Every parent starts racking their brain on the cheapest way to feed their family when they step into their local Kroger store. But for the best results, budget your cash before you even step into your local grocery store. With the right strategy, you can save some money while getting your family stuffed. In this article, I’m share 7 ways to feed the family on a budget.
Why Feed the Family on a Budget
About 138,000 households with children in Kentucky weren’t eating enough in a week as they couldn’t afford enough food. That’s one of many states that were struggling during the pandemic’s peak. It was a struggle to put food on the table during those times due to how unstable the economy was, but the issue is still happening now.
In September 2023, food prices were 3.7% higher than they were the year before. With wages stagnant since 1973, it’s tricky to keep up with the current economy. However, health is also wealth, so it’s important to keep the meals coming for your spouse and children.
How to Feed the Family on a Budget
So really, what’s the trick for feeding the family while on a budget? If there are no options to increase income and you’re stretched as it is, the best way is to be selective and intentional with your funds while contemplating what to it.
1. Get a Meal Plan Ready
One of the biggest reasons why families go over budget is because they decide to order in versus cooking. The average meal at home costs around $4, which is quite a save compared to $13 per meal when eating out. It can vary depending on the dish, but the principle of feeding on a budget is to avoid surprise expenses and to have a meal plan.
A meal plan refers to a system of deciding the meals in advance. This typically takes your family’s food preferences and allergies into account when planning. Other strategies include:
- Think of What’s in Season. Food, vegetables, and produce are typically more affordable when you buy them in season since they’re sourced from local farms. Consider tracking what food is in season and basing your meals on that.
- Consider Ingredient Use. When you buy a tray of eggs, it’s more cost-effective to have a variety of recipes that use up the produce. You can also consider buying a rotisserie chicken and dividing it into parts for different dishes throughout the week.
- Track Your Inventory. Condiments and spices are essential to make meals delicious, but they can get out of hand if you buy two bottles of the same ingredient. Look at your pantry and see if there are any products that you don’t have to restock on just yet.
2. Look Out for Deals
Buying in bulk can help with saving time and ensuring that your kitchen is well-stocked, but its biggest impact is on your wallet. When you’re getting your groceries, keep an eye out for buy-one-take-one deals and other packages of a similar nature. Just remember to not overbuy in the process, as panic purchases can do more harm than good for your family’s budget.
3. Search Up Substitutes
Using substitute food is a smart strategy vegetarians and vegans use on a day-to-day basis. This approach is also helpful for other households who may want to be more frugal when cooking. For instance, a recipe might call for balsamic vinegar. Since it can go for around $100 a bottle, try a substitute like brown rice vinegar instead.
4. Head to the Frozen Aisle
Fresh food is always great to cook with, but there’s a certain urgency to cook it right away. One example is how raw fish and shellfish tend to have a short shelf life of one or two days. If you want this protein in your fridge, buy frozen fish instead if you’ve found an attractive deal. You get to save money while bagging the seafood your family wants.
5. Cook for the Week Ahead
Run meal preparation for the rest of the week. This can serve as an alternative to getting frozen food or as a standalone strategy in your meal planning system. By cooking and refrigerating the portions, you can ensure that no food goes bad right away.
6. Arrange Food by Expiration
If you find that food has expired before you even notice it, that’s money down the drain. Be more deliberate when arranging your food in your kitchen. Move what’s closer to expiring forward to see it upon opening the cabinets and fridge and incorporate it into your food right away.
7. Repurpose the Leftovers
When you’ve reheated food but your family can’t seem to finish it, search for ways to repurpose it. Look at them as ingredients instead. Beef chili and beans may seem less exciting when reheated, but if you add veggies and a soft tortilla, it turns it into a scrumptious wrap.
Get the Family Full for Cheap
With larger families, big eaters and potential visitors, there’s much to keep in mind when constructing a budget. It can take a bit of finesse and mindfulness, but knowing that it’s possible despite how unpredictable food prices are is a nice glimmer of hope. Try out the tips and see how much you can save!