I've been thinking about the best way to post about this topic and after having my first draft erased by Maggie I've decided to break it up in to sections. I get a little overwhelmed at thought of giving advice because I am no expert and chances are you are the one that should be giving me advice but none the less I will share some of my thoughts on the subject.
This last year has been our hardest financially that we've ever had. I've really had to get my sh*t together so that we made our money stretch as far as possible. It has taught me a lot. To be honest, I'd rather have loads of money and be able to buy whatever I wanted at the grocery store, eat out, buy a coffee now and again and many other things but what would I learn from that? ;) It's challenging being on a tight budget and I totally understand how families take the easy way out and end up at a fast food place ordering off the $1 menu. I've had some really low points over the last 6 months and I've fed the family some things I'm not too proud of but in the words of Susan Powder I decided to "Stop the insanity!". Just because we can't spend as much at the store as we used to doesn't mean I have throw all my standards out the window. I just have to approach the situation from a new direction.
If you are truly on a tight budget my #1 tip is- don't eat out. I know, this is kind of a no brainer but it's true. We never go to restaurants and the couple times we have I left feeling sick. Not because of the food but because I just spent the equivalent of a weeks worth of groceries on one meal. Even fast food, which seems less expensive, really isn't. For example, two pizzas from Little Caesar's is about $11. That seems really cheap but for a couple dollars more I could buy a whole organic chicken and some vegetables and have dinner and leftovers for my husband to take for lunch the next day. Most importantly you aren't eating a bunch of GMOs and artificial crap and that is priceless!
Another money saving thing I've always done is not catering to my kids. By that I mean, I don't make separate food for them. They either eat what is for dinner or they don't eat. In today's day that may sound harsh but I don't have the time or money to be making special little kid meals along with an adult dinner. I attempt to make things that everyone likes but with 5 kids someone is usually disappointed with the menu.
I always make enough so that we have leftovers which can be taken for lunch the next day or used in some way for breakfast. Leftover veggies are delicious chopped up and added to an egg scramble. Chicken bones can be saved and used to make stock and leftover meats can be added to soup the next night. I just made chicken stock last week and freezed half of it and am using the rest of it for Crock Pot chicken soup tonight.
As much as I fought the Crock Pot, I finally gave in and started using one. So far I've made lots of beans, chicken stock and chicken noodle soup. And have you noticed everyone calls it a "slow cooker" now? Hmmm, I guess slow cooker sounds more foodie than crock pot. haha! I'm not sure using the Crock Pot is a money saver but it's certainly a time saver!
My last and most important bit of advice for today, is meal planning. I can't stress how much it money and time it saves. I'll sit down on Sunday and plan the next week's menu and write out a shopping list. I don't have a fancy book or an app on my phone or anything, I just use a piece of paper with each day's meal written on it and put it up on the fridge. I try to make at least one new recipe a week because if we continuously eat the same things everyone gets really burnt out on them. Last week I made 4 new recipes and 3 were amazing! I haven't been meal planning for very long but man I wish I had started years ago!
What are some of your tips? Do you meal plan?