5 Ways to stretch your food budget
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Have you noticed the price of groceries just keep going up and up?! It’s getting harder to stretch your food budget, but with a little planning it’s still totally doable. Food is after all one of the biggest regular expenditure families face, so it pays to make sure the grocery budget is in check.
Our family used to be able to keep our weekly grocery bill under $100 per week, but that’s no where near enough to cover our needs now. Our family of four now includes a 4 year old and a 7 year old, who eat just as much as I do. A large portion of our grocery shopping is fresh produce, which also doesn’t help keep the grocery budget down, but healthy, fresh produce is not something I willing to compromise on.
While our weekly grocery bill is no longer around the $100 mark, we still eat amazingly well for little more than $150. The following 5 ways to stretch your food budget show just how we do it.
Buy less meat
It’s likely that the price of meat makes up a large chunk of your grocery spend. Meat can be so expensive. While I’m not telling you to give up meat entirely (of course, unless you want to), but rather make an effort to instead reduce the amount of meat you buy. This can be done in two ways:
Having MEAT FREE MEALS is a great way to boost your veggie intake while saving a little money. There are so fantastic meat-free meal ideas out there that taste so delicious you won’t even miss the meat. If you really miss the protein, try adding a few eggs to your meal. Some of my favourite meat free meals include this roasted sweet potato soup and easy spinach and tomato tortellini.
If you are not keen on meat free meals, or want to keep your meat bill low without going meat free every night, try REDUCING THE AMOUNT OF MEAT YOU USE IN EACH MEAL. It’s actually really easy to do, and you can then bulk up your meals with healthy, filling ingredients.
I recently made spaghetti bolognese and reduced the amount of meat I used by half. I would usually use 500g of beef mince in my sauce, but instead used only 250g of mince. I then made up the difference with a can of lentils. I though it would be a good test to see if my family would notice the lesser amount of meat in our dinner. I couldn’t believe i, but no one noticed the smaller amount of meat and addition of lentils. The kids inhaled it as the usually do. The tin of lentil cost way less than the mince per 100g, so not only did I make the meal healthier, but also cut the cost of making it!
Cook from scratch
Sure, cooking from scratch takes more time than opening a packet, but it’s one of the best ways to stretch your families food budget. As the saying goes, time is money, but if you are short on money you might need to find a little time to make things yourself.
If you are a little lost on WHAT to make from scratch, have a look around your kitchen. Anything you buy that is made from multiple ingredients and comes pre-packaged is a great candidate to try making yourself from scratch.
I like to make school lunchbox snacks from scratch, which saves bucket loads of money, plus I know exactly what’s in them. Snacks like my easy homemade muesli bars are easy to make in bulk and freeze extremely well.
Basically, you want to look at the things that you already buy and eat, and find a way to make then cheaper!
Stick to real food
The unfortunate truth is that most of the things we buy in packets is not really food, and it’s not really good for us either. The healthiest, and cheapest way to eat is to stick to real, whole food whenever possible.
All those packets labelled with ‘sugar free’ and ‘fat free’ are designed to make you think foods are healthy, but they are really not. Often ‘fat free’ foods are filled with sugar to make up for the lack of taste thanks to the removal of fat. Same goes for ‘sugar free’. Sure, it might have no added sugar, but chances are an artificial sweetener has been used in it’s place, which might not necessarily be any better for you than sugar.
There is no denying that cooking from scratch and eating REAL food is going to save you big money.
Don’t drink your money
Now before we get started here, let’s be clear, I am not referring to coffee! We all know that’s often not-negotiable for us parents. What I am talking about is soft drink and excessive alcoholic drinks. The kind of drinks that have no nutritional value what so ever, yet cost a fair amount of money once you add a few drinks here and there.
It’s a given that water is the cheapest and best drink for us, and costs next to nothing when you fill a reusable water bottle with tap water. If you’re really not keen on the taste of tap water (i’m not), then using a water filter will make a huge difference to the way the water tastes.
Most kids love snacks, and would eat them non-stop if allowed. But it’s not really good for them, or your bank account. Try using small containers to divide food into snack sized portions.
I do this with foods like popcorn that I pop myself. Portioning snacks ahead of time is a great way to save time and money. It also means snacks are ready to go when you are heading out of the house, saving you from buying pricey snacks when you are out and about.