Feeding a family is becoming more difficult as the cost of food continues to rise, out pacing many incomes. The weekly trip to the grocery store is stressful for many as they try to choose inexpensive items that will fit into an already tight budget and still offer healthy and satisfying meals to their family.
All grocery stores offer lots of processed, prepackaged foods that are tempting to look at with a price that seems like you are getting a good deal, when actually, you are purchasing empty calories with little to no nutritional value.
Even with the continual rise in food prices today, you can still feed your family delicious meals while staying within a budget. The best way to do this is to prepare the meals yourself. It just takes planning, a little extra work and with the suggestions listed below, I believe you will find the results, well worth the effort.
Always go to the grocery store with a shopping list and a firm budget in mind. I like to write the amount I plan on spending at the top of my list. It’s also helpful if you plan your meals for the upcoming week, so that you have a firm idea of what you are going to need to stock your pantry. This helps you to buy only what you need and skip unnecessary items. Never buy groceries with a credit card. You only end up spending more on things you really don’t need.
When making your list, look for coupons and browse the sales flyers to get the best deals possible on the things you need. Make a note beside the items on your list that you have coupons for. This helps to make it easier during checkout.
Some of the larger discount stores honor competitor ads. I love this because I can get the best deals at one store without having to make several different stops. This also saves money which would otherwise be used in gas mileage.
Organization is the key. Take the time to make a separate list of the competitor’s sales items and list the flyer page along with the price and size of the item. This helps to quickly compare prices and makes checkout a little smoother for both the shopper and the checker.
Some stores offer a weekly price buster deal that lets you buy a particular item at a deeply discounted price. These sales draw customers into the store and are great for stocking up without blowing your budget. Usually, you can get several weeks worth of staple items for what you had budgeted for one week. If you have a coupon for that item, that’s even better. In some cases, it is like getting an item free.
All of these things work really well but it takes some planning and organization. By using your coupons with the best buys, you can save several dollars off your total bill. Be sure to check your store’s coupon and sales policies ahead of time. A quick call before you go shopping could save you some unwanted headaches in the checkout line.
Don’t let those coupons expire. If you know you can’t use them, leave them on the shelf next to the item. Some lucky shopper will be more than happy to pick them up.
Cook your own meals. Cooking is the most important part of managing a food budget. While prepackaged and frozen meals are quick and easy, they are a huge budget breaker. You also get the added benefit of knowing exactly what has gone into the food you are serving your family; no mystery ingredients. There are many inexpensive resourses to help you learn to maximize your savings.
- Prepare and cook on your days off. There are dozens of meals you can prepare or cook ahead of time. I like to double many of my recipes then freeze them for meals at a later date or for lunches. If you have a freezer, this is a great way to save money and offer nutritional meals in the least amount of time. Chili, stew, soups, lasagna, macaroni and cheese, all freeze great and taste just as good after they have been frozen as they did when you first made them.
- Cook things to use in multiple ways, such as, beans. I fix a pot of beans on Monday, Wednesday, I turn those beans into chili then, on Saturday, that chili makes a great Frito Pie after the game.
- Invest in a slow cooker. For people who work outside the home, a slow cooker is the best appliance in the kitchen. They are inexpensive and there are so many things that you can fix in them.
If possible, grow your own vegetables. If you don’t have the space for a garden or you are unable to grow vegetables in containers, then find a community garden or a local farmers market.
Learn how to preserve your own food. While there is an initial investment for the equipment you will need, in the long run, canning your own food will save you a lot of money, especially if you have a family to feed. Once you have collected all the tools you need to get started, the only things you will need in the future will be new rings and lids since your jars can last many years before you have to replace them. You also get the added benefit of that garden fresh taste, all year around. Canned goods are easier to store than trying to find freezer space and they last longer.
Canning is easy to learn and very versatile. There is a lot of how to books for preserving your own food or you can try calling your local Home Extension office. They usually have free information and some even offer free classes for preserving food.
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