Rebecca Graf is a trained accountant who worked in the field for more than 20 years.
Feeding a family in today's economy can be difficult. There are many factors that make it so. Unemployment, low paying jobs, and the price of food are just a few. Feeding a family is not cheap. To eat well costs money.
It is not easy, but it is not impossible. There are several ways to stretch your dollar to go a long way, not feel deprived, and still eat more than mere junk food.
Where You Should Shop
Being able to feed your family on $50 has a lot to do with where you shop. This is a very important part of being successful at budgeting. Not just any place with food will do. I have been shopping for my family's groceries for 25 years. During that time, I have shopped at a variety of stores in different parts of the country. They all vary, which means you need to pay attention to where you need to shop and for what. Consider these points.
Every store has sales. Some advertise them online and some advertise them in newspapers. Some are only available if you have a special savings card. Take advantage of these. Get to know the patterns of the stores. For example, there is one local store that has this really big sale on specific meat items every last weekend of the month. I buy an amount of meat that gives me about a dozen meals or more for just seven dollars. It's a great buy. Usually, stores have their own patterns for sales that you can easily follow.
Many stories have specific products you can only find there. These might dictate that you shop at that specific store or at least stop by there to pick up these particular items.
Where a store is located can determine where you shop. I have one store that is on my way home from work. That can be the reason I shop there unless I know the next store further away will have better deals. Will it be worth it to drive the extra miles to it?
We don't want to buy poor-quality foods. When I'm looking to shop at a certain store, I think about their produce and their meats. Are they good? If I want a large number of fruits, I might avoid one store because their fruits always spoil fast. That's a waste of money.
This can be your biggest factor in deciding where to shop. Combine this with the above to determine which store you will be shopping at. That store with the monthly sales weekend might only be chosen on that date because of the great prices.
This is a chance to explore stores. Visit ones you haven't been to in a long time or have never entered. See what they provide and the quality and price that accompanies it.
When you are trying to save money and shop, you need to look at what is needed and what is wanted. This is more important than you might realize. The wants are usually what bankrupt us.
List out what you want to purchase. That includes the wants that aren't too outrageous. Sit back and look at your list. What can you not live without? Typically for us, it is the milk, bread, and eggs. Those are our staples. From there, I question if we can live without it this grocery trip. Certain items are then removed.
You might even want to consider letting your grocery list sit for a few hours or even days. When you come back, you might be able to see more items to take off your list. You will notice what is not really a necessity. Remove these items.
Remember that necessary items are ones you really need to get to the next grocery period. What can you not go without? You will be surprised what you can really live without. You're not going to starve.
Shop for Bargains
Bargains are wonderful when you find them. Every store has their own sales going on. Learn them. Pay attention. Use coupons.
Shopping for bargains can take some time, but once you have that experience under your belt, you'll start to see them more often. Know what is a bargain by pricing items at different stores. Is that price per pound for a beef roast really that good of a deal? Just because the store has a sale doesn't mean it is a bargain. Shop around. Don't accept a stores prices just because they say it is good. Make sure it is.
Making your own food is always cheaper. Prepared food costs more because you are paying for the work that goes into making it. A great example is boiled eggs. You can purchase a dozen boiled eggs for around $4 depending on the store you go to. These are boiled and peeled. Very convenient. Now compare that to a dozen eggs purchased to boil yourself. I can get them for a dollar or less at some stores. That is over four times the cost just to have someone else cook and peel them. I'll do that myself and save me some money.
Yes, you can purchase pre-shredded cheese and pre-cut tomatoes or onions. Even a watermelon can be purchased already cut up and ready to eat. That will cost you extra. When you are trying to stay in a tight budget, forgo such luxuries. Do more yourself. That doesn't mean prepared food can't be bought, as there are times when sales make them worth it.
Think of how you can use food beyond one meal. The more versatile the food you buy is, the more you get for your money. For example, buy a whole chicken. You can use part of it for soup, part for a casserole, and still have some leftover for a homemade pot pie or fajitas. For $4 or $5, you have meat for at least three meals.
When shopping, plan for meals that can be stretched. Here are a few examples in addition to the one above.
- Have rice as a side dish one night and use the leftovers in a soup or pot pie the next.
- Cook a roast and use the leftovers in a fajita-style meal the next night.
- Keep the juice from canned vegetables to use in a soup. The leftover meat and veggies can be put in the broth.
- Purchase bargains that can be used more than once.
Avoiding Feeling Deprived
When we are limited, we tend to feel deprived. We yearn for sweets, but cookies aren't a necessity that we can afford when restricted to a tight grocery budget. Depriving ourselves will make us spend money we don't have. There are ways around it.
Bake your own cookies. They hardly cost anything. You need flour, sugar, milk, butter, and maybe other sweets. The first four are things you should always have on hand. You won't be using a ton of them when making cookies. Good old sugar cookies are simple to make and very cheap as well. Make those to keep the sweet tooth monsters at bay.
Learn Appreciation For What You Have
When you are tight with your budget, you can learn appreciation for what you have. It is a great learning time for the whole family. Too many children and even adults feel like they have to have everything they crave and everything name brand. In truth, food is sustenance for survival. Our bodies do not have to have a special name on their food in order to survive.
These tight times can help you appreciate food for survival and for those more expensive foods when you do have them. Focus on the need for food and the joy of living.
Sample Shopping List
|Item||Approx. Price||Total Bill|
Pie Crust (for pot pie)
Stretching the $50 for a Week
Keep your purchases to a minimum. You want to only buy what you absolutely need and what can stretch into multiple uses. Choose foods that are versatile and a bargain. Educate yourself. Eat well without spending a fortune.
The above shopping list can be stretched into many meals during the week. Use what is in your pantry and what you can get at a good price. You might find it fun to see how much you can get for just $50.
Travel Chef from Manila on July 15, 2018:
Home cooked meals are always cheaper than those readily available in the market. Most people reason out that they don't have enough time to do their shopping and to cook. I think it's just a matter of planning your whole week activities. There are so many meal prep recipes that can follow online. In this way, they can save much of their time.
Louise Powles from Norfolk, England on July 12, 2018:
There's some very good advice there. I think it's easy to feed a family for this if you shop around.