Guest Post from Utah Valley Moms: Feeding Four on $200/ Month

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Saving money each week is a necessity and sometimes a struggle for our family. Each month our budget for groceries is $200. Our family consists of my husband, my almost four-year old daughter, my almost two-year old son, and myself. My son and daughter eat about the same amount for every meal as each other with my son occasionally eating more than my daughter. Then there’s my husband and me who definitely eat our fair share of food so keeping to our budget is not always an easy task. On top of all of that, we rarely use coupons, however, using coupons can be a great way to save money each month.

Here’s my top 5 ways to spend groceries on a budget:

The Envelope System:
We use an app on our phones and tablet that acts as our “envelope system,” however using actual envelopes works as well. Each month we set each envelope to a certain amount and must spend within it. Once it is out, there is no more money to spend for that particular reason so we must spend wisely. For example, the groceries envelope has $200 each month, gasoline has $100 each month, and we have a miscellaneous envelope that contains $75 each month for presents, cleaning supplies, or other random things we may need throughout the month that doesn’t fit into our other planned envelopes. We enjoy using the app because it is always with us on our phones, there’s no worrying about holding onto actual money, and we can use our credit card to get points on everything we spend yet still stay within our planned budget.

Meal Planning
Every week I sit down with my white board (where I write down our meal schedule for the week), a paper to write down what I need at the grocery store, my family, and sometimes Pinterest to figure out what we’re going to eat each week. After I take a few requests from the family, I fill in all of the other meals with food that is similar so that our cost on groceries is low. For example, here is a dinner menu I have used in the past:

Monday – Chicken Tacos
Tuesday – Cheese Spinach Strata
Wednesday – Chile Rellenos
Thursday – Homemade Mac & Cheese
Friday – Mushroom Risotto
Saturday – Pizza
Sunday – Stuffed Chicken Marsala

Chicken will be used a few times, mushrooms will be used for three meals, and cheese is used on most meals. At the same time, there is a variety of foods, they are foods that my family has chosen, and I can make some of the basic parts by hand – the tacos, bread for the strata, pasta, and pizza dough. After writing down all of the foods I will need for the week, I make sure to write down about how much each will cost to make sure I can stay within budget. If it’s over, I redo the menu and take out things that may not be as important.

Homemade Foods
One main reason we can afford to only spend $200 a month on groceries without using coupons is because I make parts of our meals that would be easy to buy at the store, as well as we rarely ever buy processed foods. The majority of our grocery costs are fresh fruits and vegetables, as well as meats. As I mentioned above, our breads are always homemade and I attempt to make as many other foods by hand as possible. It takes a bit more time but is always worth it.

Know the Grocery Stores
I look at the ads each week and also follow a few money-saving websites so that I can know what deals are going on in grocery stores. However, that being said, I usually buy the same general foods each week so it’s important to know where the best deals are on produce, as well as essentials like flour, sugar, salt, etc. For me, although I care about price, I also care about quality. I know that when I buy at Harmon’s, the produce will be good and last a while in the refrigerator so I almost always buy produce there. The quality is great and because it lasts longer, I don’t need to throw out produce 99% of the time even if it has been sitting in the refrigerator for a while.

Limit the Processed Foods
With little kids and a busy schedule, it’s hard at times for me to not buy processed foods, especially sweets, but it’s necessary to not buy them because they can quickly take me way over budget. If we really want treats or french fries or whatever we could easily buy and consume, we usually end up making it at home. My husband makes treats a couple of times a month that include cookies and candies (they’re not too hard to make) and I make sure we have other fun foods every now and then but our family understands that they are not a necessity and will usually only be bought if we have left over money at the end of the month. Lucky for them, there’s usually about $5 to use at the end of each month for treats of some sort. To make that extra money stretch a bit further, we usually head to the dollar store.

For more information on this topic, you can read my original article on Utah Valley Moms.

About the Author:

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Kim Corrigan began the Utah Valley Moms blog in 2010 and is the main contributor. She has two young kids and loves to be anywhere but at home.

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