How to Feed a Family of Six on $200

Fresh fruits and vegetables are important for your diet.
Fresh fruits and vegetables are important for your diet. (Image: Jupiterimages/ Images)

The average American family of four spent between $509 and $988 per month on groceries in 2009, according to the United States Center for Nutrition Policy and Promotion. But the average family of six needs much more and many families struggle with managing their food budgets. Feeding a family of six on $200 per month is possible, but it requires some creativity, sacrifices and diligence. A combination of planning, deep discounts and stocking up can ease the process.

Conduct a review of your family's food intake. Make sure you are sticking to a diet rich in nutrients and proteins. Visit the U.S. Department of Agriculture's website to review food groups and their value. Adjust your family's food intake if you consume empty calories or large portions. Trim your servings, if necessary, to ensure each member receives the minimum amount of vegetables, proteins and other nutrients.

Cut back on expensive sources of protein such as red meats. The recommended serving of protein varies from 2 to 6 ounces per day depending on age and gender. For example, a family of six in which each member needs 5 ounces of protein per day could get a little over nine meals from three pounds of meat. But ground beef, pork and other meats are expensive. Purchase the equivalent protein in servings of beans, fish, peas and poultry.

Collect coupons and other discount offers. You can locate coupons in your local newspaper, on the back or inside of items you have purchased or at your favorite grocery store.

Contact your favorite grocery store to ask about coupon "double days." Many grocery stores double or triple manufacturer coupons up to a specified amount. For example, if you find a coupon for $1 off, you could receive the item for $2 or $3 off. Your local grocery store can give you the details on its program including the dates. Try to do your major shopping on double days.

Create a listing of grocery items from your collection of coupons. You can separate your coupons into categories, such as starches, proteins and beverages. Starting a list without your coupons will not provide the greatest savings.

Visit your grocery store's website and download its weekly sales page. Record sale items that are buy-one, get-one free or deeply reduced. Add items from the sales page to your grocery list.

Plan your meals at least one week ahead. Create a meal plan from your coupon-generated grocery list. For example, if you have coupons for beverages, mashed potatoes and a vegetable, you can add a protein and have a complete meal. Meal planning reduces your expenses by culling the urge to eat fast food and helping you select the most inexpensive ingredients.

Create a price list while you shop. Your price list should include the total price for products you use a lot. Armed with a price list before shopping, you can review the list before you make your next trip.

Provide the cashier with any club discount cards and coupons. Make sure you review your receipt before you leave the store to make sure your discounts were applied.

Use measuring cups and a food scale to make sure your servings are appropriate. This helps you to conserve food while ensuring everyone gets a fair portion.

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