Grocery Geek Q&A: Reducing Grocery Spending

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Grocery budgets are tight. How can you trim the bill?

Reducing Grocery Spending - Grocery budgets are tight. How can you trim the bill?

Sarah wrote in with the following dilemma:

I currently live in a four person household (five if you count my dog). I am the only female, I live with three males, my husband and two sons (age 8 and 11).

I have currently whittled my budget down to 200 dollars every two weeks but that DOES NOT count additional stops for bananas (every two days we go through three bunches), milk or bread. I often double or sometimes triple meals and I am lucky if I have enough to put together one lunch for my husband the next day. I stretch with vegetables or pasta wherever I can (or you know the odds and ends that can stretch a meal out if you get real creative).

I find that the bigger meals (and the fact that they seem to be ALWAYS EATING) really busts my budget. I also bake often (five out of seven days a week) and make double or triple batches of pancakes, french toast, baked eggs that I can rewarm and fill in with smoothies or salads. I can’t crock soup anymore because it’s just too hot and really not soup weather.

Both my husband and I work full time and my paycheck alone is what pays for us to eat. How can I whittle it down even more and still have healthy meals that fill them? Or am I expecting too much? Please can you help me?

What a great question! This is a challenge that I think many of us have faced or are currently facing. In a nutshell: your family consumes more food than you are prepared to purchase.

So, let’s look at this methodically:

1. Is this a realistic budget?

We’ve all heard about the people who live on $30 a week to feed a family of ten. It can be done, I believe, with some very savvy planning, shopping, and cooking. But, I don’t think we’re all cut out for that.

Are your numbers realistic? Obviously this is going to depend on where you live and what you have at your disposal. The USDA Food Cost Reports compute the cost of food to eat at home for your family on a THRIFTY plan to be $150.10 per week. So, already, you’re beating the national averages

This should make you feel better. You’re doing an awesome job with what you have!

That said, if you don’t have more, you don’t have more. And so you need to make do with what budget is available. However, if you just think it should be lower, but have some cash in reserve that you could spend toward food, then I’d feel okay about doing so, particularly as we are going to see even higher costs in the coming months due to the California drought.

Reducing Grocery Spending - Grocery budgets are tight. How can you trim the bill?

Vanilla Pear Brown Sugar Muffins


2. Have you done a grocery spending audit?

Last week I have y’all the lowdown on how to audit your grocery spending. This can be a great way to see where there are leaks in the ship. If you haven’t done so already, analyze how you’re spending. You may find something surprising.

3. Can you grow your own?

While the summer’s peak growing season is coming to a close, you’d be surprised how easily it is to grow fall crops, particularly things like lettuce, cabbage, and chard. These are full of nutrition and fiber, so you might be able to get a big bang for your buck.

4. Focus on cheap and filling ingredients.

Beans and rice do the job, and they are so versatile! Serve them hot as a rice bowl or burrito filling and cold as a salad. Risottos, creamy rice, chili, and bean soup are other good items to use those budget ingredients. Soup weather is approaching once again!

I often lean on eggs for a super cheap protein. They, too, offer you lots of options.

Be sure to check out my new cookbook which is jam-packed with family-friendly recipes based on regularly cheap ingredients.

5. Check out other sourcing.

Check the other grocery stores in your area. I have a few favorite stores that I always go to, but it’s good to reevaluate your sources. Competing stores may have changed their marketing tactics since you last visited. Check to see what good deals they are offering to see if you can buy a few things there and lower your costs.

Believe it or not, Freecycle and Craigslist may have listings for cheap or even free produce. See what’s available in your area, particularly if it’s more agricultural.

6. Are they really hungry?

We live in a nation of plenty. While hunger is a real problem in many places, it’s typically not an issue in most of our homes. Sometimes kids eat because they are bored or thirsty. Consider whether or not your kids are really hungry and of course feed them! But, if it’s possible that they are snacking as a form of entertainment, feel free to curb that or at least limit it to low-cost bulk snacks like popcorn or carrot sticks.

Reducing Grocery Spending - Grocery budgets are tight. How can you trim the bill?

