By: Darci Maxwell
Shopping for your family, especially if you have a large family is always tough, but it is even more challenging if you are on a tight budget. Here are a few simple tips and tricks to help you save money on your family’s food bill.
Plan Your Meals In Advance
Once a week or once a month sit down and do some serious meal planning for your family. Plan out what day you will eat what meals, and then write down what you will need to buy in order to prepare those meals. Plan to use similar produce every few days so that nothing goes to waste. Whenever possible, plan to eat the same meal within a few days or a few weeks so that you can make extras one day, freeze the leftovers, and save yourself some valuable prep time. Of course your meal planning is subject to change, depending on how busy your family is, but having a plan in place will help you be more organized and help you save money. It may be a wise idea to include a couple of pizza nights in your meal planning in case of emergency.
Make a List
It is imperative that you make a shopping list and stick to it when you go grocery shopping. If you do not, you’ll end up with too many treats not enough “real food” at the end of your shopping trip. You will also spend much more than you were planning to. Many people find it useful to keep a running list in their pantry when they start to run out of things so that they don’t have to rack their brain when at the store or while meal planning trying to figure out what they do or don’t have in stock.
While this isn’t always possible, shop alone whenever you can. Shopping with your family or even with friends can be stressful, and studies show that those who shop in groups spend more money than those who shop alone. Plus, many parents will buy their children extra treats just to keep them quiet, and these treats aren’t always in the budget (or very healthy!). If it is not possible to shop alone, see if your grocery store offers curbside pickup. You can then order your groceries online and pick them up right at the store without having to peruse the aisles, tempting you and your children with delicious looking treats.
Buy In-season Produce
It is important to eat plenty of fruits and vegetables, but this can sometimes be difficult due to the high prices of healthy food and the low prices of junk food. However, if you buy produce that is currently in season, you will find that you can afford to eat healthy. Luckily harvest season is upon us, meaning that there will be plenty of squash, pumpkin, zucchini, etc. For a guide to what produce is in season at any time during the year, check out this blog. Another crucial tip when buying produce: don’t buy more than you are actually going to eat. You don’t want to discover half-rotten tomatoes or lettuce in your bottom drawer, knowing that you paid quite a bit of money to let them sit there and rot.
Buy In Bulk
This is a little tip that a surprising number of people don’t follow: always buy your non-perishable food in bulk. Instead of looking at the total price of the item, take a look at the “price per ounce.” Bulk items will almost always be cheaper per ounce, and they will also last much longer. Avoid buying single-serve bags of chips, cheese, produce, etc. as you can make your own snack-sized treats at a fraction of the cost. Shop at “warehouse-style” stores such as Costco and Sam’s Club for the non-perishable items, and even some of the perishables if your family will go through them fast enough.
Save Leftovers (Even Your Kids’ Half-eaten Meals)
Instead of throwing out your leftovers, save them! You can take them to work the next day or freeze them and eat them in a few weeks. Just remember to actually eat your leftovers! If you save your kids’ half-eaten meals, you can give it to them later in the evening when they claim to be starving. It will help teach them portion control and to not be wasteful.