I don’t know about your family, but late summer is a super expensive time for our family. Between camp tuitions, sports fees, and new school supplies and school clothes, it is enough to make my frugal head spin. And guess what? No matter what our expenses, we always have to eat (and I like to eat
This year I decided to examine my food budget and see if we could cut that a little, leaving us more breathing room for other areas.
A Family of Eight Eats a Lot
A little about us–we are a family of 8 and up until now, our grocery budget has been a bit of a free-flowing thing. I insist on (mostly) real, nourishing, food (80/20 here, folks!). I am fairly frugal by nature, so our grocery bills have ranged at a very reasonable $250 or so a week. Which, if you think about it is a very frugal $31.25 per person per week. (note: during the school year, the 4 school age kids eat hot lunch at school most days–so this grocery budget is for breakfast, dinner and snacks.)
However, like most families, our is slowly
A Family of Eight Can Waste a Lot Too!
To be frank, we were WASTING a lot of food.
We had fallen into what I call the “Big Family Food Trap”. If you have a larger than average family, this will look familiar. I would walk down the aisles of the grocery store and impulsively buy double of every single thing I put in my cart. Two big bags of apples, 4 gallons of milk, 4 dozen eggs, etc. . . The silly thing is, I LIVE IN TOWN! I have 8 grocery stores
Is Super-Sizing Better for the Grocery Bill?
Sure, it saves time to only go grocery shopping one a week, or once every other week, or even once a month–BUT that time savings means that you have to have a LOT more storage options for your food. And, if you are like me, you are running the risk of having that same food ROT in your oversized fridge.
Many would be shocked at the size of our family refrigerator. (hint–we live in a 1960’s ranch with a kitchen that has been minimally renovated. If you go to your local appliance store, look at the refrigerators that are listed for 2-3 people, that is what we have!). A smaller than average fridge seems like an inconvenience, but I have really learned to love it! It works perfectly for us! I can see everything that I have on hand, with very little hiding away, which minimizes waste.
I stopped buying a lot of food in bulk (think Sam’s Club or Costco) for a few reasons. The first was greedy kiddos. If I would purchase a bulk box of granola bars or the like, the kids would STILL eat them all in a week. I don’t savor playing the food lock up game at home or acting as the food police. So I buy a weeks work of snacks at a time and the kids learn to ration them out for themselves. They are super excited on Friday if there is a surplus and then their Friday night movie nights are extra tasty.
I also am picky about food quality and I’ve never been overly impressed with the quality of cheeses at the warehouse clubs. I’d rather buy enough for a week. Eggs and butter can be cheaper at warehouse clubs, but honestly–eggs and butter are not killing my grocery budget. I used to buy the giant packs of meat and then split them up and freeze in dinner portions at home, but, sadly, a lot of that meat ended up a freezer burned mess at the bottom of my freezer.
Of Course, Meal Planning is Key
I’m a meal planner and had been planning and buying for seven dinners a week. However, you know how reality is–I was not really cooking seven nights a week, which ultimately led to more food waste–which is money waste. I began planning for five dinners. The other two nights are leftovers, or “fend for yourself” nights (sandwiches, a big salad, hard-boiled eggs, etc.)
I looked at our pantry and deep freezer and planned a few weeks around A LOT of the extras I had been saving up for a rainy day. Some of those meals had to be downright creative.
I also use services like Once a Month Meals to prepare my meals for the week in advance which saves me time and money during the week. (Currently, I have Chicken and Rice Soup in my Instant Pot on delay–dinner will be done when I get home!)
The Right Tools Help Lower the Grocery Bills
Then, I consulted a few cookbooks that focused on real, healthy, food on a budget. Two of my very favorites (mostly because she eats a lot like we do and has a similar sized family) are Good Cheap Eats, and Good Cheap
I worked on going meatless once a week (again). I’ve tried this in the past, with minimal success. Our family tends toward hearty meals and the meatless meals seemed to feel like they were really missing something (meat, duh!). This time around, I have served variations of rice and beans for meatless meals and everyone has seemed satisfied. I have served bean and cheese tostadas, bean and rice burrito bowls, and this week we will have
For my main grocery trip of the week (let’s be real, there is always at least one other last minute trip) I have embraced mobile ordering and grocery pick up. It is super easy to order items as I add them to my meal plan and there is A LOT less impulse buying. I order on Friday during my lunch hour and pick up on Saturday morning, but I have friends that reserve a Walmart Pick Up slot for the following Saturday and add to their lists all week. Either way, I spend a lot less and get only the food we need (and are going to actually eat!) Click here to get $10 off of your first Pick Up Order. I kid you not, it is LIFE CHANGING!
But Does it Work?
By employing those strategies, in just a month, I have taken our average weekly grocery tab from $250/week to $125/week, and I can honestly say, the only people who have noticed are my husband and I. Our meals and meal quality has remained the same or improved–but we have reduced waste and excess. That is a great