These tips are certainly not exhaustive. There are lots of other ways that you can offset costs: baking and cooking more from scratch, using coupons, buying in bulk, and freezer cooking are other techniques that I’ve used over the years to help us trim the budget.

Sometimes, you just need to cut yourself some slack. Perhaps you can cut the cable or cancel the gym membership in order to buy yourself some more margin in the food budget.

So, those are my “short answers”. Obviously, I could write a whole book on how to save money on food costs.

What advice do YOU have for Sarah?

About Jessica Fisher

I believe anyone can prepare delicious meals—no matter their budget.

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  1. Nia says

    Yes, if you haven’t found the cheapest stores in your area, it will be a big help to do so. The cheapest I have access to is WinCo foods,but before I moved Sav-A-Lot worked to save money on groceries. Also, if you have access to a 99 only store, or Dollar Tree, you can buy bread along with friuts and veggies for cheaper than a grocer. I’ve never found 3 – 5 pounds of taters for one dollar at a grocer nor a loaf of bread. If poosible, add homemade bread loaves to the list on baking day. I’ve found that we remain full longer when eating homemade vs bread at the store. Rely heavily on beans if possible, bean burgers (Tammy’s recipes has a good one), bean nachos with toppins you love, bean toastadas,bean & cheese burritos. If you buy yogurt, try making that yourself in the crockpot, you can make a whole gallon of yogurt for price of 1 or 2 (32 oz) containers. If there are plugs in your garage or patio, you could plug your crockpot there instead of the kitchen to keep your home cool.

    • In the old days I could get a 10-bag of potatoes on sale for 69 cents at the holidays. I miss the good old days….

  2. Patti Reis says

    Great tips! So for me personally, I have adapted my philosophy about food so that I spend a higher proportion of income on food and less on non-essentials, including clothing, things for the house, things that are going to get tossed in the garbage (that covers a broad range of items and also satisfied my environmentally conscious side), and entertainment. To me personally, THOSE are not as important as real, whole food to feed my family well and keep them healthy. You can also look at even monthly blls to see whether you can reduce your cable, phone, internet, water, or other bills based on usage (or by reducing usage).

    Assuming you are happy with the way you allocate your household budget, I would only add a few things to what Jessica has said (and I probably got a few of these from her, lol).

    First of all, a quick word about soup: there are plenty of lighter, broth-based and even chilled soups that are great in warm weather! Use seasonal vegetables and plan your cooking time so you aren’t using the stove or crock pot (which heat up the kitchen a lot less than the oven) during the hottest times of day (maybe put it on overnight, turn it off in the morning and just re-heat in the early evening – I actually leave it in the crock pot til I reheat because I know I will bring it to a boil again!)

    PLAN to use your leftovers. That means, if you are roasting a whole chicken one day, plan to make a chicken pot pie, enchiladas, or pasta bake or casserole with the leftovers.

    Shop your fridge/pantry/freezer each week before you make your meal plan so you know you are using things that are close to expiration – you can also save money at the store that week if you use what you already have!

    Ingredients that are seemingly expensive can sometimes add a LOT of flavor with just a little bit used and can bulk out a meal a bit. Kalamata or other olives and sundried tomatoes come to mind. They are both salty so you don’t need a lot, and olives have a good vegetable fat that is very satisfying, the kind of fat we need. You can add to them to lots of dishes! Start with pastas. (And speaking of fat, I know we tend to shy away from them but they can actually fill us up better if used sparingly. A dollop of real cream to thicken a sauce or soup, a slice of good cheese with your soup, those can really help satisfy the family.)

    Finally, fill up with unexpected things. I’ll fill out a meal with chilled watermelon, grapes, etc. A veggie platter with ranch or whatever dips your family likes can be a great way to use up veggies. Vegetables and fruits that have a high water content (like watermelon and cucumber) or are very high in fiber (like pears and carrots) can surprisingly fill you up quite a bit! If you’re buying fruits and veggies in season or on sale, they can be a cheaper option (because you don’t have to eat as much to feel full) than processed carbs like bread.

