Hey guys! Abbey here. Today I have my friend Lauren on the blog! She recently posted on Facebook about how she feeds her family of FIVE for $110 a week!! Of course, I was curious, so she decided to document how she does it and share it on my site! Awesome, huh? Without further adieu…here’s Lauren sharing “How to Feed Your Family on a Strict Budget!”
Hey guys! It’s Lauren. Recently, I posted that my weekly grocery budget for my family of 5 is $110 on my Facebook account and to my surprise many of my friends took an interest and asked a lot of questions. Hopefully I can answer some of these questions in this post. First I probably should state that I took all of the credit in my initial post but you should know the real hero here is my frugal husband and his relentless monitoring of our budget.
Don’t get me wrong, I am grateful that he has such a good handle on budgeting but my motivation to save money can only be attributed to my desire to avoid this…
The dreaded raised eyebrow, hands on hip, shaking his little penny pinching finger at me when I get home from the store. He always already knows what I have spent… curse you American Express mobile notifications!! So anyways, life is just so much easier if I arrive home under budget. Believe it or not it has been pretty painless to spend less money at a grocery store and feed my family of 5 on a $110/ week grocery budget.
Am I an expert? Nope. In fact, you can usually find me at the grocery store A. abandoning a full cart of groceries while I run with my 3 children and a bottle of hand sanitizer to the bathroom because someone has to pee. B. accidentally running over one of my children who is hanging out of the little car on the front of the shopping cart. or C. breaking child labor laws by making my oldest push the little cart because there are too many babies/food already in the big cart. But I do have some tricks to share, I hope some of them can make your grocery shopping easier, help you plan out a weekly menu and cut down on money spent at the grocery store.
How to Feed Your Family on a Strict Budget
The steps of meal planning/ grocery shopping:
Stick to the list.
I cannot stress this enough. When I start adding random crap that I find in the store, I know I am going over budget and its not stuff we need. Make a thought-out list and stick to it!! However, I know this is a common grocery shopping weakness and I have a possible solution for you if you fall into this category. Giant Eagle ( I hate giant Eagle but this is cool), offers curbside pick up for less than $5. The $5 fee is a lot when you are talking about $110 budget BUT, this way it is impossible to go off the list and you probably make that up if you cant add random food to the cart. Also, make sure you factor in how much milk, eggs, bread you will need for the entire week so that you do not have to go back in the middle of the week because then you are more likely to add more things to your shopping list therefore, adding more money spent. (Tip: you can find great printable grocery lists HERE).
No “extreme couponing” needed.
I don’t know much about extreme couponing, but I do know that in the few times I have attempted it, I have bought a bunch of random crap in absurd quantities just because I had a good coupon for it and probably spent more money because it wasn’t stuff I needed. I’m not saying this is not a good practice if you know what you are doing I am just saying for the purpose of planning balanced meals and a grocery list, you should make your list first and look for coupons second so that you get discounts on what you need. Coupons that I find worthwhile are online coupons that load to your loyalty card ( you can easily find these using the Kroger App), the coupons that Kroger sends me in the mail based on what I buy, and the secret Driscoll’s Coupons. These coupons are great if you buy your fruit at Kroger, Giant Eagle, Meijer, etc. and have easy access to a printer. I used to use these coupons all the time but I stopped when I started buying fruit at Costco because they don’t accept the coupons. You go to Driscolls website, sign up for survey’s and use the barcode on the bottom of your Driscoll’s fruit carton to fill out a simple survey. In return they send a coupon to your email and you can print 2 of every coupon sent. You start off earning coupons for $.50 off each Driscoll’s purchase but after you submit so many surveys ( like 10) you can earn coupons that give you $1.00 off the purchase of a Driscoll’s product which is awesome!
Actually make a list.
There are certain things that I know I am going to buy no matter what like milk, certain fruits, yogurt. So I put those on the list then I add the ingredients that we need for the breakfast, lunch and dinner items on the menu. Then I add snack items that are easy to throw in the diaper bag and keep my kids happy at church, dr appointment and on the go. Then I go to the running list and I add what I think we could use that we are out of. Then I check out the sales, if chicken is 1.69/ lb at Kroger, I am going to stock up and then come home and put it in individualized baggies and put it in the freezer. Then if I am still under budget I might consider adding some of the weird request my husband has on his list that nobody else eats like seltzer water, protein powder, and banana peppers. So now that I know what I am going to buy, I split it up into what I will buy at Kroger / Costco/ Aldi and then I put things in order of how I will find them in the store. For example, at Kroger I know that when I first walk in I am going to see the produce, then meat/ poultry, then dairy etc. By mapping out my trip at each store, I save time which is valuable when you are shopping with 3 kids under 2 ½. There is no forgetting anything and scrambling at the end to find the pizza sauce and grabbing the first one I see because I knew where it would be and I was able to get the best deal instead of accidentally grabbing the most expensive one on the fly because my kids cant sit still anymore and are beating each other up in the cart.
Build your menu.
