Yesterday I shared on my facebook how on average I am spending less than $70 a week on groceries and how it hardly ever exceeds $100 a week for a family of 5. I want to share that when I had a family of just 3 with 1 kid we were spending around $200 per week on more processed food What changed? The stores we shopped at , a few tweaks to the way I was shopping, and the food choices.
When I was spending around $500 per month with a family of 3 we ate nothing but hot dogs, burgers, corn dogs, frozen pizza, frozen biscuits, frozen salisbury steak, frozen fries, sugary cereals,candy, cookies, and cakes, fake cheese, lots of pork and beef,and fried food plus we were spending around $100 or more per week on Fast food getting delivered to our home.
Now we eat more fruits, veggies, less fried stuff, no frozen foods except for some unseasoned veggies and the kids ocassionally eat some chicken tenders.Gluten free pancakes, muffins, or multi grain waffles for breakfast,oatmeal, I do smoothies for myself sometimes, and I eat eggs a lot when I am not eating oatmeal or smoothie. I create pastas like spaghettis, chicken and veggie pastas, stir fries, tacos, quesadillas, enchiladas, Tilapia and salmon, chicken with veggie sides and brown rice. My kids snack on tortilla chips and salsa and fresh fruits, plain rice cakes topped with peanut butter, honey and cinnamon, and some veggies they like to snack on. And I sometimes create some fun meals and I have some simple meals like Peanut Butter and Jelly on Whole wheat or Honey wheat bread. Some people may question whether or not these are “healthy meals”. It depends on what your definition of “healthy means”. My definition of healthy means a lot of things but I certainly don’t mean perfectly 100% healthy.
I mean I have eliminated certain foods, cooking methods, and certain ingredients in foods.I stand firm in avoiding MSG, High fructose corn syrup, artificial dyes, hydrogenated oils, preservatives, and just eliminating excess sugar and anything that has been highly processed . I avoid them 99% of the time and I look at ingredient labels of condiments that I us. If I happen to need the convenience of something processed( like sometimes I get chicken tenders for my kids if I don’t make them myself), and I will make sure they don’t have those ingredients and if the ingredients list exceeds 5 ingredients and I just don’t get it. I do look at labels that claim to not have preservatives although sometimes those are lies, but I aim to get the “healthiest” choice for the time being and getting the best alternative I have access too.
I know that I have toddlers so people say it is easy to spend less than $100 per week ,however, the people I have learned some of my frugal shopping techniques from had teenagers. In addition, they had more kids than I do but was spending less than me at times. So am I saying that everyone will be able to do this? No but if you learn to shop a certain way and plan your meals out it is possible that you can reduce your budget to some extent no matter where you live. I do realize that some geographical differences, access to transportation, better stores, and family preferences may be a problem for some people. Don’t get your hopes down if you live in an expensive state but also don’t focus on spending as much as I do. Focus on seeing if there is a way you can spend less in general by opening your mind to new choices and information . I could be spending more than $70 a week but I somehow find myself around the range of $50 and $80 per week depending on what I have to buy.
I am writing a book on this subject as we speak to help people learn step by step what they can do to reduce their grocery budget to afford more real, and whole foods. I can not give all of it away in this long post because many of you would not have the time to read it or will over look important info but I will give you a glimpse of some things you can do to reduce your grocery budget before my book comes out lol jk
1) It is best to plan from a master list of meals you eat so that you are buying with a purpose. If you buy stuff just because it is on sale and it sits in your fridge or in your counter until it spoils it is useless so make sure you buy ONLY what you need for that week. If you have kids that are old enough to go in the refrigerator be sure to to plan healthy snacks on your master list for them, portion it out correctly, and set boundaries.
2) Avoid as much pre-cut, prepackaged, precooked, seasoned stuff like fruits, meats, and meals , and cheese. You save so much money by cutting, cooking, and seasoning things yourself. Most of the precut stuff have a smaller quantity which means you are paying more for less food and more questionable ingredients. Take cheese for instance, I buy an 8 oz block of cheese at Aldi’s for around $1.59 but the shredded cheese is $1.79 with extra ingredients. I shred the cheese myself so that I can always use less of it( since my goal is to reduce and eliminate sources of dairy).
