I haven’t done a “Tips and Tricks” blog post yet so I thought now would be a perfect time! As most of you know we are a large sized family (not weight wise, number wise). With two adults, and three children, and one income, I have become kind of the food budgeting expert. We also are a pretty healthy and active family. We eat about 90% of our meals from home, so planning everything is definitely a necessity.
I was actually kind of spoiled before the pandemic hit on going to the store once every 2-3 days (which was huge with all the produce we go through), but with everything going on in our world right now I make sure to limit my exposure out in public and have started doing about 7 days at a time. This takes a little more time with planning and prepping because I want to make sure everything stays as fresh as possible and we are not wasting produce, throwing away unused produce is the fastest way you are wasting money in your home. It also is a huge pet peeve of mine because my teenagers will eat an entire bag of chips while they let the bag of apples rot away right in front of them. That is when they get the mommy stare down, and they know it!
We will start with the basics!
Plan your meals~
This is huge with saving money and also staying organized. I plan our meals from Saturday-Saturday. Usually Saturday mornings are low key in our home so I can sit at the computer and browse different recipes on what looks good for the week. I try my best to do a few meals with the SAME produce in it. Maybe Monday is stuffed peppers, well then Tuesday would be fajitas. That way if there are any extra produce, I know it is still going to get used, and not forced to do the walk of shame to the garbage.
This weeks meal planning for us is:
Monday– Vegetarian Chili with Jalapeno Corn Bread-
Tuesday– Chicken Chimichangas with mixed spring salad
Wednesday– Tofu Broccoli and Mushroom Stir Fry
Thursday– Chicken and Broccoli Casserole
Friday– Ground Turkey Sloppy Joes with Sweet Corn and Cesar Salad
Saturday– Sausage and Potato Casserole
I also plan out lunches for my husband to take to work with him. He works in education and has a odd and short lunch break so I try my best to make sure he has something he can just grab and eat. This week his lunches are Buffalo Chicken Wraps with fruit and Egg Salad Sandwiches. I usually try to make 2 different weekly options and I always make extra because I eat them too.
With this also, we try to kind of stick to weekly themes. This helps with picking what kind of dinners you will be making and when. So usually we have a “Meatless Monday”, a “Taco Tuesday (or Mexican Themed)”, “Fun Wednesday”, “Savory Thursday”, “Easy Friday”, “Cheat Day Saturday”. So with just those in mind, I can browse different recipes quickly instead of getting into that what is for dinner, funk.
Date you produce~
Another tip to help keep waste and your budget down is to date your produce. When I get home from the grocery store I prep all of our produce. Strawberries are cut up and placed in sealed Tupper wear, same with the pineapples, melon, and other fruits that need to be chopped. I cut up the heads of broccoli and place them in gallon bags, same goes for celery, and carrots, peppers ect. All spinach and salad mixes are also taken out of their packaging and put in a gallon sized zip lock (make sure ALL of the air is out before sealing). Odd and end veggies like our asparagus and brussels sprouts usually last longer in the fridge so they aren’t a necessity to prepare. This really helps with the meal prepping too. Everything is already chopped, washed, and ready for you.
Dating things will help you know what needs to be used first and what can wait a few days also. I try to give the older kids a heads up on what produce they need to have as sides for breakfast and lunch, and what ones that can wait. Even though 90% of the time they don’t listen. Teenagers right?
Make a list of what is in the fridge/pantry~
I have the grocery list usually on my phone while I shop. I cross out as I go, and then delete the cross outs when I get home. This let’s me know what we have in the house. When something gets finished, then I cross it out again so I know it is gone. You can just have a list on the piece of paper too or a whiteboard, but I know my phone is going with me to the store, I can not promise myself the list will make it. This helps you with the double buying. If you are like me there is always that one item you grab every time you go into the store. For me, shredded cheese or sour cream. For whatever reason, I always feel like we need these. Then I get home and realize we still have 6 sour creams and 70lbs of cheese in our fridge, and I just wasted money. So keeping track of what you have, what you are low on, and what you need will help you not only save money, but also save time while your shopping.
Enter your list on the app~
So, this one is how I stay in budget 100%. I learned this trick when we had a very off pay day week and we literally had maybe $60 to spend for everyone. I decided to go onto the app and just load in everything to double check I wouldn’t go over. Then that lightbulb went off and my life was forever changed.
Our go-to stores are Aldi (do NOT knock it until you try it, it is not like it used to be) and Walmart. We do have a Mariano’s and a Jewel close, but I tend to stay clear of those two stores unless we need something more specialty, like when my husband makes homemade pizza or for pasta Sunday.
The trick though is to download the app, and then shop before you go. I have my list of everything we need and I enter everything into the shopping cart on the app. If I am over on our budget, I will go back in and either find the same thing for cheaper or I will adjust the list. This also saves me from having to go to numerous different stores just to get the deal I need. It is easier for me to adjust a menu then to unload and load a toddler for a few items.
Browse the deals~
They are annoying, they fill your mailbox every week, it is the WEEKLY GROCERY ADS! I know 90% of the time they come, you browse, then they get tossed into the recycling and are forever forgotten until the next week. BUT, take the time to look at them. There are sometimes deals you can not believe and those are the days you need to BULK BUY. I know for us a lot of our grocery stores will have deals on a ham or steaks or a roast. Those are the perfect time to expand your budget a little bit and grab a few at a time. That way when you are tighter for the month, you have extra items.
I am sure some of these things seem like no brainers but when you make them become habit you will be pleasantly surprised on how much money you are saving. How much less you are wasting. How much time you are saving and most importantly how much easier it gets to make healthy eating choices. Because at the end of the day, to me that is what is most important for my family. Teaching them healthy choices to take with them into adulthood.
What are some things you do during the week to help stay on track?
Let me know if you have any questions or your own tips for shopping. I would love to hear about it!