  3. Maureen says

    You work full time. You bake and cook wholesome meals for two growing boys and a husband for a little over $100 per week. I want to give you a medal, not a more restrictive budget. I have my doubts about 10 member families who spend $30 per week on food. Often those are the families, when audited, who eat 4 meals a week at grandma’s house and have popcorn for dinner on the other nights.
    Moderation in all things. You are a hero to me, as is Jessica. Both of you put so much hard work and care into your meals and snacks that it amazes me. Our son is grown and living away from home, but as he grew nothing was more important to our family than proper nutrition. Pat yourself on the back and keep up the exemplary work.

  4. Jessica says

    We’re in the get-a-handle-on-the-grocery-budget-or-else season as well. My strategies have involved two major things. First, lots more meatless suppers. Yes, we’d all love to have a giant burger every night–but that’s not gonna happen. I’ve been relying on veggie or pasta or rice or bean based meals. And the second ties into it and we call it “Eat what ya got.” That means eating seasonally, eating from the pantry and freezer and we have a large garden. Even though I might favor a little more variety, we’ve eaten about every form of zucchini you can imagine the last month or so. The benefit is that none of our hard garden work goes to waste, and it’s one more meal that I didn’t have to buy at the store.

    I also try to have a bit more of a “pioneer” mindset about food. Fancy dishes and multiple courses are better reserved for special occasions. A simple peasant dish of soup and homemade bread or beans and rice can really be comforting, nutritious and frugal if we don’t head into it feeling deprived.

  5. Jayne says

    Sounds like you are doing an awesome job of feeding two growing boys and two adults on that amount! When my son was a pre-teen, I was sure he could eat every hour on the hour and never get full, so I totally get it. But if you feel like you need to do more……. Try ethnic markets or farmers markets where produce is usually cheaper. When you double or triple your recipe, put the extra in the freezer before you put any on the table rather than freezing what’s left over. We also went through a phase when our kids were constantly grazing, (especially in the summer) sometimes just out of habit rather than hunger, so we added a bit more structure to snack time with a “closed kitchen” at other times, and that helped curb the extra intake. And I’ve been known to hide stuff I didn’t want to them to devour five minutes after I got home from the store. Ha! Keep up the good work!!

  6. Jennifer says

    I think you’re doing an amazing job!! Kudos to you for doing all of that and still working full-time! 🙂 I just have one tiny suggestion that may or may not help. I’m not sure where you live, but where we live, we have what is called ‘Market on the Move’ where you can get up to 60lbs of vegetables for $10 – here is the website:

    • I’ve never heard of that. Is it legit? Have you used it?

      • Jennifer says

        Yes, I have, multiple times. It may only be a local thing – I don’t know. The two things to note are that 1) they ‘sell’ out very quickly – you have to get there early and 2) you get what they have each week – there isn’t usually a whole lot of flexibility (but you can say, no, I don’t want that particular vegetable/fruit…), however they do list on their website what they expect to be offering each week. Hope this helps…

  7. Kris says

    Thanks for all your great tips! I am just starting off trying to budget for groceries and transition into making all my own meals. The link really helped give me an idea – thanks 🙂

  8. Sandi says

    When you make multiple batches of something, try putting it away (fridge/freezer) before you even serve the meal. Sometimes simply seeing there is more available (especially if it tastes good!) inspires people to eat more than they need. They will tell you if they are still hungry when everything is “gone”. I usually say to drink a glass of water and wait an hour, then see if you are still hungry. If so, here are the carrot sticks or apples or whatever.

    Personally, I’m impressed that you work FT, have the family, and still bake 5 of 7 days. I can usually only manage it about once a week.