3) Allow little to no room to buy junk like chips,candy, cookies and pies on a regular basis. Those “$1 or 2 for $5 easily add up and can be spent toward REAL food. Find out how to make some of these things at at home with ingredients you already have. If you buy chips, candy, cookies, and pies often you will find yourself craving more and more thus costing you more money you didn’t realize you were spending. So if you want to make it yourself be sure to get rid of it fast and only reserve it for “cheat” meals or holidays, birthdays, etc
4) Drink nothing but water. Sodas and juices are more expensive in the long run because you are always thirsty and if you have a big family I am sure take frequent trips to the store for this a lot. Bottled water is not that expensive at many stores ,and you can spend less on bottled by getting a water pitcher with a filter and replacing the filter every 3 months for as little as $10.
5) Portion control. We have all grown up on the American way of eating way more than our body needs. Use your fist to count one portion and never exceed two fistfuls of things like rice, starches, and pastas. If you are drinking enough water cutting back on portions won’t be an issue. Our body confuses hunger and thirst a lot when our body is very well craving water it can signal as hunger. Drink 2 8oz glasses after every meal. After eating you should feel satisfied not mortified(slumped over feeling like you are about to pass out lol)
6) Memorize or start writing down prices in different stores to see who has the better deal. My memory is horrible but for some reason I have it in my memory so good that if I go out of town I realize there is a difference in price. I have a limited amount of stores here in Greenwood, SC and I have found that Aldi’s is the cheapest place and has great quality as far as selection of different foods. If you are a vegan or vegetarian I highly encourage that you shop there because the produce is very affordable and many times cheaper than other stores including the organic produce and foods. Don’t be fooled by fake “deals” that make you think you are getting a deal but you are not actually saving money.
7) Don’t be fooled by the unit price. Many people think they are shopping deals by getting the lowest price item but you want to make sure you are getting a deal by getting the most for your money. Do this by using basic math skills to see if you are getting a deal or just spending more for something you hardly ever use.
8) Shop from local farmers if you have a farmers market near by or check your area to see if there are some organic or locally grown food co-ops. http://www.coopdirectory.org/ or http://www.localharvest.org/I have not tried the co-op option yet but I plan to.
9) Shop bulk if you need to. I am not a fan of shopping bulk at the moment because I would rather worry about right now than later to stretch my dollars but if you are able to spend more now to get a deal go right ahead.
10) Buy more fresh and frozen(without sauces and seasonings) produce, and freeze what you can’t use if possible. I do this with leftover zuchinnis or bell peppers and throw them in scrambled eggs for breakfast often.
11) Don’t act like you are too good to eat leftovers. I am not a fan of cooking all day everyday so I normally cook more at one sitting and eat leftovers afterwards. I throw nothing away and if I don’t feel like eating leftovers I freeze it for a rainy day.
12) Look in other areas of of life where you can cut costs to afford more food. Food is a top priority for me because of my energy levels and health complications of Fibromyalgia. Too be honest too much processed food is too expensive for my budget because I normally am never satisfied and the meals never last long so I am glad that I have discovered that eating real food can be cheaper than processed food.
Food is just expensive no matter what but I choose to eat the best I can for what my budget can allow. I just find it funny that people who eat totally unhealthy say that healthy food costs so much but they have no clue how much they are spending in comparison to real foods. The upfront costs of getting more real food in your house may seem expensive at first until you have everything you need ,and then you may realize that there may not be a signficant price difference and you may actually save some money. There is no doubt if you have food sensitivities and or chose to eat super duper clean(no soy, no dairy, no nuts, no beans, no gluten, no wheat, no corn) you will have a more expensive food bill depending on where you get your stuff from. The stuff is high especially if you do not live near a retail store that sells them. But outside of that a sensible diet simply eliminating lots of junk and making the best with what you have can be as affordable as you make it.
This is all I can think of of the top of my head without pulling too much from my book. I am not exactly finish with organizing things from my book and would rather not give everything away in one post.
I hope you learned something from this post and let me know in the comment below what ways you have cut costs or ways that you are affording healthy choices for you family.
That is all I can think of at the moment