The one statement that everybody makes once they realize I have five kids is, “What does your grocery bill look like!” Well, I’m here to tell you, it averages about $800 a month. But about two years ago, I was spending 3x that! Yes, it was ridiculous! My husband was like “How in the world are you spending $2400 a month on food and it’s always gone?” (Actually that was the clean translation of what he said!! LOL!)
In my defense though, my boys’ stomachs are like bottomless pits! They are always hungry!! But to be honest, I would just go to any grocery store & shop, not thinking about a budget, a meal plan, food choices, nothing…I was just winging it and winging it was expensive!! Then I got smart & did these 13 simple things to literally cut my bill in third!
- Make a weekly meal plan. Seems obvious coming from a woman with five kids, right? But it’s true. Every Friday, I sit down at my desk with this Weekly Meal Plan and write out what we’ll eat for the following week. It not only keeps me organized, but it saves me time & stress of wondering, ‘what are we going to eat tonight?’ -And it saves me money because we aren’t eating out as much!
- Monitor The Food!! I think my biggest problem was allowing my kids to eat whatever they wanted, when they wanted. I remember one day I bought a box of Goldfish from Sam’s, not even 2 days after buying it, it was gone! Turns out, each of my boys had filled a QUART SIZE Ziploc bag of them to take to school for lunch! Really?! So now, lunch food can only be eaten for lunch, breakfast food only for breakfast and dinner food only for dinner. And now I buy or make separate after school snacks…usually good ole’ fashion Ramen Noodles, chips & salsa or popcorn, something cheap. And I also keep count, if I buy a box of 48 bags of pretzels, I make a mental note that by Friday of the 2nd week, they should be gone; and not one day sooner! (LOL!)
- Is it cheaper to make it or buy it? For the most part, I make & freeze a lot of foods. I don’t buy frozen pancakes, instead I make them from scratch and freeze them every Sunday. Then all the kids need to do throughout the week is pop them in the convection toaster and eat! Same thing with biscuits & granola bars! It used to be very time consuming when I first started, but now it’s a family activity, experimenting with different ingredients & recipes. If anything making these is the easy part, it’s getting my kids to not throw flour & oatmeal at each other that’s stressful!
- Eat bread with every meal! Muffins, biscuits, bagels, toast, garlic bread, cornbread, you name it, I’m baking it! It’s amazing how quickly it fills these boys up!
- Soups, Pastas & Beans! Make any variety of these in the crockpot with your choice of meat & serve with bread! It’s super cheap & after two bowls, they’re stuffed!
- Stretch the Meat! When we eat tacos, I add black beans to it & serve it with refried beans. When I make spaghetti, I add vegetables, and with chili, I add more beans and vegetables. The key to meat is tasting it, not to get full off it. The same with chicken, by cutting it into small pieces or shredding it, as oppose to giving each person their own piece, will make it go further.
- Drink Water. Every time my kids say they’re hungry, I’m like ‘Drink some water!’ LOL!! They think they’re hungry, but they’re not, they’re just dehydrated! (But it’s true, sometimes hunger pains are really the body telling you it needs water; Google it!)
- Buy in Bulk! Let’s just say the employees at my nearby Sam’s know me by first name! Bottom line, it’s cheaper to buy in bulk and it won’t go to waste!
- It’s OK to shop the “Reduced for Quick Sale” section! Every store has an area with discounted packages of meat at a reduced price because it’s either nearing the “sell by” date or it has started to discolor. I’m not gonna lie, I’ve seen that yellow tag a hundred times & would never buy it! I’m so paranoid about eating anything near, or on the expiration date, and definitely if it’s a different color from what it’s intended to be! Last thing we need is food poisoning! But one day, I actually talked to the butcher & he calmed my fears about food safety. So now I buy it in bulk and freeze it as soon as I get home. I’ve been buying discounted meat for the last two years and well, frankly, we’re all still alive!
- Be Brand Blind. If you normally buy Peter Pan peanut butter, but Jif is on sale, buy Jif; always go for the cheaper one! Nine times out of ten, you can’t go wrong buying the competitor or the store brand. I have yet to taste a difference in Kraft Cheese & Sam’s Daily Chef Brand Cheese. So be flexible with your brand choices.
- Skip the junk food! Every once in a while, I’ll buy junk, but for the most part, I skip it. Instead I get creative in making healthy food taste like junk food. My kids won’t just grab strawberries or blueberries to eat, but if I turn them into a popsicle or smoothie, they eat all of it! (Go figure!) The same with grapes. I just roll them in Jello mix and freeze them and I kid you not, they taste like Sour Patch Kids!! (Recently we did green grapes with sour apple & watermelon Jello powder & they were so good!) So you save money and they eat healthy!!
- Don’t buy CEREAL!! I swear every year the price of cereal increases by $.50 and the box gets smaller. It’s a total waste, even with a coupon! You actually come out cheaper buying eggs & making biscuits or pancakes. Not to mention, a real breakfast keeps them full longer & it’s healthier.
- Shop Your Cabinets & Pantry! Look at everything you have in your pantry before running back to the store. I think you’d be surprised at how many extra meals you can come up with!
- **Bonus: Don’t shop when you’re hungry! You’ll load up your cart with comfort food and won’t pay attention to the price! Trust me!! And stay away from the sample lady, I swear she’ll hypnotize you into buying it! LOL!
Feeding a large family definitely means I need more food, but now I’ve realized it doesn’t mean I have to break the bank doing it! Now, could my grocery bill be even cheaper than $800 a month? Yes, probably… but then I’d have to stop buying my “secret stash snacks…” and well, that’s just not happening!
James 1:5 (NIV) If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you.