  9. Tori says

    I have a family of 4 plus a cat. My husband and our 2 boys, ages 13 & 16. All 3 of my guys pretty much eat the same amount. We just moved across country from Oklahoma to North Carolina. While in Oklahoma my husband had a higher paying job, so our grocery budget was about $150, sometimes more, a week. We were bulk shopping at Sam’s Club and I was making pretty much everything from scratch. We always had food in the house, just never enough to make meals. We were always missing something. My boys were snacking all the time too! Hubby thought they were bored snacking cause of the lack of friends in the neighborhood to play with, I figured they were just growing boys. Since we’ve moved to North Carolina our budget has changed. I try very hard to stay as close to $100 a week as I can. I also have a monthly items budget of $55, for items that will last a month, such as Oat Meal, Biscuit Mix, mayo and the boys get ice pops ( cause its summer) that they have to share and make last for a month. I don’t shop at Sam’s Club or Wal-Mart. I shop at Food Lion. I buy items that are on sale and I can use a coupon for. Our meals are not super healthy at times and not always from scratch. But we are on a tight budget and have to do what we can do. I can fix spaghetti for less than $5 most of the time. I can make homemade hamburgers for dinner for less than $10. Some nights we might have hot dogs and chips or hot dogs and baked beans. We also throw in 15 bean soup and corn bread or pinto beans. I try to find on sale or buy generic (when I can and it tastes ok) to keep our dinners around $5 per meal. (NOT per person per meal, just per meal in general!) I can usually succeed if I throw in one or two breakfasts a week, spaghetti, stuff like that. We had biscuits, eggs and sausage gravy this week for dinner. I made the biscuits from scratch, (but not the gravy). We’ve had frito pie for around $5 once as well. The fritos were on sale 2 for $4 and I had a coupon for $1 off. Then I bought 2 cans of chili (used a coupon) and grated cheese was on sale 2 for $4. It may not be the healthiest, but its not terribly bad either. We found ground hamburger on sale, spent $10 but divided it into 4 meals and it made it $2.50 added to each meal.
    From my experience in Oklahoma and in North Carolina I have learned that cooking from scratch and bulk buying has its benefits, but so does shopping the sales ads and using coupons. All are great ways to help with the grocery budget. However, what works for one family might not work for another. And if you buy fresh veggies and fruit, or organic the cost goes up. So that’s not always an option for everyone.
    I would love to test the theory of gardening and how it can lower a grocery bill, I just don’t know how. I tried to garden in Oklahoma and failed miserably. But North Carolina looks promising. Just not sure how to get started, what to grow, how much to grow and what to do with it all once its grown.

    • cwaltz says

      I have a family of 6 and another cheap,easy meal I found was making a chicken teriyaki. I’d buy a pound and a half of chicken breasts, a bag of frozen deluxe stir fry from Walmart, 3 packages of Ramen(you don’t use the seasoning packet), and a jar of Soy Vay Teriyaki sauce. I’d boil the noodles while pan cooking the chicken. I’d add the vegetables after cooking the chicken and then toss it in 1/4 of the bottle of teriyaki sauce. I’d then add the noodles to the food. The frozen veggies are around $2, the ramen is less than 75 cents, the teriyaki sauce that you can usually get 3-4 uses from it is $4 and the chicken is around $4. It’s a little more expensive than your $5 meal but could be adapted for your under $10. When you start your garden you might want to first try your hand at an herb garden to start. Once you master it then add a veggie at a time. Good luck.

    • Good luck in your new locale!

    • Brighid says

      For gardening – if you’ve never gardened, I’d suggest calling your county Extension Service and talking with one of their gardening experts. They can tell you what will grow when, what type of soil you need, etc. They might also be able to connect you with some free, aged compost.

      That said, I’d try growing something that doesn’t need a lot of work, is expensive and your family likes. Herbs like basil, marjoram, thyme and mint are good choices. Mint is particularly easy and goes in so many things. You don’t have to wait until you get a vegetable or fruit since you’re just eating the leaves. Many pests don’t attack them.

      • Great gardening suggestions. Thanks!

      • Lizzy says

        Grow that mint in a container! Mint will take over because it spreads with rhizomes (they’re like little extra roots that grow horizontal to the ground and sprout more mint). This is true of all herbs in the mint family, lemon balm for example. Oregano also spreads that way. Happy Gardening!

