Back to Basics
Remember the good ole' days when women stayed home and worked themselves to the bone? If you're lucky enough to stay at home, this should be a welcome addition to your family life. You may have to work a bit harder in the kitchen, but believe me you'll have one happy husband and even happier kids. There is something very satisfying in seeing your loved ones enjoy something you've made with them in mind. If you're one of many who want or have to work outside the home, you may want to pick one or two of your days off to start some of these projects. Even with a limited amount of time, you can still cut food costs with just a little kitchen time.
Stop shopping. Visiting the grocery store a few times a week is a sure way to blow your budget. If you're unsure of the food and spices you have, check it out and start a mental inventory (some of us need to write it down). Have a meal plan for the week. Of course you may switch a meal to a different day, but having a basic plan takes a lot of pressure off meal time and also keeps impulse buying to a minimum. Be sure to remember what you'll be eating for breakfasts, lunches and snacks - picking things up outside of the home is very expensive (coffee and muffin, bag of chips, etc.) and usually unhealthy.
Can't stop shopping? Work in a grocery store? Switch to a cash budget. Have an envelope with the amount of money you've allocated for your week or month and simply take your cards out of your wallet. Make sure to keep receipts so the money doesn't disappear into thin air!
Prep your food. You may not want to do it right after coming home from the grocery store, but you need to do it by the next day at the latest. Example: Buying bulk carrots instead of baby carrots is a great way to save money. Spend ten minutes peeling and cutting the carrots into sticks or coins and store them in water in your fridge. You'll have quick snacks ready and you're more likely to eat all of what you've purchased.
Part two of Tip #2 is stop throwing away perfectly good food! The carrot peelings shouldn't go in the garbage or the compost right away. Save them with any of your other vegetable scraps and plan on having soup during the week. Home made stock is a great way to save money and it tastes better than the sodium water they sell at the grocery store. Do you have a pet? Could they use the nutrition of an apple core or a half eaten piece of bread? Know what food you have and make sure you eat it before it rots or goes stale. It is estimated that North American families throw out 12% of their food! Do you know how much you throw out? Start to notice what is going in the trash and think of the dollars you are literally throwing away.
Make stuff! Why pay a major brand to make something you could make better and more suited to your tastes? There are very few things you can't make yourself with a bit of time. The trick is to make it in multiples. If your family can eat ten samosas in a week, make 100 and freeze 90. If you love soups and stews, make a giant pot and freeze it in meal-sized bags or containers. When you're going to make something simply multiply it by any amount you want and save yourself the trouble of making it again next time!
Don't be proud. Keeping up with the Jones' hasn't gotten anyone anywhere except in debt and unhappiness! If you can't really afford skinless boneless chicken breasts, then you can't afford it. Keep an eye out for 30% or 50% stickers and if something comes up that you've wanted and can afford at a discount, then allow yourself that luxury. I shop at a high end grocery store because it offers the most organic foods in town - but it also has the most discounted food in town as well. If I see a pink sticker on something, I check it out. I often find foods that I normally can't afford. Organic cauliflower for example. I just got three heads last week: prepped them, steamed them and froze them for mashed cauliflower to top the cottage pies I'll be making when I get ground meat on clearance. No one cares if your cart is full of discounted food - except for me, because you'll be snatching up the deals before me!
There are hundreds of little tips and ideas that go along with shopping smart and shopping on a budget, but these are a good start. The most important thing is to be creative and to be flexible. Most of all APPRECIATE the opportunity to have access to such delicious and reasonably priced food. If you start feeling bad for yourself because you're on a budget you will ultimately fail. Enjoy being smart with your money and accept the challenge instead of feeling trapped by money and forced to spend less.