I know what you’re thinking…I must be one of those “as seen on TV” coupon gurus. With a wave of my scissors, I can cast savings everywhere. Not so. Although I envy those who can walk out of a store juggling a mountain of bags that only cost like $15, I find coupon clipping requires tedious discipline that I reluctantly utilize on the occasional well-worth deal. But I have discovered other strategies to be just as effective for money- saving and time-saving as well. Every well-thought out strategy begins with a plan of action. Just as my coaching husband scripts football plays, I make a different sort of game-plan- instead of formations in my playbook, I chart inventory, carefully create a weekly menu and write out a strategic list before facing the shopping cart traffic jams and bumper to bumper check-out lines.
With these tips, you too can maintain keeping your family full on a humble budget of $100 per week!
1. Be Resourceful. Before I figure out my weekly meal action plan, I sort through my current household inventory of my pantry, fridge and freezer. Instead of making a dish that requires purchase of a whole list of new ingredients while perfectly good groceries continue to make their journey towards their shelf light at the end of the tunnel, I consider how I can use those items to make something. I also check for staple items that stretch a meal- like pastas, potatoes and rice. If I bought rice last week to make a chicken and rice soup, then I create a different way to serve rice the next week, like a sausage jambalaya or chicken and veggie teriyaki over rice. This incorporates ingredients I already have on hand, but in a way that won’t leave my family questioning “didn’t we just have this?!”
2. Plan the Weekly Meals. Once you know what ingredients you already have to work with, creating a meal plan is a cinch. What requires a half hour of time eliminates a week full of maddening brain-scrambling trying to decide what to make, while your kids and husband are looking at you for answers to the age-old question of what’s for dinner. A meal plan also simplifies making a grocery list to include the items required for preparing suppers.
3. Prepare One Meatless Meal Per Week. I could safely classify my husband as a carnivorous specimen, but once he realized how much meat was adding up in our grocery budget, he complied (eventually) to one meatless meal per week. Make a hearty vegetable soup or pasta with homemade marinara sauce- your family will survive- last I checked, death by vegetables has yet to occur.
4. Eat Left-Overs. Left- overs used to only appeal to me for lunch the following day. But I discovered that we often still had left over left-overs, so not only was this habit wasteful, but it added more expense- and time- to cook something new every night. Now when I cook, my family has left-overs the next night, followed by a night of cooking a different meal. And the cycle repeats. This requires me to cook only 3-4 times per week. The benefits are great for your wallet, but also rewarding with more quality family time, rather than time spent over a hot stove.
5. Make A List. I stand by to-do lists and grocery lists. It’s like having an organized visual of my thoughts. Making a list and sticking to the essentials will help to avoid those impulse buys that accumulate dollar signs (and buyer’s remorse) during check-out. And being armed with a well-devised list, you can kiss last minute “Oops, I forgot something” runs to the store goodbye!
6. Alternate Organic with Regular Items. Like so many others I know, I threw my grocery budget to the wind and jumped on the organic band wagon at one point…but the reality of doubling my spending left my checkbook feeling pretty depressed. But after counseling my budget and consoling my wallet, I derived to a new plan of action- and alternating was my simply profound solution. Some weeks, I purchase organic meat and vegetables, but buy regular snack food and cereals. Another week, I buy regular meats and purchase the organic granola bars and frozen yogurt. Organic items seldom go on sale, so it is important to mix and match.
7. Mix and Match Fresh with Frozen/Canned. The key to buying fresh ingredients on a budget is buying in-season. During the summer, I love taking advantage of the beautiful blueberries, strawberries and melon. In winter months, if I crave a delicious fruit smoothie, I purchase frozen fruit to keep cost down. As I make meals throughout the week, I alternate making fresh vegetables, like freshly roasted garlic asparagus one evening with canned carrots with a homemade ginger glaze for another night.
8. Limit the Purchase of Beverages. Pop and juice not only wreak havoc on your body, but your budget as well. Buying a couple liters of pop and juice can easily wipe out 10-15% of the total budget. Even bottled water can add an unnecessary expense- consider buying a personal water bottle to re-use instead.
9. Don’t Be Fooled by Sales. Red- sticker savings usually give the illusion of getting a deal, but sometimes, a sale may be taking advantage of you instead of you taking advantage of a sale. Watch for the items labeled “Buy Two for…” Some of these savings only add up to a matter of pocket change, so you basically got duped into doubling your purchase spending. Sometimes it saves to not “save.”
The Humble Homemaker