    • Lizzy says

      Oh, I grew up in NC! Are you in coastal, Piedmont, or mountain region? I grew up with gardens, so here are some thoughts I have (from a former NC gardener). Green beans are pretty easy. You can plant them as soon as you’re out of danger for frost. Then you can continue planting new batches as frequently as you want through late summer. Yellow squash and zucchini are also easy. Plant only one or two plants until you get the feel for what you’ll do with the produce; they are prolific! They pretty much have the same growing season as green beans. The plants are a little more fragile, so I like to wait maybe an extra week after the beans. Green beans and the squash family also make very good companions in the garden (my indigenous ancestors grew them together). That’s where I would start. Freezing green beans is very easy. Boil some water. Blanch the beans for one minute. Immediately remove to cold water. Drain and pack in freezer bags or containers. Extra zucchini and squash are great under spaghetti sauce instead of noodles, or they can be grated and used in bread or muffins (yellow squash makes great “zucchini” bread). Happy Gardening!

  10. Danita says

    That link on food costs has been the most useful piece of info I have ever seen….I am spending must less than the lowest average… No wonder it feels like its never enough…it’s truly not! I have been looking for info on what is even realistic. Very helpful. Thank you.

    • Keep in mind those numbers are national averages and are for all meals eaten at home. See comment below.

  11. Sarah says

    Regarding the USDA thrifty plan: there is a lot that goes into that plan that explains why it is higher than many frugal families spend for groceries. It provides for 5 a day fruits and vegetables, high quality whole grains, reduced salt, low fat meats and dairy and some convenience foods. I don’t believe it’s as much based on what people are spending and more on what the data shows people should spend in order to provide a healthy diet for their families. That said, if you avoid convenience foods or some of the other items in the plan (i.e. boxed cereals, juices) you may be able to provide that healthy diet at an amount lower than the plan shows. The data is used to calculate amounts for food stamps allotments and may provide some insight into why some feel that food stamp allowances seem or sound high.

  12. Janet says

    I am curious ,how many of you count school lunch expenses in your grocery budget? On average, I spend $650 per month to feed a family of five – three adults, 10 and 12 year old daughters. In addition, we pay $60 a month for school lunch for the oldest daughter. My youngest prefers packing her lunch.

    • I don’t have school lunches to include, but we keep my husband’s work lunches separate. Some days he has cereal; some days he goes out to eat, but he’s usually very frugal.

  13. TSandy says

    I think you do a fabulous job already. When do you sleep? Your food budget is tight and you already do a superb job of budgeting. There’s very little room for improvement. One area I found is while bananas are healthy and a great snack I would try to limit those to 1-2 day per child. Bananas are expensive. Maybe substitute popcorn as a healthy, economical snack. Check locally and see if you don’t have a distributor for popcorn supplies in your area. This is a business that supplies other businesses with popcorn supplies. You can pick up a fabulous popping oil for under $10/gallon (twice that cost on Amazon). They also have 25-50 lb bags of popcorn cheap. Add a cheap box of Flavocol salt (about $5) and your popcorn will taste exactly like popcorn you buy at the movie theatre and Target. (I vacuum seal bulk popcorn in glass canning jars using my Food Saver machine and it keeps indefinitely.) For under $50 you would have probably 1-2 year’s worth of popcorn afternoon snacks for the kids. Backup would be Sam’s Club for popcorn. Maybe someone you know already shops at Sam’s Club. I know Costco doesn’t carry decent bulk popcorn supplies.

    I also recommend you check into Zaycon meat. I can’t touch their boneless skinless chicken breast prices anywhere else and that includes Costco. (Currently $1.89/lb in 40 lb boxes.) If your family eats lots of chicken Zaycon is the way to go. Be warned you trade some labor to save money. Buying in bulk 40 lb cases you have an hour’s worth of work trimming and freezing chicken breasts to save money. Again I use my Foodsaver and buy Weston Vacuum Sealer bags on Amazon in 100 count boxes. Those Weston bags are better quality than Foodsaver bags and cost half the price. They make Weston bags in three sizes and I keep all three sizes on hand at all times. If anyone signs up to Zaycon please do so through my affiliate link so I get a referral credit. It’s here I recommend Zaycon because I love the quality. I have been buying chicken breasts and 93/7 hamburger from Zaycon since early 2012 and I’ve never been disappointed. They have other meats but the hamburger and chicken breasts are my two standard purchases. Other than these two tips you do a far superior job than I at stretching your food budget. I hope your family appreciates how hard you work for them.

