After I had my son, I was home for almost a year. Money was tight, but we had planned for the baby and therefore had been able to save up. Also because of the timing of his birth, I continued to get a paycheck for the first two months of his life. This time, we are in the opposite situation. I still have ten weeks left in my pregnancy, and I haven’t been paid in a month. I won’t be going back to work until September at the earliest; hopefully, it won’t be until January. Even better, maybe I won’t have to go back at all.
Either way, whether I’m home for good or just for now, budgeting, especially for food, is going to be essential to our survival. Other than our mortgage, food is probably our single biggest budget item. If I could, I would buy everything organic, but it’s just not feasible.
For us, one of the primary things we need to decide about our budget is what we will buy organic and what we will buy conventional. I’ve decided to cut our organics back to meat, dairy and eggs. If the price is right, I will shop organic fruits and veggies, at least for the dirty dozen.
I also need to pay my newspaper bill so that I can continue to clip my weekly coupons. My favorite brand of yogurt has coupons online, as do many other brands we buy regularly. So coupon clipping, paying attention to the store sales and coupons, using cheaper ingredients and eating meat less often are all things I’m planning on doing to cut down on food expenses. Another huge thing is cutting out waste. Nothing aggravates me more than having to throw out food because it’s gone bad or because my toddler sneezed all over it and then refused to eat it.
The following tips from an article on Mothering.com offer good advice for making meal plans and shopping trips in a way that will help with your budget. The only tip I disagree with is the last one. There is nothing fun to me about going around to multiple stores, especially in the freezing cold winter or with a toddler in tow. But if that’s fun for you, then go for it.
Here are my tips for saving money on food:
For a super simple meal plan:
- Identify your budget: is it $50 dollars a week or $500? Nail down a number and stick to it.
- Grab a piece of paper or open a notepad on your computer and write out each meal you will be preparing during the week: including breakfasts, lunches, dinners and snacks.
- Write out each ingredient and the estimated price of each item on your list–accounting for any coupons you have.
- Add up all of the prices and make adjustments to your list based on your budget.
- Once you have a list that fits your goal bring it along with you on your shopping trip and stick to to it no matter what. Visit many stores to find the best price and avoid impulse buys at all costs. Make it a challenge and have fun with it.