A great way to save money is to use the resources you have on hand to their full potential. This works really well with making the most of your grocery budget. The average family throws out quite a bit of left over and spoiled food, which equates to throwing away money! Now I’m not suggesting that you serve your family leftovers everyday for dinner, but just that you be a little creative when managing your family’s grocery budget.
Many people find menu planning very helpful, I personally don’t menu plan too rigidly, but I do have an overall idea of what we’ll eat for the week’s dinners. After writing down a rough idea of meals for the week, I write a list of what items I need to buy. I base my menu plan on what vegies I have in the garden at the moment and what meat we have in the freezer. For example, if I have a glut of eggs at the moment, you can bet that quiche and some egg custard may appear on the table this week. Planning is probably the most effective tool in trying to save on your grocery budget.
Another really effective way to keep your food bill down is to cook most things from scratch. This is a huge money saver, plus you probably end up with better quality, better tasting and healthier food. This is a skill that can be learned over time, just plan to master one or two recipes to begin with and then build on that. Just set a goal of making baby steps toward the goal of doing more home cooking.
Over the last couple of years I’ve gradually switched to doing a main grocery shop once per month, with just little top ups for fresh items like fruit, veg and milk, usually once per week. I keep all the receipts for food purchases and keep a running total in order to stick to our budget for food for the year. I find working in quarters really helpful, that way if I buy a bulk order of meat from my local butcher it doesn’t blow the weekly budget. I just make sure that for each three month segment we don’t spend more than a quarter of our annual food budget. I used to work this out monthly, but found quarterly a better system since, I make large bulk meat orders. We grow some of our own fruit and veg, which save us heaps of money. We still have to buy some fruit and veg to supplement what we grow. I try to stick to buying fruit and veg that is in season, rather that paying high prices for things that are out of season. Unfortunately, as much as I love the idea of a milk cow that just isn’t practical for our little quarter acre!
Now back to using what you have on hand, don’t be afraid to substitute ingredients to use up what you have in the cupboard. For instance I just made a marshmallow and jam slice in order to use up half a packet of marshmallows, which have been in the cupboard since Thanksgiving. The recipe called for strawberry jam, but instead I used some homemade plum jam, which I had in the pantry. The slice turned out just great! The smallest of changes can really add up to big savings, and the grocery budget is a great place to make huge savings in the overall family budget.