  14. Randi says

    We’re only a family of two, but I come from a very large family that struggled financially.

    My biggest tips (learned from my family, college and being married with a tight budget) are:
    1) limit meat. I substitute or stretch meat by means of beans, or textured vegetable protein (TVP). TVP is particularly good if you want to make spaghetti/”meat” sauce or a meatloaf with TVP as a filler. It’s very filling, and a little goes a long ways. I also do meatless meals a couple of days a week.

    2) Don’t be afraid of discounted meat. Use your noggin, if it looks or smells off, probably not worth the risk. But, that being said, I’ve never purchased discounted meat that made us sick. Usually, stores are looking to rid themselves of meat that’s nearing the sell by (not best by) date.

    3) Buy plain ingredients, and don’t be afraid to use coupons for them. Things like beans, canned tomatoes, pasta, rice, butter, milk all have coupons if you look for them, and can dramatically reduce your grocery bill. Along with this, buy as much as you can afford at a given time. It might take a while, but eventually your cupboards will be well stocked with basic ingredients. Worth noting, buy things that “match” as often as possible. For example, pasta and sauce, or tortillas and beans or cheese. It’s hard to make meals with mismatched ingredients (like pasta and beans and nothing else).

    4) Don’t be afraid to play with recipes. This is a big one, understanding substitutions and omissions are great tools for tight budgets. A recipe might recommend using only fresh herbs, or a specific meat, there are plenty of times you can substitute or omit ingredients. I like to read several of the “same” recipes to see what ingredients are negotiable, and which I could omit if I don’t have them, or even ideas for substitutions.

    5) Put limits on “good” food. If pizza was for dinner, or everyone loves bananas, set a limit to how many a person can have in a day, or when they can access it again. My brother, for example, could easily drink a gallon of milk and eat a dozen bananas in three days. So, limits were implemented. 1 glass of milk, and one banana per day was pretty standard. It encouraged all of us to eat some of the more economical options (apples, oranges) and reduced food costs.

    6) Encourage family members to buy their own treats, particularly if they have their own source of income. (Within reason, you don’t want your teen to blow his whole paycheque on junk).

    7) If your family does gift exchanges, ask for specific gift cards. This may seem cheap, or no fun, but if you’re like me and love to spend time in the kitchen cooking up god-knows-what, then these gift cards are great for getting some exciting ingredients without eating into your everyday food budget. Things like truffle oil, or an expensive cheese, things that would be a family (or just for you) treat.

    8) Look into bulk items, and really (really) price check. For example, I found that it was absolutely cheapest to buy dates on Amazon versus any where else, and by a significant amount too.

    9) Look off the beaten path. Outlet stores, discount stores, dollar stores (spices!!), specific chains (Aldi, Save-a-lot, PriceRite) are all fabulous resources for inexpensive food.

    10) Talk to managers, sometimes you can get quite a bit of aesthetically challenged produce for cheap and freeze it.

    I use all these tips all the time, and despite living in the north east of America, my husband and I get by on $55/week, with probably 4-5 times a year when that might double due to guests, or general stocking up.

  15. cherie says

    I agree you’re already doing well especially with a full time job

    I’ve just browsed the comments but I’ll see if I can avoid some redundancy with mine
    1. For my teenage ever eating boy I have found that the trick is not to let him get stuffed full at dinner – just satisfied – and we talk about finding that point of satisfaction [because in truth he could eat for days] and he definitely has more meals than my girls – at least one mini meal post dinner, and on weekends when he’s home 4-5 meals are his average.

    2. I would pull out the portions of meals you want for leftovers whether to reuse or to use for lunches before serving anything – since they’re all obviously trained towards eat till it’s gone or you simply can. not. swallow. again.

    3. Is it possible they keep eating dinner cause they don’t want anyone else to have it LOL? I swear when there’s pasta in the fridge my son will eat it simply because it must ALL BE HIS!

