Life is expensive. Even more so if you’ve got young children, and it’s made even more difficult if you are a single parent or find yourself in a difficult financial position. The difficult reality is that even families where both parents work full-time and earn a decent income can find that their finances are tight sometimes. Especially around the holidays, or in that last week before payday. Financial hardship is something that far too many of us struggle with.
There are, of course, things that you can do to help yourself. You can look at loans for those with bad credit, you can make some cutbacks, and you can find other ways to slash your household expenditure. One of these is cutting the costs of feeding your family.
It’s not uncommon for a family of four to spend around $300 every week on groceries. But, at the same time, some families manage perfectly well on $100. Of course, some families don’t need to be careful. They go out and spend money on what they want, without putting any thought into budget or savings. If you’re not in the position, or if you’d just like to start making some cutbacks and being more aware of your spending, here are some tips to help you feed your family on a budget, without sacrificing tasty and filling meals.
Start Meal Planning
Meal planning has so many advantages. It means that you know what’s coming. There’s never a day when you sit thinking “what shall we have for dinner?”. This also means that you can prepare more. When you know what’s coming, you never get home from work in a panic that you need to get dinner ready, you can have it in the slow cooker, or at least some of the ingredients prepared before you leave for work in the morning. Meal planning also gives you a great chance to try new things. Many of us stick to the same few meals. Meals that we know that everyone loves and that we know we can make. We rotate the same few things every week, with little variation and change. When you sit down to meal plan, you can take the time to look online for new ideas and flavors to add to your week.
But, the best thing about meal planning is possibly the financial benefits. Meal planning gives you a chance to really prepare your shopping. You are less likely to keep popping to the shops for bits during the week, and more likely to stick to your plans.
Stick to Your Lists, and Be Realistic with Yourself
Writing shopping lists is great. Look at your meal plans, check what you’ve already got in your cupboard, and write a list of everything that you need to buy. But, don’t forget the rest of your shopping. It’s vital that you are realistic when you write your list, or there’s little point in writing it. If you want crisps, chocolates and a bottle of wine, be honest and put them on your list. It might mean that you spend more in this one shop, but at least you can budget for it.
Try Online Shopping
Many people find that it’s much easier to stick to your shopping list when you shop online. In a store, it’s easy to be tempted by offers and displays. Not to mention the sweet treats around the counter. When you shop online, you can search for what you need, avoiding temptation altogether.
Shopping online also means that you can see a running total as you add more to your basket, and it gives you an easy way to search for cheaper alternatives to more expensive brands.
Make Yourself Walk for Treats
As stern as you are with yourself when you are planning and shopping, every now and then, we all fancy something nice. These cravings can’t all be planned in advance. But, do you really want that bar of chocolate, or would the craving pass?
Instead of just getting in the car and popping to the shops, make yourself walk. That way, at least you’ll only go if you want it desperately enough, and you’ll save a little money on petrol.
Couponing isn’t fashionable or cool, but it is a brilliant way to save money, especially on food. And, the internet and Facebook groups make it easier than ever to find the deals that you need. Collect coupons from newspapers and from the free magazines that you can pick up in stores. Look online and keep your eyes open for vouchers on products.
However, couponing only saves you money if you’d have bought things anyway. Buying them just because they are cheap, is still more expensive than not buying them at all.
Buy Special Offers and Freeze the Extras
Buy one get one free deal are incredibly popular in supermarkets. As are three for two, or buy one get one half price. Look out for these deals on the things that you buy, or on similar products. Buying them now might mean that you spend a little more on this shop, but freeze the extra and you’ll save money in the future.
Cook in Bulk
Cooking in bulk can be cheaper, but it’s not always. Sometimes, buying a bigger bag of meat or grain works out cheaper, use it all to make a giant chili or pasta sauce, and freeze the leftovers for another day, and you could save a fortune. But, buying bigger isn’t always cheaper. Look at the cost per kg to find out what’s best.
Shop the Reduced Aisle
Most large stores have a set time of the day when they reduce the goods that they can’t sell for much longer, or that have damaged packaging. Sometimes, it’s early in the day, but it can be towards the end of the night. Find out when your local stores reduce and plan your shop around it. Remember, even if you buy something approaching its use by date, you can still freeze it to extend its lifespan.