Wednesday, January 25, 2012
With a family of 6, which consists of 2 adults and 4 sons (ages: almost 12,9,3 and 5 1/2) I gave you the age they'll be in a short few months because that half a year matters with a boy and his stomach!! My oldest 2 sons already eat like a man, I kid you not! From the look of their slender bodies, you would never guess they have insatiable appetites! God bless exercise! Anyway, I have a monthly grocery budget of only $500, on a high month, and only $300 on a very low month (if we have unexpected expenses). So needless to say that's not very much money for a family of 6! First and foremost I want to say that we eat healthy, but not over board. I still allow my kids to have sweet treats but the sweet treats are always homemade with a handful of ingredients that I can totally pronounce and they are not a daily occurrence. Their daily snack consists of fresh fruits or veggies. If that's what you model for your children and always have it readily available, trust me, that's what they will eat! I don't buy Little Debbie, Hostess, or any other "junkfood" treats. If I don't bring it into the house, then guess what? They don't eat it, enough said!
#1 Buy in Bulk: Yes, you've all heard this a million times before, but you really do save. I buy all my herbs and spices in bulk. This comes in handy when you're cooking a lot from "scratch", also I never buy those little Taco seasoning mixes anymore, I make my own. Also I only buy the big blocks of cheeses, I'm talking about the 5 lb blocks! You can cut it in half and freeze the rest if you don't think you'll use it in time. Buying block cheese will require you to do without those little expensive bags of already shredded cheese! It will take a few minutes of work, but the end result will be freshly shredded/grated cheese that not only tastes better, but doesn't have the chemical that is included in those little bags for anti-caking. The less chemicals in your body, the better! All you need is a hand held box grater. Many years ago my husband found one at Goodwill for $.50! I see them there all the time! It's a super cheap investment, plus you can grate lemon/orange zest using one of the sides too! Also good for bulk buying is sugar (white & brown), flour (if you make homemade breads), check your ingredients on store bought breads, it's hard to find one without high fructose corn syrup in it and a host of 20 ingredients, make it yourself with 5 ingredients!), also buy butter, eggs, frozen vegetables and so on....
#2 Cook from Scratch, aka... HOMEMADE: Stay with me here, I felt a lot of you gasp or roll your eyes at that statement. You're thinking, sure, it's easy for a Stay-at-home-Mom to cook from scratch, but I just don't have the time since I work, right? WRONG! It only takes an extra minute or two to make homemade cookies from scratch and put them in the oven as it does to take them out of the freezer and open the package of frozen cookie dough! If you don't believe me, time yourself! Not only are you going to pay double for pre-packaged,or frozen, convenience foods, your health will be paying the price also! Just look at the ingredients of a roll of cookie dough? How many ingredients can you not even pronounce? Or look at that frozen lasagna? Does it really take 20 ingredients to make a lasagna? It may take a few minutes longer to cook from scratch, but it's well worth it. I make pizza sauce in huge amounts and freeze the rest, also spaghetti sauce. When you make one lasagna, just do 2 and throw the other one in the freezer for later, now that's a tasty homemade dish! On your day off, bake up tons of waffles and pancakes and freeze them. No one wants to do work on your day off, but believe me, if you're a Mom, then, you never truly get a day off! You don't need to buy eggos, or frozen pancakes when homemade ones freeze beautifully! Start small, cook dinner a few times this week and see how you feel health wise and also from a financial aspect! You're not really cooking for your family, if your idea of a home-cooked meal is frozen pizza, or Manwich from a can! If you don't know where to begin, then I highly suggest allrecipes.com. It's an invaluable source of recipes for every stage of cooking expertise! I wasn't taught how to cook anything from my Mom, I had to learn it all on my own. Thank God for the internet and cookbooks! There's no excuse not to cook, but laziness! Believe me, we've all been guilty of that before! On days where I'm having my own pity party, I think why can't I just do a frozen pizza, when I make pizza, I have to make the sauce (if not already made), make the dough (super quick and easy!) and then shred the cheese. When the lazy monster attacks, the first thing I think is, boy that's a lot of work! Sounds like a lot of work, but it's really not. First off, the frozen pizza I had idealized in my head tastes disgusting, ewww! Not only is it horrible tasting, it's way expensive and there's no way just one would feed my family of 6! Take out/delivery would cost an arm and a leg, remember I'm feeding mini garbage disposals here, LOL! so not only is it more nutritious to home make meals, it's more filling, less expensive and you can get the kids in the kitchen to learn a valuable life skill!! Please teach your children to cook for themselves! I can not stress this enough!
