So, it's time for dinner and you have nothing planned? Normally, I'd be tempted to drag the family out to a restaurant or call for pizza delivery. Since I'm trying to be frugal and stick to somewhat of a budget, I've decided I need some help in the food department. I've always lived in a large family so I'm pretty good at making a dollar stretch but I have to admit, I'm sorta lazy. You won't find me making a month of meals and freezing them for later. I also have issues with coupons (which I'm trying to get over). I know you can save a lot by using coupons but again, I'm lazy. So, how does a lazy person like me save money on their food budget? Here are my ideas.
Pizza night is a great treat for families but ordering in can be a major budget buster. In a real pinch for time, frozen pizza is still cheaper but if possible, make homemade.
Learn to cook. You need to stay away from as much prepackaged foods as possible to really save money. Cook most of your meals at home. This does take some planning but it's not that difficult to pull off. Invest in a great cookbook of easy, frugal recipes or just search "frugal recipes" online. You'll be amazed at what you can find. The Thrifty Fun site has some great,frugal recipes that aren't too complicated for me.
Buy rice and beans - the typical "poor" people food. It adds bulk to any meal and fills you up faster.
Drink mostly water. Water's cheap, it's simple and you'll be amazed at the savings. My husband is a huge soda drinker. He probably goes through at least 4 24 ounce bottles a day. Do you realize he's spending over $1,000 a year on soda. He won't give it up. I can count on one hand the number of times I've seen him drink water. The soda drinking is killing our budget and probably killing him in the process.. Some people won't change. If I don't buy it, he'll go out and get it himself. I've seen him leave after midnight for a soda run. Any suggestions for dealing with this are much appreciated =)
Go shopping alone. If possible, leave the kids and the significant other behind. You'll find it's much easier to stick to your list and you don't have the input of others influencing your purchases.
Speaking of lists, write one! After you find some easy, frugal recipes to try out, write down a few meals that you plan to make and on another paper, write the ingredients you'll need. Make your shopping list and when you get to the store, don't stray from what's on the list. Buy only what you need. Pass up the snack foods. If it's not on the list, don't buy it.
Check the sales ads. I know you've heard this one before but really, it's a little disappointing to buy something when you're rushed only to get home and later realize you could have saved yourself a few dollars by shopping around. Get a notebook and keep track of what you need and who has what on sale. If the stores are fairly close together, you don't have to worry about wasting gas. It does take a little more time but you have to decide if it's worth it for your family.
Don't be scared of generics or store brands. This used to be a problem area for me. Growing up, I lived with my grandparents and I usually wasn't included in the grocery shopping. I fondly recall my grandmother returning with bags and bags filled with colorful boxes of name brand foods. My grandfather worked as a truck driver and made a really good income so grandmother didn't usually buy "off" brands. I have to admit I was spoiled and well, I was a brand snob when it came to food. I still have to buy "real" Miracle Whip salad dressing and I can't stand any American cheese besides Kraft but I've come a long way with other items.
There's no way I can cover all my food budget tips in one post but I'll be sure to blog more soon. In the meantime, remember search for easy, frugal meals, write your list, shop alone, check the ads and try off brands!