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There is a myth that eating cheap equals ramen noodles and macaroni, but I’m here to tell you that it simply isn’t true. Each family’s definition of a small budget is going to differ depending on location, size of family and other determining factors. According to the USDA, a family of four with children aged 2-4 is considered thrifty to live on $131 per week. Considering that this number is for food only and doesn’t include things like diapers, toilet paper and other toiletries, I feel that most people should be able to fall within this range if they put enough effort into it, unless maybe they live in a high cost of living area or have family members with a special needs diet.
Each family’s budget and resources will look different, but there are some things that anyone can do to feed their family well with less. I personally try to spend $75-100 per week to feed a family of four with two small children including household items and I find in my area (Arkansas) it’s fairly easy to do. In fact, I know if I tried harder I could get that number down even lower, but at the moment I’m comfortable with what I’m spending. So here is my guide for How to Feed Your Family on a Tight Budget.
Eat at Home
If you’re on a limited budget, you’re going to have to eat meals at home simply because it costs way less than eating out. Did you know that the average American family spends over $200 per month eating out? Just think how much you would save by doing this one thing. If you think ditching the drive-thru will be hard to break then check out these tips to avoid eating out that are sure to help you stay within your budget. Also, check out this list of copycat recipes to learn how to make your favorite restaurant items at home!
Menu Plan the Right Way
Taking the time to plan your meals for the week is a great way to save money when implemented correctly. To get the most bang for your buck, you will need to plan meals around what’s already in your pantry and then around what’s on sale or in season. Menu planning won’t save you money, however if you buy steaks, out of season produce and other expensive items all the time. If you need help in this area go here for a step-by-step guide to planning your meals.
Cook from Scratch
Convenience food has its place, but shouldn’t be relied upon all the time when you’re on a tight budget because it costs more and is usually unhealthy. Anything that you can learn to make at home instead of buying will save you money. I make things like freezer meals, homemade bread, granola bars, ranch seasoning and taco seasoning because they’re better for my family and save me money. Check out this list of 30 Items You Can Make at Home to Save Money for tons of cooking from scratch inspiration.
I’m a big fan of keeping my life simple, including my meals. I think people overspend on food simply because there are too many options to choose from. Sticking to the basics and eating a simple diet will definitely save you money and also help to make your life a little easier. Check out my list of 35 Frugal Foods to Buy When You’re Broke to see what you should be buying to get the most from your money. Also see my list of 30 Frugal Meal Ideas for When You’re Broke to learn how to create meals around those frugal foods.
Love Your Leftovers
People that don’t eat leftover really baffle me because I feel like they must be wasting so much! I specifically cook more than we need so that we have enough for another meal. In fact, we love leftovers so much that we eat them almost everyday for lunch. This saves me the time and hassle of having to plan/cook for lunches and also saves money. Leftovers work well for us because we have small children, but if you have a large family or teenage boys then leftovers may not work quite as well for your family.
Grow Your Own
If you’ve read my blog for long then you probably know by now that I think everyone should grow something even if it’s just a basil plant on your windowsill or a tomato plant on your back patio. Anything that you grow on your own will save you money and connect you to your food which our country needs in a bad way. We grow a large garden and rarely have to buy produce through the summer months. If you aren’t already growing your own food then I would highly encourage you to start. Check out these 5 Tips for the Beginner Gardener to learn more.
Stock up on Sale
A great way to get the most from your grocery money is to stock up when something is on sale. To do this well, you will need to familiarize yourself with standard prices of different items in your area. Then when an item goes below that price you should consider buying enough to last until the next sale, especially if you have a coupon to match with the sale. Things go on sale in cycles such as baking supplies around the holidays and grilling items in the spring/summer. For example, around Easter I bought 10+ lbs of butter because Aldi had it on sale for $1.89 per lb which is a great deal considering it’s normally priced around $4 per pound. Butter freezes well so now I have enough to last me for a long time. Also, don’t be afraid to stock up on things like bell peppers, onions, etc. since they can be chopped and frozen for when you need them using this method.
Another great money saving tip is to download the IBOTTA app and start earning cash back on your grocery purchases. You even get an extra $1 when you submit your first rebate!
Which of these do you think would save you the most? Do you do any of them already? I’d love to know!