makes a ton of popcorn. We add no salt or butter we just eat it plain and the girls love it! A great snack that's very cheap! We also make kale chips. This can cost a bit more being you have to buy a bag of kale, but my kids love these kale chips. You can find recipes on YouTube and it's a great snack that's also very nutritious. I have also found that the snacks full of sugar cause your kids to keep coming back for more snacks. So avoid the sugary stuff if possible. We have not been able to cut out sugar completely but little by little we are trying.
- Water - I know a lot of kids do not want to drink water, but we have saved a ton of money by not buying all the juices we once did. Yes, we still have orange juice and apple juice once in a while but we have stopped buying all the Hawaiian punch, and sugary drinks. Now, we do still buy pouch drinks for the girl's lunches, this is more out of convenience because it fits so perfectly in their lunch box but we also send them with a water bottle as well. We still buy Koolaide packs to mix with water and sugar but we really only bring that out when we have guest over and know the kids won't want water all the time. For the most part, our kids have gotten used to drinking water all day and even ask for it. If you find your children or even your spouse needs flavor and can't handle just drinking water all day, you can add lemon, lime, and other flavors to your water to give it a boost. I love lemon water. A friend of mine puts strawberries in her water jug and lets them float in there. It gives the water a sweet flavor.
- Never shop when hungry - This is a mistake I've made many times and regretted it! If you're hungry and go to the store, suddenly you need all these items that you would not normally buy. I don't know why this is but I have done this so many times and justify to myself why I need these garlic crackers that are BOGO that I never bought before. So, avoid going shopping when you're hungry. Grab a snack beforehand or eat before you go. Your purse will thank you.
- List - This is a no-brainer but honestly I can not tell you how many times I go into the store forget what I needed and end up buying a bunch of other stuff that I didn't need. I am the type of person that if I don't have a set plan I will wonder. Having a grocery list helps me stay focused on what I need and avoid the stuff I don't. There are times when you will have to get more thingsthan normal, like if you need to bake brownies for your kid's school but having a list will keep your brain on track and help you remember what you came in for.
- Be flexible - This is important when you are on a budget but want to make that Chicken Parm for dinner. If the cheese is not on sale but the head of lettuce is, then make a chicken salad instead. Don't feel like you can't deviate from your meal plan. Go with the sales. Some stores also have a clearance rack or shelf. Don't just buy stuff because it's on sale though, make sure it's on your list or don't buy it. You won't save money if you were not planning on buying that item in the 1st place.
- Bring your calculator - I always keep a small calculator in my purse and what I do is on my list I write down the price next to the item on my list. If I buy 4 cans of corn I'd write 4X 1.99 or whatever the price might be. Once I get all my items and if I add anything not on my list, I write it in with the price. Before I get to the check out I add up all my items so that I know what I'll be spending. This really helps me stay accountable and it's less of a shock when the cashier tells me my total. There is also an app you can download where you can scan your items and it will add the price for you, but honestly, I found that method more time-consuming for me, so I stick with the old fashion paper and pencil with the calculator method. I am known to add extras to my list. I can't help it, I just have to have that jar of pickles or that can of applesauce. It's in my nature I guess, but adding everything up helps me to know if I need to put that jar of pickles back and save it for next week! If I only have $200 to spend then I have to make sure I don't go over that or I won't have gas money that week!
I hope these tips can help you start eating better on a budget. I am still learning new things as I go along, and If you have any tips to add to this please contact me! I would love to hear from you.