Alright, I’ve had several friends ask me to email them a copy of my menu/grocery list. My old budget for groceries was $50/week. Lately it’s been more like $70, but that includes paper items, cleaning supplies, and snacks for my kids…if you don’t have children, you can save quite a bit by not buying snacks! 🙂
I start out by taking inventory of every food item in my house. I make as many meals from the food I already have and start my grocery list of the things I need. For example…I may have ten tortillas, shredded cheese, and spanish rice…so I’ll add ground beef (we actually use ground turkey, but I didn’t want to confuse anyone), lettuce, and sour cream to my list so we can have soft tacos/burritos one night.
Because I don’t like to spend two hours at the grocery store, I then catagorize my shopping list according the order of the aisles at Walmart…produce, breads, canned items, pasta, breakfast aisle…etc…that saves a lot of time and trips down the same aisle!
One of the keys to saving money on your groceries is to stick to your list and buy the cheapest brand whenever possible. I used to think “well, the generic brand is only .40 cents cheaper, I’m just going to buy the brand name.” BUT, if you save .40 cents on half the items in your cart, that is a HUGE savings…so I now buy as much generic as possible. Think in advance as much as possible. Plan for every breakfast, lunch, dinner, snack, and dessert that you possibly can. This will keep you from making two and three trips back to the store later in the week/month. You also might want to check with your favorite grocery store and find out what days they restock. For me, it is Monday nights. It is best for me to do my shopping on Tuesdays when the aisles are clear and the shelves are full…and I always shop at night. I put the boys in bed and call my dear friend down the street, we pick up starbucks, and hit the grocery aisles. 🙂 Might as well make it a good experience!
I typically make breakfast and lunch very simple. The same two or three meals in rotation. For dinner, I try to rotate chicken, beef, fish, beans, soup, etc. I don’t like to have chicken four nights in a row. So here is a look at my menu for the next two weeks:
oatmeal (cheap and healthy)
yogurt and cereal
pancakes (I make a huge batch of the healthy kind once a month, and freeze the leftovers)
grits and eggs (another cheap one and they keep you good and full until lunch)
biscuits, gravy, and eggs (typically a Saturday morning breakfast)
soup & salad
mac n cheese
applesauce and string cheese
yogurt covered raisins
Veggie Burgers, tater tots, and broccoli
Pork Chops, green bn. casserole, mashed potatoes
Spaghetti and garlic bread
Broccoli, Ham, and Cheese Soup (this recipe is AMAZING, I’ll post the recipe later…and best of all, it’s in the crock pot, for your workin’ girls!)
Red Beans and Rice (we eat this at least once a week…we can feed our family three times on this $3 meal!)
15 bean soup with kielbasa sausage and cheddar biscuits (another cheap one…about $4 total, and you will definitely have leftovers)
Chicken Divan (a chicken casserole with saffron rice), broccoli
Potato Soup and salad
Ginger Glazed Salmon
Saucy Chipotle BBQ Pork (another crock pot recipe…this is a new one for me, I’ll let you know how it turns out)
Chicken and Wild Rice Casserole with green beans
Chicken Pot Pie
That is 14 dinners in all. For the recipes that are cheap and easy, double it and freeze one! Another KEY to saving money on food is eating your leftovers! I read that 40% of our groceries end up in the trash. That’s almost half!! Eat your leftovers and don’t let your meat or produce go bad in the fridge (I used to be horrible about that!). We don’t waste money on drinks. I make sweet tea once or twice a week, we don’t buy soda, and my kids only drink juice or milk at meal times…water in between. That can save a lot of money if you’re big soda drinkers. And finally, I am starting to make our own bread from freshly milled flour that I buy in bulk from a family business in Atlanta. It breaks down to about .70 cents a loaf and I also make our pancakes, biscuits, and homemade baked goods with that flour. Freshly milled flour is cheaper and the health benefits are endless. Here is their website if you want to read about it: www.breadbeckers.com
We don’t have dessert very often, but I try to keep some options on hand. This week our options are:
sugar cookies (from scratch are cheap and easy and you can let the kids decorate them)
pudding (a family favorite)
popcorn and m&ms (good for movie night)
cinnamon toast (MMMmmm…)
I hope that helped a little!? I’ve learned a lot over the years from my friends with large families and small budgets. 🙂 Desperate times call for desperate measures. You’re always a little more willing to make sacrifices when it’s necessary. I make sure I try a new recipe at least once a week. Make meal time special. Let the kids help you cook and especially let them help with the dishes. Use placemats and cloth napkins (that also saves money on paper napkins), set candles out at dinner. That will make the plainest meal a little more special. And always be thankful for what you have, no matter how little or boring.