Quite a while ago I led a short little class on how my family meal plans and budgets for food. I thought I would jot it down for you here!
I'm throwing this out there right now: We do not eat "perfectly". Yes, we have a well balanced, nutritional diet but, sometimes I let my kids eat corn dogs, granola bars, and Lucky Charms. 80% of the time we do get it right. Life is about balance, and I'm a big fan of nachos.
Typically I start my weekly meal planning of by writing down exactly what my family will be eating throughout the week. Look at this adorable planner I use! I clip it to the side of the fridge (I'm a "nothing on the front of my refrigerator" kinda gal).
By planning each and every meal I am able to shop for specific items. I'm not buying random things and then letting them spoil. As an added bonus, when my kids are aware of what's on the menu, they are a lot less complaints, and "suggestions" about lunch.
One of my friends shops and plans her meals through the weekly grocery ads. If chicken and pork are on sale, that's what she will plan her menu from. She is really specific about buying fruits and vegetables that are $1 a pound or less and meats that are $2 a pound and under. She will also shop at ethnic markets when looking for something specific. If you need sesame oil, it will be worth a trip to the Asian market.
Our community has an amazing discount store named Esh's, that offers many organic and name brand items at a discounted price. Many of these items are near their expiration date or past them. So be mindful of using them promptly. You can saves loads shopping for produce at a place like this.
I want to take a moment to address expiration dates. The US is one of the most wasteful nations in the world. They throw out far too many foods that have past their "expiration date" but are perfect. One of the items I buy past it's expiration date is yogurt. I have purchased hundreds of yogurts past their dates, and have had 3 that have been sour. So, use your best judgment, but don't alway judge a product by it's date.
One of the easiest places to blow your budget is Costco and Sam's Club. Firstly, you are paying an annual membership fee, which would equal out to be a cart of groceries. Secondly, many of the food items you buy will be thrown out due to spoiling. Yes, buying in bulk can save money. If I don't go into Costco and buy ONLY what is on my list, I've blown it. If you wouldn't be buying chocolate covered almonds at the grocery store, don't buy them at Costco because it's "such a good deal". I do buy paper towels, toilet paper, produce (we eat a lot of produce), Olive and Coconut oil, roasted almonds, chicken nuggets and rice at Costco. But if I start looking at the yoga pants, it's over.
Somebody suggested using your Amazon Prime membership to buy toilet paper, paper towels, and laundry supplies instead of getting them at Costco, Walmart or Target. I love this idea. While it may cost a bit more to order them online, I would save so much more money not walking into the Target dollar section. But, I did find the most adorable mini cake stands so.......there's that....
I try really hard to only shop at my local grocery store. I have downloaded their app and can clip coupons and have them loaded directly onto my loyalty card. They also mail out some paper coupons and I use those as often as possible. I do not cut out coupons from the newspaper, however, I know that's proven to work for people as well. I don't buy groceries at places like Walmart; while their prices might be less, their produce isn't nearly as good and I will usually leave with a beauty blender. Extra.
One of the most important things to me is that I make everything from scratch, at home. I make everything down to their waffles and pancakes (which I freeze for them later), spaghetti sauce, salad dressings, Mac and cheese, biscuits, pie crusts, etc. You can find quick and easy recipes at the click of a button for all things homemade. I never buy pre made and frozen meals from the grocery store. This has been really a really intentional step in how I feed my family. I can control exactly what goes into their mouths and know what the nutritional value of the food. We eat a lot of veggies, 100% whole grain breads and pastas, nuts, and lean meats (aside from chicken thighs, because they are so delicious, chicken breasts are overrated). We strive to eat a well balanced diet, as best as we can. Yes, we have cinnamon rolls, but I made them so I know what's in them.
We buy as many "whole" meats as possible too. When I buy a rotisserie chicken, nothing goes to waste. I use the bones and left to make bone broth, and will usually use the chicken pieces that were clinging to the bone to make chicken soup, or pot pie. We also are able to buy a 1/2 cow at a time and deep freeze it. This saves so much money on beef. We pay $3 a pound for KC Strip Steaks, not bad.
Want a few of my go-to favorite recipes?
I have a Pinterest board page dedicated to this topic alone!
Follow it HERE!
Hope this has given you hope that you can do it! It takes time and effort, but it's so much better for your family (and your bank account) when the planning has been executed.
Let me know what some of your budget friendly, healthly meals are too!