Feeding a family can be an expensive endeavour. However, with the knowledge of bargain shopping and the use of coupons, any family can create budget meals with ease. Remember to follow USDA food guidelines when shopping to create balanced, low-cost meals for your family. Focus your shopping on in-season, fresh fruits and vegetables, and watch the sale items to create your family's meal plan for each week.
Every grocery store in your area is targeted to different individuals. Certain food stores, such as Whole Foods, are targeted to the high-end consumer who enjoys organic foods. Other stores, such as Wal-Mart and Target, are focused more on the budget-conscious consumer. Focus your shopping on the cheapest store in your area to begin your shopping. Find out what fruits and vegetables are in season, as they will typically be the cheapest. Read your weekly sales circular. Save immediately by purchasing advertised specials. However, begin to watch your sales ads. Just because an item is listed as a sales price does not mean it's a good deal. Watch the prices of your most-purchased items for a few weeks and buy those items only when they are at their lowest price. Limit spending at the grocery store by using a list and not shopping while hungry.
Gather Coupons and Stockpile
Start collecting coupons from your Sunday paper and online coupon sites, such as Coupons.com. Remember to only clip coupons for items you actually use. Use the coupons on an item when it is on sale to net the lowest-priced items. Purchase a few weeks' or months' supply of items that will not expire in that length of time when they hit their lowest price. This will create a stockpile of food to use when you are struggling to make ends meet. It will also help you spend less money on food over time. Prior to building your stockpile, plan your meals around your store's sale flyer.
Keep Staples Ready
Find a few simple recipes that your family loves that use basic food items that do not expire quickly. For example, a great way to immediately cut your food costs is to have vegetarian meals a few times a week. Red beans and rice is a filling, cheap meal that many enjoy. Purchase these food items in bulk at their cheapest to have a few go-to meals in your cabinets. Consider peanut butter a great staple, especially with kids in the house. They can easily make their own sandwich if need be and can eat this meal any time of day. If your family enjoys lasagne, look into vegetarian versions and stock up on noodles and pasta sauce when they go on sale. Having meals at the home ready for making will limit eating out, as well as unplanned grocery store runs, saving you money.
Prepare Budget Meals
If time is limited during the week for cooking, or you worry about using too much electricity, prepare the week's meals in advance on Sunday and reheat during the week. Grill chicken for main entrées and add accessory ingredients each day to make each meal different. Mark each meal with its ingredients for easy reheating throughout the week. Plan out your meals based on the week's schedule. If a child has a late baseball practice, designate that night for a quick sandwich meal, especially if it is needed to be eaten on the run.