    4. Filling snacks – convenience foods are NOT filling – I know you’re working and have little time – think of filling convenience items that are homemade by THEM if you arrange it. Smoothies work well here [make packs on the weekends that they can dump in a blender with milk and pb et al], Protein is big – if they like egg dishes I’m thinking quiche would be great as it can use up all the bits and pieces in your fridge and is fine warmed or cold – you can make a big batch too – but even cheap meats [not junk – like chicken drumsticks or whatever is on sale!] seems to be much more satisfying as a mini meal than the entire box of crackers – and honestly costs less. Popcorn is great too as it’s very filling. Soups obvoiusly if they’ll eat them.

    5. Bananas are CHEAP and filling – well worth the extra stop.

    6. maybe appetizers? Don’t roll your eyes LOL – start the meal with carrots and a dip, or a soup, fruit with pb or a dip or bruschetta of some sort, even some salsa/guac with whatever – pace them out – while you’re cooking they eat xyz, it starts to register on their brains midway through the entree – they get full of that faster

    But again – you’re not doing badly at all 🙂

  16. Sara says

    I agree that you’re doing extremely well considering you work full time! I also work full time and there’s no way I could do that much baking-although my son is a toddler so its a little different. We have a family of 3, with a 4th on the way. I’m so glad I found this site! Everyone has some really great ideas! Here are some of my little tricks:
    1) Don’t assume that when you buy chicken, you need to get boneless, skinless breasts. The dark meat actually has more vitamins in it than the lighter meat. We do a lot with chicken thighs as they are cheaper. Also, consider buying whole fryer chickens when they go on sale. They’re super easy to make in the crock pot. I also keep a container in my freezer and put the bones/carcass in until it fills up. I do the same with veggie scraps in a freezer bag. When both are full, I throw it all into a stockpot and make chicken broth. I usually do this on weekends so it has time to cook down some. Then I strain it and put it in the fridge to cool. If I’ve had enough bones in the broth, it comes out like a jelly consistency. I freeze this in cubes to use in soups, rices, etc.
    2) Check out Aldi’s if you have one nearby. They have the best price on milk aside from Costco (which isn’t worth the drive unless we need a lot of stuff). Also, I know of people who buy a lot of milk and freeze it. That’s one thing I can’t get my husband on board with (sigh). I was grocery shopping one day and my local store had milk nearing the expiration date on sale for $0.99/gallon!! I just think of all the money I could have saved!!
    3) If you go through a lot of bananas in a short amount of time, see if your grocery store discounts ripe ones. I’ve bought them labeled as “baking” bananas, meaning they’re very ripe but still edible for $0.99/bunch rather than the higher per pound price. I also buy these and freeze them to have later for baking.
    4) Instead of more expensive snack options like fruit that require multiple trips to the store, consider having your kids snack on hard boiled eggs. Great protein and super cheap, plus they last a while. Also, if you’re already buying things like oatmeal in bulk, consider using it to make snacks like granola bars. Your kids can even help and make them up with whatever ingredients they each want (which would take some stress off you).
    5) I would highly suggest having a garden and canning what you can. We do it, and though its tough with both of us working full time and having young children, we find it to be worth the effort if we can preserve what we have to use later in the year. This again is something we do on the weekends. It keeps us busy, but then again, if we’re at home making/preparing foods, we aren’t out spending money. Plus, your children are old enough to be a huge help in that department.
    6)ALWAYS, ALWAYS check your ads before shopping. Sometimes its worth it to drive to a couple different stores. For instance, I know that, while convenient, the store closest to me is also the most expensive in town. We ONLY shop there when their penny pincher ad comes out (because the items are cheaper than anywhere else with those coupons) and we ONLY purchase what is on the coupons. Nothing else.
    7) Have you thought about buying your meat from a local farmer? Or does your husband hunt? Buying from a farmer is usually more cost-effective per pound than buying from a store. We purchased a whole pig and 1/4 cow from a farmer near us. I don’t remember what the cost was for the pig, but after processing, the cow broke down to about $3/lb. For everything-ground beef, steaks, ribs, etc. Which is about the cost of buying a pound of hamburger in the store, so it works out to be a better deal because you’re getting the more expensive cuts at a lower price. My husband also brought a deer home from hunting last fall. Between the pig, cow, and deer, we haven’t bought meat in almost a year.

    Hope some of these ideas help! Good luck!

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