Summer break is here and my kids are eating so. much. food. I’ve been looking for ways to keep them sated, but also cut our food budget any way that I can, because mama still needs her coffeeshop latte at least once a week. Hello, sanity saver.
If you’re in the same boat, here are some of the best tips I’ve found to cut your food budget way back while still stocking up on everything you need. These should get you started and, of course, if you have any other suggestions, leave them in the comments. We’d love to hear from you on this too.
1. Plan your meals and shop just once a week.
I spend so much more money when I find myself swinging by the grocery on a daily basis. It’s usually because I haven’t planned meals for the week. The problem is, I never buy just what I need for the night’s meal; I inevitably end up getting an extra container of fruit or tub of ice cream. Not to mention the extra time and energy it takes. But if I make a meal plan, stick to it, and get a whole week’s worth of groceries in one fell swoop, it’s easier and way cheaper.
If you need help planning, we’ve got you. Just visit us every Friday to get our weekly meal plan or subscribe to our newsletter to have it delivered to your inbox every Saturday, then make your list for the week. See how much time you just saved?
2. Check your pantry and freezer before you shop.
Before you start shopping — or even looking for recipes, really — check what you already have in your pantry and freezer. It’s so annoying (and inefficient) to buy a $5 bottle of cumin or a $12 steak only to come home and see that you already have them. And it’s amazing how many times I say, “We have nothing for dinner,” when, in reality, our pantry is busting at the seams.
On the weeks when I decide to start with what I have on hand as inspiration for my meals for the week, I spend much less at the grocery, because I only have to pick up a few items instead of every ingredient listed in a recipe — times seven meals for the week.
3. Try Meatless Mondays.
Since animal proteins are usually the most expensive part of our grocery bill, skipping the beef (or chicken, lamb, pork…whatever you crave) once a week will save you more cash than you’d expect. It may also encourage you to eat a bit healthier, as long as your #MeatlessMonday meal isn’t bean and cheese nachos (ha!).
If you need inspiration, we have some amazing vegetarian recipe ideas that even the kids will love. We promise.
4. Don’t be afraid to serve leftovers.
You can cut your grocery bill by 1/7 by planning on serving leftovers at least one night a week. Double up on cooking rice one night, shredded chicken another, black beans yet another and then let everyone put the leftovers together however they want.
No need to feel guilty, either. Leftovers night is my kids’ very favorite night of the week, because they get some level of control over what they get to eat. And it might be mine, too, because I don’t have to cook and my fridge gets cleaned out by the end of the night.
5. Use coupons.
Coupons have come a long way from the days when our moms would sit around the kitchen table and clip the Sunday circular. We compared our favorite coupon apps, so you can save even more than what’s on sale at the market, and I love that some of these apps focus on things like organic or natural products, which can be hard to find coupons for. Also, many of them let you scan your receipt and get money back after you’ve already checked out, which is great for those of us who haven’t made our meal plan based solely on what coupons are available for the week.
6. Pay with cash.
The biggest motivator to help me stay on budget is to pay in cash. Seeing actual money exchange hands just does something in your brain to make you double check whether you really want to spend the extra $5 on that fun new cup the kids are begging for, or that extra bag of chips you threw in.
My grocery has an ATM right by the front door, so if I pull out what I’ve budgeted to spend that week right as I walk in the door, I find I spend less. And now that they’re old enough to do the math, I can even get my kids to help me find good deals, coupons, and sales to stay on budget.
It’s just a bonus that they get math practice by adding up our total as we go through the store. And if we manage to stay under budget, we all get to split a treat together at the end. Whoo!
Photo by Fabian Blank via Unsplash.