In this economy, I think saving money is an area of interest to everyone. One way I have been able to cut my grocery bill over 60% is by menu planning.
As Kimi has posted before, you can save money just by preparing creative meals out of what you have on hand. For me, this works great since our freezer is normally filled with garden produce and I buy my staples in bulk. But, this was not always the case!
When my husband, John and I were first married, we lived off his stipend while he was in graduate school. It was quite challenging and made budgeting a necessity. With our family just starting, one large dish could last the whole week so, my meal planning consisted of deciding which ONE casserole to cook for the week. These economical meals not only saved money but also my time! Variety was not so much an issue with my husband (provided it wasn’t bad), but I tried to make sure each dish was nutritious and microwaveable!
After graduate school was completed, we moved to lower Alabama and enjoyed a lucrative job. As our income increased, so did our grocery budget – only it increased dis-proportionally! Before I knew it, we were spending $800 per month on food. Granted, we had 8 children at the time but I thought this was excessive and wanted to decrease the amount – I considered it a challenge.
One problem for me is frequent unplanned trips to the store. Frequent trips encourage impulsive buying and falling prey to convenient processed foods. So, I have made the conscious decision to shop on a monthly basis except for fresh produce. But, to implement monthly shopping, you must have a menu plan!
To begin my menu plan, I first made a list of all the homemade meals that we enjoy. Then, using a blank calendar, I filled in meals for the whole month. I placed it and others like it into a plastic sleeve and displayed it on my frig. So, at a glance, I would know what was for dinner. This also helps to know what preparation needs to be done, such as, soaking grains or beans.
Next, came a monthly shopping list. Checking my pantry first, I made a shopping list according to the recipes on my monthly menu. This was a bit overwhelming at first, but the results were well worth the effort. By simply planning meals for a month and shopping accordingly, I was able to lower our food bill to $400. That was a 50% savings!
Now, if you are really serious about lowering your food budget, you can further tweak the menus by figuring out the cost per serving of each individual recipe. Yes, this takes more time and effort, but what else do we mothers have to do? I found that by expanding my recipe collection to include additional, more economical meals (red beans and rice was added) I further cut expenses to $300. This was not as big a jump, but the result was less expense with healthier variety.
Now, with 7 children still at home, and the other 3 frequenting our dinner table with their own families, my meal planning revolves around eating out of our three freezers (2-25 cu ft and 1-17 cu ft). We are blessed with a very productive garden and we raise our own cows for grass-fed beef (which we butcher ourselves for additional savings). Our family milk cow provides plenty of raw milk from which we make our own yogurt, kefir and cheese. We normally prepare a healthy breakfast, have our biggest meal at lunchtime (thanks to the farming lifestyle) and a light dinner. Even with the family growth, I am able to spend less than $400 per month on food.
While menu planning does take more time initially, for our family, it has saved money on our grocery bill while providing variety and a guide for the preparations needed for upcoming meals.
Hi, I am Dina-Marie, the mother of 10 children, 7 of whom are still at home. I live in West Texas with my husband who also happens to be my best friend. We decided to make a lifestyle change in 2008 and left the corporate world of southern Alabama and moved to West Texas. We now have 27 acres of grapes, 2 family milk cows, chickens and raise our own beef. Working the vineyard together as a family is hard work but very rewarding.
Moving to West Texas to begin a vineyard has brought many changes including a return to health through the GAPS diet, learning about “real” food and becoming a chapter leader for the Weston A. Price Foundation.
Cooking REAL food for a large family has been challenging and fun. I love trying new recipes and sharing them with others. I have a passion to spread the healing potential of real traditional food, as well as, to encourage others with a nutrient dense diet and simple family living.
I would love to have you follow our adventure in real food and vineyard life at my blog, Cultured Palate.
Latest posts by Dina-Marie Oswald (see all)
- Old Fashioned Boiled Custard - September 20, 2013
- Frugal & Delicious Italian Pasta Salad (plus 10 other pasta and pasta sauce recipes!) - August 2, 2013
- How a mother of many uses meal planning to keep food costs down dramatically - May 30, 2013