#3 Buy what's on SALE that week:Each big grocery chain sends out a weekly sales paper, or you can view the sales ad on-line. This is what you need to plan your menus around. If chicken is on sale for $1.99 a pound, then guess what? Chicken's certainly going to be on my menu that week and more importantly chicken is going to be stock piled in my freezer for that amazing price! That's what you do, when you see an incredible price, you stock up on it for the future. Even $10 extra will get you several packs of chicken for you to freeze! Then the next time you want chicken, you won't go out and pay $3.99 a pound for it, you'll simply go to your freezer and get your sale chicken! This is how you save money. I'm stating this fact because I honestly did not know this when I first got married, well for many years after that too! If this post helps just one family, then it's very much worth the time it's taken to write it! Also each week fruit is on sale, that is the fruit that my kids will be eating that week! If it's blueberries, then they'll be eating blueberries! But what if they want apples instead? Well sorry, but we have fresh blueberries and that's what we have! Now I have frozen fruit in the freezer, so blueberries are available year round (bought at rock bottom prices). Apples keep for a couple of weeks in the fridge, so usually they always have 3 fruits to choose from. So this was just an example. Now if they really had a craving for a fruit then I would get it for them, but they are very satisfied because each week it's a different fruit on sale! Buy up fruits when they are super cheap, meaning whether on sale or in season (usually the cheapest), you can freeze bananas, blueberries, raspberries, blackberries, strawberries, grapes and more and just jerk them from the freezer and add some yogurt or milk, a little oatmeal, flax seed and a touch of honey and you have a healthy, nutritious smoothie!! Don't ever throw fruit away when you can freeze it and make yummy drinks!! You're kids will think you're a creative genius when you serve them this and all along it's so healthy for them and doesn't break the bank for fresh fruit (remember it was purchased on sale and frozen!)
#4 Use Coupons: Ah, the dreaded "C" word! Not sure why there's such a stigma with the word coupon, but if you have a dollar off coupon and use it on a product, it's like someone gave you a free dollar bill! Now who in their right mind would turn down a free dollar bill?? I wouldn't! But I do want to warn you, if you won't use the product, then it's not worth your money to buy it (unless you're giving it away or donating). Granted, there are much more coupons for "junky" processed products, but from time to time, you can score some really great deals on healthy foods. Also all of our childcare (diapers,wipes) and toiletries are bought at amazing cheap prices with coupons! Even the kids multi vitamins are bought for $2.50 a box when they're regularly $6.99! You just have to be a savvy and smart shopper. There's tons of blogs out there that teach you how to find the deals out there, or you can read about my couponing experience here.
#5 Make out a Menu Plan: The old saying is true, if you Fail to Plan, then you Plan to Fail! I can't tell you how many times I've thought oh I know what we're having for dinner this week so I won't bother making out a menu plan. Guess what? By 5 o'clock that night I was running around the kitchen panicking thinking what should I fix for dinner! No meat is thawed out (remember, the freezer is our friend!!) and I didn't prepare any bread/buns/rolls, you name it, I didn't do it! So now in my organizer I write down my weekly menu on the left side, on the right side I write down what we actually had that night. I like to look back and get ideas on our favorites. Then in the weekly section I write what I need to do, for example, Monday we had spaghetti, I had written on there to make some garlic breadsticks, and lay out the frozen chicken in the fridge for dinner tonight! Now some of you may be laughing thinking you can remember to do this, then good for you! with each kid they sucked out some of my memory brain cells (aks, mommy brain!), but that's works for me and it may help someone else out too :-)
#6 Buy Marked Down Items/Clearanced out:I'm very fortunate to live near a Kroger where they mark down items before the expiration date! At any given time you can walk into Kroger and come home with fresh produce marked down , Organic Milk, half and half, meats, the list goes on and on, but only on perishable stuff! When's the last time you saw a box of Twinkies on clearance?? Never! Because that stuff will outlast the nuclear bomb, LOL! I used to snub my nose at clearance meats (before I had 4 kids!), thinking there must be something wrong with it. How naive I was, or snobby, whatever you want to call it! I call it stupid! Buy that meat and take it home and if you don't use it that night, freeze it!! But the milk and make up a ton of homemade pudding with it, or buy that marked down buttermilk and make a ton of pancakes and freeze them! Buy those cartons of eggs and make up some quiches to freeze! Get creative! Always think of what you could do when you see marked down items!
So if you ask me if a Stay-at-home Mom works, I would shout an astounding YES!! I work hard and diligently to keep my variable expenses down and groceries are the number one area where everybody can cut costs!