It's getting harder and harder to put a dinner on the table for five bucks. ( the dinner, not the plate). The average per person allotment for SNAP ( food stamps) is 125.00 per person per month. That is the latest stats for 2013. Since then, they have cut food stamps I think. It all has to start at the grocery store.
Groceries on the cheap takes a different approach to buying groceries. Instead of going to the store and buying just what you need for the week, you identify the staples you family needs to make your typical meals and buy them in bulk at rock bottom prices. After you are up and running, you never have an empty pantry and you have spent half as much money. This takes a little planning, but once you are set up it is actually less hectic. You are never running out of something and having to run to the store on the middle of cooking dinner.
- Identify the inexpensive sources of protein your family will eat. I used to use two dollars for a benchmark, That is getting pretty hard to do. I am probably up to 2.50.
- Write down 7-14 entrees that you can make from these sources. Fourteen is better for variety. I use a matrix of 2 beef, 2 chicken or pork, 2 vegetarian, and one fish or shellfish. Your matrix may be different.
- Now, establish the staple ingredients that you need to cook these meals. At our house that is, diced tomatoes, corn, beans, green beans, instant mashed potatoes, pasta, pasta sauce ( hunts) tuna, chilli. I keep mixed veggies, French fries, and meat in the freezer.
- Find the cheapest price that these staples cost on a rock bottom sale. In the fall, the new crops are being canned or frozen and often you get the best buys. RBP is rock bottom price. When you find a sale, buy a) as many as the store will let you, b) as many as you can afford to buy or c) as many as you need to bring yourself up to your self regulated unit, whichever comes first. I keep six months supply of key things. Many people keep 8-12 weeks supply. Many sales go in a 8-12 week cycle.
- When the store ads come out, I take a piece of printer paper out of the recycle and separate it into sections for each store. I wrote down what is in sale of our staple things and perishables that fill out the food groups. Cross off anything that is higher than at another store and check your coupons for any that apply. Cross off anything you don't need or need to replenish. Some weeks there will be no staples, some weeks a lot. Don't try to stay to a weekly budget per say, but be mindful of how much you are over or short of your weekly target. I keep a spread sheet of the week and the stores total.
- There are coupon matchup sites on the Internet, they match up sales in your area with coupons in the paper and on line. ( another topic later)
- Now pick the two best stores. Go with your list, get your list and get out of the store. The more time you spend at the store, the more money you will spend. The more people tat go with you, the more you will spend. If you are hungry, you will spend more. Stick to a list and only deviate if there is an unadvertised special on what you normally buy. One time I walked into QFC and found chickens for .50 a pound. I took them home and cooked them.
- Pick the "loss leader" of protein for the week and buy enough bulk for that protein for a month. Rotate the meats. When you get home, cook it if appropriate, and/or break it down to meal sized portions. This is a lot more efficient and saves money/ no waste.
- Our Fred Meyer ( Kroger) has a rotation for dairy. I just get a months supply of anything with a good pull date. Milk doesn't last that long, but sour cream and eggs do. Costco is another good place for dairy.
- Don't overlook non traditional grocery stores. I find good buys at the dollar store, big lots ( overstock store) , the grocery outlet, and sometimes the drug store. I can't emphasize enough to know your prices. My mother had an expression, " some people wouldn't know a bargain if it got up and bit them in the butt!" Don't be that person!!!
- You have to stay on or under budget, you don't have to waste money!
- There is no place for ready made food and mixes ( with few exceptions ) and snack foods in a bare bones budget. Stick to real food. Popcorn is a good snack if made in a air popper. Also small apples are food for kids. They are usually cheap in a bulk bag. Muffins are easy to make and you can make minis or regular ones. Children can help.
- Children can also help rotate stock so that the oldest is in front.
That's about all
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