Feeding a family is never cheap. Creating a meal plan for your family can help you reduce the amount of money which you need to budget for food without skimping on your family's nutritional needs. Saving money on your family's meals can be done with a little extra research and planning before hitting the grocery store. Some quick meal tricks can even make cheap meals appealing.
Planning a schedule of meals to follow for a week or even a month can help cut down on meal costs in a number of ways. On weekly shopping trips you'll be able to purchase every ingredient you need for the next week's meals, cutting down gas costs. Besides gas costs, planning your meals ahead of time can also cut down on grocery costs, as less trips to the grocery store also means less spontaneous purchases on ingredients you don't need.
Cooking from Scratch
Cans of soup and spaghetti sauce may only cost a dollar or two, but cooking these items from scratch will let you make more for less money. For a few dollars worth of canned tomatoes, a few tablespoons of herbs and a vegetable or two, you can create at least a few cans worth of spaghetti sauce. Other food items which can be cheaper to make in large quantities from scratch include pizza sauce, mashed potatoes and macaroni and cheese.
Meat is one of the more expensive food staples that families buy for dinner most days of the week. Stretching out your meat purchases will keep food costs down too. Purchase cheaper beef cuts, such as top round or chuck, instead of sirloin and strip steak; you can marinate these tougher cuts to make them more tender. Using meat in shish kabobs with other grilled vegetables or cutting steaks into slices and complementing them with cheaper sides is another way to stretch your meat purchases.
Purchasing food items in bulk reduces food costs as the price per pound or ounce of food is typically lower for large, bulk items than for smaller packages. Items which can typically be bought in bulk include staples like potatoes, rice and pasta. Read through grocery store inserts in your newspaper or from other local publications to find any bulk sales which your store might be offering. You might be able to pick up extra bulk by checking the weight of different bulk bags; sometimes, a bulk bag of potatoes marked at 10 lbs. might actually contain a few extra pounds of potatoes.
Implement your money saving meal plan by doing some research and completing some paperwork which will help with organizing your meal plan and food inventory. Take stock of all food items you have in your fridge, freezer and pantry and make an inventory to be kept in an easily accessible place. This will cut down on buying too many spices or other food supplies which are sparingly used. Create a meal calendar which maps out your meal plan for the time period which you have planned ahead. Using your meal calendar and food inventory, create a shopping list which will satisfy all of your food needs for the upcoming week without purchasing extra food which might be thrown out.