There are millions of us in a position where with how the economy has failed us in that prices of mortgages, rental properties, utility bills and gasoline for travel along with taxes and medical expenses have driven us to the brink of thinking just how will we ever live somewhat comfortably again? There used to be classes in society: Upper class, middle class and lower class. Now it's filthy rich, lower class and poverty stricken. While I am not at the poverty level and we just manage to keep our heads from going under water in a financial sense, I surely know the financial hardships that life can present.
Not knowing anyone's personal situations I can only speak in general terms in this article. First and foremost, feeding your family has got to be number one. Pay a partial to the utility company rather than forsake buying some good groceries. They won't shut you off unless you totally ignore them. If you must get help with food please - please get help. Use your local food bank. If you are unsure of help, your town halls should be able to supply you with information. Apply for food stamps and don't let some jackass who may eyeball you up and down in a grocery store intimidate you. You have good reason: family - your kids need to eat and to hell with any one who makes "assumptions".
Whew! Now that I got that off my chest, let's get going on ways to be creative with your food budget. Again since I do not know your personal situation and how you handle your food budget I have to come at this with the "assumption" that you may not have tried or thought of these things. No intent is meant to belittle any person!
- Add up your normal monthly expenses: Rent/Mortgage, Insurances, Utilities and heating oil, car payment - those are the basic expenses most everyone has. Now look at your income and if your stomach hasn't sunk to your feet at the comparison, raise your head and believe you can do this. Think about what you normally spend per week feeding your family. Take your time. I save all my grocery slips so I know what I spend for just two people.
- If you spend an incredible amount to pay utilities and are trying to feed four people on $50.00 per week, then you need to make some adjustments. Find ways to not use electricity as much - cut back on your cable services for a while. I don't mean completely do without cable TV. TV could be your only source of entertainment; however if you have a cable package with three premium channels - cut them out for a while is what I am getting at. Ask your utility company to put you on a budget payment plan that you can afford so that you can put more into feeding your family.
- Unplug small appliances. Don't burn unnecessary lights and don't leave television sets running when no one is paying attention. (That was a tip from our electric company.)
- To save on gasoline, combo your trips. In other words, run to the store, the bank and the post office in one trip, that sort of thing. Think first before heading out anywhere what else you can accomplish in that one trip.
- Weigh the difference between going to places like Costco, BJ's or a Sam's type of warehouse where you purchase in bulk versus going to a local store you always shop in. In order for you to do this you really need to know if traveling the distance and paying out a substantial amount for a product or products in one lump sum is worth it for YOU. To do that you really need to shop in one store locally and get to know the prices for the items you buy on a regular basis. (Keep your sales slips in a drawer.) When you go to the warehouse with the prices in mind of what you pay at your local store you can determine if it suits you to buy in bulk. Trust me, when it comes to proteins, I don't think you get much of a bargain in a warehouse. Some may disagree with me but I have not found the benefit in that because often I have found the larger packs have a higher per pound price that what my own store offers. Only you can determine that.
- Make sure you take the few minutes to fill out an application for a store rewards card. It does help out. Every time you use your card you rack up points and the store keeps track of it; no work for you. Our store offers "sale" items as well as when you reach certain levels of spending they have incredible coupons that you can print right from the Kiosk in the store. One example is that we received a coupon for a gorgeous pineapple for $1.99. They generally are $4.99 each and the on sale price is usually $3.99. Enough said about that.
- Coupons are good, I think they do save money. However, to purchase something with a coupon that may sit in your pantry for over 3 months without use to me is not great practice. It's like a business that has parts sitting on a shelf for over 3 months in inventory. The rule in business is you need to use the inventory within a 3 month period, otherwise you have over stocked that item. Apply that principle to food. Use coupons for items you know you and your family will consume or use.
- When a store offers 10 for $10.00 - and you can pick up a boxed or canned or frozen product you like for $1.00 each, that's a great thing. And, it doesn't mean you HAVE to buy ten of that item to receive the good price. Take advantage of this when you are able to.
- The best advice I can give you is to Start With A Menu Plan. Menu planning from specials from your grocery store flyer is the starting point along with seeing what ingredients you have in your home already to work with.
- Next, figure out if you purchase a larger piece of roast than normal what can you make utilizing the left-overs. And if you purchase a "family pack", how many different meals can you make from that one package.
- Always refer back to your ingredients on hand when determining what and how many meals you can make using up what you already have.
- One you figure out the Menu Plan and the recipes you will be using to make it, from there you make your written grocery list. Add in what else you may need to round out the list for breakfast and lunch meals. Perhaps a dinner meal will provide you with left overs for lunches, so keep that in mind before you spend needless dollars at the deli counter.
- Take your list, your menu plan with you to the store.
- Stick to the list.
- Finally, don't go to the store hungry because going in hungry - everything looks good.
- How many adults, teens, young children, etc. make up your family?
- What is your average food budget?
- What specifically can't you eat because of food allergies?
- When do you normally shop - weekdays or weekends?