Restricted budget and food for frugal families

I’ve always been the frugal sort. Mother and Daddy never had much, though they always made it look like a lot more than it was.  It wasn’t until my children were older that I actually started telling them that “when I was a kid, we didn’t get cereal out of a box” and convenience foods meant that they had been made up on sunday to last the week.  Anyone who knows me knows that I have the innate ability to squeeze a nickle hard enough to get six cents even in the sweet milk times, but lately I’ve been squeezing harder.  So today, we’re gonna focus on reducing the money spent at the Market.

Steps you can take to reduce your Grocery spending:

1.  Become a menu planner.  I know that for some, it’s not fun, but for the OCD in me, it’s better than any Suduko puzzle around. I’m one heck of a menu planner. It takes me about 20 minutes to look thru our schedule for the week, find out where everyone is going to be and what they are doing, and plan accordingly.  ESPECIALLY helpful when you have teenagers (or their friends) that raid the fridge, take one bite of something, and leave it.  grrrrr…. I plan for 8 days.  Why 8? Well, it’s a round number (no, I’m not kidding) and you never know what might come up.  If you always have one extra days meal planned, you will be a lot happer.  Once you have the menu planned (sample below) look at each day’s entry, and CHECK YOUR CABINETS before you go to the store.  If you don’t need it, don’t buy it is my theory.

2.  POST THE MENU ON THE FRIDGE. My DD and her friends tend to be the downfall of my menu planning, but since I started posting it in the center of the freezer door, they know to look and see what is available for munchin, and stay away from the other stuff.

3.  Be flexible.  For instance, on this menu, I decided to buy a roaster since it was on sale, and it lasted for dinner, lunch, and an additional dinner.  I moved everything else up one day, and moved on with life.  Don’t sweat the speedbumps, be grateful that you have more food than you need.

4.  This is the hardest one.  Unless you have a *mart near you that does groceries (which tend to be a LOT cheaper) you have to look over the ads for the grocery stores, do some comparison shopping, and make a couple stops.  I keep a little price book in my purse as reference. It’s nothing for me to do my main shopping at my fave “warehouse” store, stop for produce at another on my way home (that is a LOT cheaper) and do dry goods and dairy from the local *mart.  It seems like a lot, especially with gas the way that it is, but they are all in a line on the way home, so it’s a no brainer for me.  I divert no more than a mile in any direction for any other stores, that’s the rule.  For example, in any given week I will buy the following products. Savings comparison:

Product “Warehouse store” “Discount Grocery” “*Mart”
Eggs (2 dozen) $1.49ea $1.89ea .89ea
Saltines(2 boxes) .99ea $1.29ea .49ea
Margarine (2 lbs) .59ea .99 ea .39ea

Total cost for items $6.04 $8.34 $3.54
Now, individually, these may not seem significant, but look at the total. THEN calculate it out over 52 weeks. Warehouse = $354.08 Discount = $433.68 and *Mart = 184.08 That’s a savings of $170.00 over the warehouse, and $249.60 over the discount store! No coupons involved! Now, if you have a member warehouse near you, (Sams, etc) you can compare their prices and check the savings. I have them, but the expense for membership is for me more than the savings.

5. Store brand store brands store brands. nuff said. Flour is flour is flour and ketchup is ketchup. (heck make your own ketchup and that solves the problem!)

6. Make it at home Convenience foods tend to be full of salt, sugar, and preservatives (things I avoid like the plague) and can be made easier and less expensively at home. Need some help? Either google “make at home mixes” or check out one of my fave spots, the Hillbilly Housewife.

It may seem daunting at first, but make it a game. I involve the kids to keep them interested, and away from the items that blow my budget. They enjoy seeing how close we can come to the maximum total allowed number without going over. Following these steps, I can feed a family of 4 on just about $80.00 per week. That includes B’fast, lunch dinner and snacks for 2 hungry kids and one friend that hangs around. Breaks down to about $11.43 per day. I don’t count unexpected leftovers, just reduce the next week’s spending to compensate for what I already have.

Menu for this week was (*saturday and sunday we do more of a “brunch” than 2 meals):

Toast w/ Jelly

Egg Salad Sandwich
Carrot Sticks
Granola Bar (home made)

Ground Beef Casserole


Toast w/ Jelly

Peanut Butter & Jelly sandwih
Celery sticks
Granola Bar

Macaroni & Cheese


White Gravy & Biscuits

Left-over Mac & Cheese
Peas & Carrots


Bacon (save grease for later in week)

Baked Chicken
Steamed Carrots


Granola Bars

Leftover chicken sandwich
celery sticks w/ ranch dressing for dipping
granola bar

Creamed chicken with biscuits


Granola Bars

Peanut butter & Jelly Sandwich
Carrot Sticks w/ Ranch for dipping

Mashed potatoes
Green beans


Toast w/jelly

Chicken Salad Sandwich
Celery sticks 2/ ranch dip
granola bars

Refried beans


Hard boiled eggs
toast w/ jelly

Pasta salad w/ tuna
carrots & celery
granola bars

Vegetable Lo-mein (great when it’s too hot to cook…make extra and eat cold)

Having the chicken on sale, and getting over 3 meals out of it, helped out a LOT this week!

Hope that this helps you get started. Need help getting started? Let me know.

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Filed under budget shopping, Frugal, frugal families, Recipes

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