Let's talk meal plans. I have an app that I subscribe to called deals to meals. It's five dollars a month, I have to pull ot up every time I use it and have forgotten about it, I'll leave it on my reader now. E I think it was interesting that they took ordinary food that I already cook and gave it fancy names. I just cook. Plain and simple cook. I add seasonings, etc, but have never thought to add fancy names to make things look more interesting, Cheeseburger macaroni is goulash? A rice medley is rice pilaf? Go figure.
I am trying to write on a level that everyone, regardless of their educational experience, can understand, Eating for four dollar or less a day is a lesson in frugality, and imagination. No, you don't have to imagine the food! LOL. But, Pinterest and on line cookbooks are full of new ways to cook old food. It's getting down to basics. Junk food and processed food is for the most part not part of this life. That's a good thing. That kind of food , everyone will admit , is not good for you.
It forces you to buy basics and cook basics. Every family has their favorites and I can't address ethnic foods, because it's not my expertise. I can not address the basics that I know. Still, the basics of eating on the cheap is based on shopping wisely with every tool you can legitimately use to make good food happen in your dinner table.
I say legitimately. Obvious midnight gardening from your neighbors garden isn't legitimate.
There is a fine line. Some things are legal, but not ethical. I bought eight boxes of sale cereal this week. For my own use, it would not be ethical. We can't use eight boxes of cereal,they would go
to waste, and someone else who needed them would not get them, Truth is, I bought them for children that needed food. ( basically a food bank) . That changes the rules.
You have to adhere to the coupon rules. Many stores have rules. When I wanted to buy multiples of tuna, I asked before if I could because they were going to basically a food bank. If I was purchasing them for our use, I would have honored the six limit. Cheating the system just hurts someone else. You are allowed two coupons per household when downloading from your computer. Some greedy people will have more than one printer set up and print multiples. It's somewhat legal, but not ethical.
We don't need to take more than we can use before it goes bad. Check the shelf life and judge accordingly based on the amount you family will eat in a given week. I tend to stick more heavy than some, I'm paying 50-70 percent less than a normal price for things. No bank or safe investment I know will give me 50 percent on my money, Some seniors on medicare hit the donut hole : that's where you have used their limit on meds including your copay, and the med bill is on you. One of my meds is 530.00 a month. If I stock high, we can eat from the pantry and have the money for the meds.
Don't buy something just because its on sale. Identify the things you need to make the normal meals you cook. Write a list. For is it is, black olives. Diced tomatoes , beans, rice, some chicken noodle soup, some boxed tomato soup, pasta, instant mashed potatoes, dried beans, minced milk peppers, small tomato sauce, ramen noodles. Green beans, small amount of corn.,
Some things I just replace when I'm down to two and start looking for a sale, Some things like catchup and baking supplies, I buy seasonably - enough for the year because they are at their lowest price once a year. Some things I have allocated a certain amount of shelf space and when I see white shelf, it's time to look for a sale.
Being flexible with your meals based on a really good sale helps. I found sausage on a buy 5 things, save five dollars sale. It was legitimately 2.99. Less a dollar made it 1.99- the deal turner eas that it had a dollar instant coupon on it. That made enough meat for two of us for a meal .50. It doesn't get much cheaper than that unless you count the free one we got last week.
I do try to limit our processed meats to once a week or less.
Incorporating what on sake and produce in season goes a long way to reducing your food bill.