I was recently asked about how I budget for and plan our meals, and so I thought I’d answer that question right here. Part One will cover the budget part of the question, and Part Two will cover how I plan out the meals.
As far as the budget goes, I know the dollar amount that our family can live on. I could easily spend more, but right now, I’m so thankful for what we have. There was a time when it was much less than it is now. God truly has provided what we need as our children have grown and consumed more. Once in a while, I need to set aside some of my weekly money to plan ahead for a larger purchase-like our co-op order, or our CSA payments. Those weeks, I just get more creative-usually meaning we eat one more meat-less meal. As I was thinking through our budget, I became kind of curious as to what the average grocery bill is here in the United States.
The USDA Food Plan in 2011 says that on the Thrifty Plan (there are four different plans-from Thrifty to Liberal), our family (2 adults, 4 teenagers, and one preteen) would spend 267.70/week on food. And while I would love to increase our grocery budget to that amount, at this time I cannot. I spend 180.00 a week on food. So, I guess that means we are on the “Even Thriftier” plan. And I can live with that.
Because the children (with the exception of our eldest son) do school here at home with me, I am feeding our family three meals a day, Sunday through Friday. On Saturday, we eat two meals-a nice brunch and a large dinner.
So, how do I feed all these hungry kids while staying within a budget?
- We eat two meatless meals a week, usually beans and rice, topped with chopped vegetables, cheese, sour cream and salsa.
- I purchase a lot of my food in bulk, which saves money and assures that there is always something healthy available.
- My children do not drink milk every day.
- We eat cold cereal only once a week.
- We drink juice only once a week.
- The snacks that I always keep on hand are carrots with homemade ranch dip and popcorn. We also make muffins for snack.
- We use whole grain flour most of the time-the fiber is more filling and satisfying, not to mention the health benefits.
- I shop at Aldi, which saves me a tremendous amount of money. For instance, they just started selling the individual Greek yogurts with pineapple or peaches for only 84 cents. I still usually buy the larger container of Greek yogurt, but compared to buying the individual yogurts with fruit at Copps, it is a huge savings.
- We do not make desserts-unless it is someone’s birthday!! : )
- I’ve started making my own bread again. That is actually one of my goals for this year. We have lots of wheat berries, and I want to be a good steward of what God has given us.
- I make most of our food from scratch.
- I usually divide the amount of meat called for in a recipe in half. I rarely notice the difference.
- I try not to waste ANYTHING. We eat up all our food.
- We don’t keep soda in our house. We most always drink water at meals. (I’m so thankful for the nice tasting tap water here!)
As I read through this list, I almost think “oh, how depressing!”, but I promise you, it isn’t. We love treats-my husband and son make killer chocolate chip cookies-and there is always something yummy hanging around in the house. I use good quality ingredients, and insist on wonderful meals. My children are healthy, and I am overweight-so the food situation in our house isn’t all that depressing!
So, that’s the budget side of meals at our house. What are some of the ways that you save money and stay within your grocery budget? I’d love to hear your ideas!