I confess, I have read one too many “How I Feed My Family of Twelve On Just $25 a Week” blog posts. In case you have missed any of them, I’ll sum them up for you in one sentence: Buy oatmeal, bread and milk and make breakfast lunch and dinner with them for seven days. Did I whet your appetite yet?
I used to feel guilty about how much we spent on groceries. I clipped coupons, shopped sales, bought less meat, and stretched meals as far as they would stretch. We try to eat as clean and natural as possible without breaking the bank with the idea that the short-term investment at the grocery store will eventually pay off in the overall long-term health of our family. I talked with mom friends and even read Dave Ramsey’s take on how much a family of five should spend on groceries, which gave me great ease knowing that I am spending what other families are spending- A LOT. It gave me great ease, but I was not completely satisfied. There were some trouble spots in my grocery spending that I knew could alleviate some of the squeeze on our food expense. Here were some of mine:
- Waste. Kids don’t eat a lot, no matter how many green beans you throw at them. Give them a handful of sprinkles, though, and they are gone faster than you can say hyperactivity. I think I wasted most of my kids’ meals…they wasted…whatever. Now that Judson is eating what we are eating I am learning to just feed him like a pet bird and give him more if he wants it. Buying less and using up what we have minimizes waste.
- Shopping with kids. I shop with my kids usually, because that is just the way it is for us. I found that I spent less when I on occasion shopped without my kids, though. What I realized was that I said, “Yes” more than “No” to certain items, which derailed me from my list and raised the overall cost. So, since I have to shop with my kids I decided to draw some grocery shopping boundaries. I limit them to one “treat” (I use treat loosely…basically one item of their choice that I approve of) under the condition that they don’t make our grocery shopping trip a complete nightmare. I actually don’t mind shopping with them anymore now that I have implemented this, and they seem to enjoy shopping with me. Also, they are use to hearing “NO” a lot at the store now.
- Meat. Every meal was a meat meal for the longest time. Some meals required a lot of ingredients including meat, so by the time I purchased what I needed for a recipe I might as well have taken my family out to dinner. I still buy meat every week, but not for every meal. I try and buy it on sale or for a dish that has other hearty ingredients. We had chicken quinoa burrito bowls last week for instance, which allowed for less meat since the quinoa was a hearty filler
A big savings for us now, though, has nothing to do with what we are doing without, but what we are filling our refrigerator and pantry WITH. I have become a big believer in staples (not the office supply or store). I’m talking about the food staples that should always be around like a good friend or a favorite t-shirt. You can buy your staples anywhere. Amazon, Aldi, your local grocery store, Costco, wherever works for you. I buy most of mine at Aldi and Kroger simply because those are the stores that I frequent. Here are a list of staples that I keep around:
Butter (usually salted, sometimes unsalted as well)
Half and Half (I substitute this for cream)
All Purpose Flour
Chocolate (fair trade dark and semi-sweet chips)
Vinegars (Braggs apple cider, balsamic, red wine, white)
Oils (coconut, olive and grapeseed)
Salt (Sea, Kosher, and Iodised)
Rice (Brown, white, basmati)
Nuts (Almonds, peanuts, cashews)
The majority of my staples come from Aldi, which has driven down my grocery costs by $50 or so every couple of weeks. Of course, I have to stay committed to eliminating waste and smart meal planning. It’s a journey, but homemaking is more of an art than a science anyway. At least that is what I am learning. I encourage you to come up with a list of staples that fit your family. You never know when you need to bake something in a pinch, or what items you will frequently need in your meal planning. Not only is my staples list cost saving, but it is also energy-saving as well. I find that I don’t scramble around the kitchen as much wondering what to include on my grocery list. My grocery list is a lot smaller than it used to be because I always have my staples on hand. When I run out of flour, I just pick it up on my next trip to Aldi, no big deal. This allows me to focus more on what I really love (cooking for my family) than stressing over grocery bills and shopping. Make a staples list and see if it does the same for you. 🙂