Now you know what you have available and what you need so you can start to fill in the menu. So I know that we have swim lessons on Wednesdays at 5:45 so dinner is usually pretty chaotic so I like to make slow cooker meals on Wednesdays. Today I had some left over chopped carrots, celery, potatoes and I know I have some frozen veggies in there too and remember when I found 1 lb of stew beef in the freezer?Well I’m going to open the Freezer bag with the stew beef put my chopped veggies and maybe some frozen ones and potatoes in there too and guess what…now all I have to do on Wednesday is dump it into my crock pot with some water, apple cider vinegar, maybe some broth and spices and voila, I have beef stew! And guess what it didn’t cost me anything from this week’s budget! Another thing I like to do is plan my menu around similar ingredients so that I don’t have to buy a bunch of ingredients for just one meal.
People have questioned my ability to make healthy meals with this budget but hopefully these pictures will assure you, it can be done. ( These are all image of dinners I made this week. If these don’t look delicious to you, you’re wrong.) DOWNLOAD FREE MEAL PLANNING PRINTABLES HERE.
Make a running list of what you need.
My husband does this in his phone and then texts the list to me when its grocery time, which is great unless he is not here when we run out of something and then we just hope I remember what it is that we need and add it to the list. This way I know what we are getting low on and what we are out of. Then as I plan my meals if we are out of mayo but are not having sandwiches that week I know it’s not necessary that I buy it right away and it stays on the list.
Shop your freezer, Fridge, and pantry first!
So many times I have come home from the store with a whole bunch of stuff that I already have and wind up throwing things out that I just have too much of and can’t use. So, the first thing I do is take inventory of what I have. For example, I know that I have ½ lb of ground turkey, 3 chicken breasts, ½ a Kielbasa sausage and 1 lb of stew beef in the freezer right now. So now I can start building my menu off of what I already have.
Don’t let husband shop (at least in my case haha).
I can pretty much guarantee that if Andrew goes grocery shopping, we are going over budget and I can 100% guarantee he is going off the list and we will not have anything for complete meals. Even though he is the budget Nazi, he is a little more lenient when he is the one swiping the card. **Maybe your husband is different, but that’s #truth in my house. 😉
Portion what you need.
My family consists of small children so since most recopies are based on a 4 person serving scale, we would always have leftovers. I love leftovers but Andrew, no so much. So to prevent wasting food, we only make what we are going to use. For example, 1 lb of ground turkey is not a lot but we still always seem to have leftovers when I make taco meat. So recently, I began splitting a pound of turkey into two ziplock bags to use in separate meals. I have found that rice, veggies, hummus make great fillers for things like tacos. I do this with all kinds of meat. I also freeze leftover veggies such as carrots and onions so that I don’t waste those either. Also when I make rolls and have leftover I freeze them and they make excellent additions to meals.
Your freezer is your friend.
By now you know that I reference my freezer more than I don’t so you have probably picked up on some of my freezer tips but I have some more! First, making freezer meals is a great idea and a great way to save money. I did this once before I had my second child and it was probably the smartest thing I ever did. Not doing it since then, is probably one of the dumbest things I continue to do. Another tip is to freeze everything and I have this special tool to tell you how long things stay good frozen which is super helpful. Next, Label everything because things start to look the same once they are frozen and you might forget what you have. Also, sort your freezer. I put veggies, meats, baby food, breastmilk and breads and desserts all on their own shelves. This makes it easier to figure out what you have when planning menus!
Use your leftovers wisely.
I mentioned earlier that despite my hearts desire, we try to not have leftovers BUT when we do we use them wisely. My favorite thing to do with leftovers is to combine them to make delicious creations. I learned this trick from my beloved mother-in-law who I once saw combine all of the leftovers from the first 4 days of vacation to create what we like to call “Monday-Thursday soup.” Now combining meatballs, cabbage rolls, shrimp pasta and the secret ingredient iced tea may not sound appealing to you, but let me assure you it was fabulous. I am not quite as much an extreme leftover combiner as my MIL but I do like to use leftover rice on my salads and wraps.
Plant a garden.
I know this is easier said than done but my husband has done a fabulous job in the last few years planting a garden and you would be surprised how much money you can save in a summer when you eat ORGANIC produce from your garden! My most used ingredient from the garden is cilantro. The most convenient money saver from the garden is tomato. My favorite thing in the garden is zucchini because its so versatile, you can literally create anything with zucchini.
If there is any wiggle room in the budget or if I go under budget, I usually buy extra chicken or pork chops (things I know will get used) so that I can bring down my total for the next week.
So there are a few of my tips. They are helpful now, but were especially helpful when money was really tight. Andrew just came to me today and said we can adjust the budgets and if I want to up the grocery budget I can. I think for now, I like the challenge of staying under $110, but I have a feeling as my children (specifically my son) get older and eat more, we will need to increase our grocery budget. One thing will always stay the same though, I will ALWAYS try to spend the least amount of money possible and waste the least amount of food. Just know that whatever your grocery budget is, I used to operate on a $78 / week budget, so it can be done!