Grocery Budgeting Tips/Easy Meal Ideas

Yesterdays post touched up on budgeting on a tight income; I wanted to continue that discussion a little bit more. If someone else out there is struggling like our family is I wanted to add some things you can do to cut back on groceries and some quick meals that will help you scrape by.

Budgeting & Making a Grocery List/Order

First up having a budget for your money is crucial to being able to know how much you are able to spend on anything you need to buy. You need to know how much each check is going to be then subtract any bills out of that amount that is owed for that check period. If you have a bill that won’t be due until the next check figure out if it can wait or not. Its basic stuff I know but sometimes people may not think about it this way and being able to get those bills taken care of should be a priority. In saying that you have to be able to find a balance between bills and lets say starvation if its to that point. If I needed to get food versus paying a bill I wouldn’t just ignore it, never ignore your bills that just makes them worse, instead I would try calling the place where that bill is owed and seeing if they can work with me on it. I would explain my situation. Asking for an extension on a lot of bills is allowed; unfortunately some people do not know this, I mean I didn’t until a year ago. Now some places may not work with you but there are still options out there that can help you out.
In the past my family and I have used both food stamps through the government and our local food pantry through our city to help out with food for our family; there is no shame in it so don’t allow anyone to make you feel any less. I do believe that there are people that abuse the system and don’t really need it and those people have just given everyone all together a bad rap for using government assistance. Stand strong keep your chin up it will get better. Those programs through the government are there to help you when you need it, if you can get approved that is. Now I will say this after having it in the past and not needing it for a very long time there was a time not too long ago my family needed some help once again and after applying we were approved for a ridiculous amount of $2.00 for a family of four for a month. My husband was out of work due to losing a job and I was working my full time during the school year and then a part time job during the summer. We were barely getting by; I am not ashamed to say we needed help. After unfortunately being turned away via food stamps, we turned to the food pantry in our area until we could make it work ourselves.

Once you have taken out for the bills (I would include daycare or any other expense that may not exactly be a bill in the bill pile), you can more than like start your grocery budget. Some people will separate food items from other items we factor them all together since it is an expense coming out of grocery. I start by making a hand written list (feel free to type on up), on this list I write down everything that we need to get; I also simultaneously go through my kitchen and the rest of my house to figure out what items I am currently low on or out of.
After it is all written out I go back through and figure out if what we may have which is low is enough to make it by or if we indeed need to restock. Some things like soaps, toilet paper, paper towels, & detergents; if we have enough to scrape by we will do so. Once that is out of the way I go back down through my list and figure out what is a necessity vs. something that isn’t really needed right away with food items. I try to put my food items at the top of the list because you can’t eat paper or soap products but still factor them in as important parts of our home.
When making a list depending on where and how I am going to be shopping I will look at that stores ads. Being able to compare what is on my list to what is currently on sale at that store is going to save us money. If there is an item that I don’t normally buy like a type of brand that is on sale cheaper than what I had planned to buy I will switch to the on sale item. Brand name items are usually just that, brand name, you are paying more for a specific brand when the store brand or off brand is just as good and a lot of the time much cheaper!
Always shop the store ads; if you are a coupon’er or if you want to save more money use your manufacturer coupons with your in store deals and store coupons. A lot of stores allow you to stack in store coupons and deals with manufacturer coupons to give you a better deal. Check out The Krazy Coupon Lady to learn about how to start couponing, as this is an entire post on its own. I have learned so much from this site then of course venturing out on my own as I learned.

By now you have your list together you have gone through it at least three times maybe more; double and triple checking you are within your budget for the money you have available to use this grocery trip. If you are using online shopping you have a total price pretty much set up as online prices are pretty much on point unless something is out of stock ect. You will have gone through your cart or list making sure you have the best deal possible. I will note that if you are going into the physical store you have an advantage of possibly finding bonus clearance items that may help give you some wiggle room for your grocery haul in the long run. Always check the clearance aisles! Depending on the time of year you are shopping you may also find that there are deals running just for a specific holiday or time of year so always keep your eyes peeled for those prices on items that will make a great stock up deal for the rest of the year if you are able to budget that into your shopping list. A lot of the time being able to buy in bulk can save you money in the long haul if the price is right.

Now its time to shop or submit that online order. There is something about putting a shopping list together that pinches as many pennies as possible. It gives you a sense of accomplishment as you are saving your family money. That money could be useful for savings, an emergency situation, or just any other item that is still in your budget after everything else has come out (like gas money). When budgeting to have an extra even $20 gives a bit of a cushion; you should aim for more of a cushion for an emergency situation but sometimes my family is down to that last dollar. The cushion got used for the emergency of not starving this week!

Simple Meals Ideas to Make it Through

Let’s pretend it is the end of your two week grocery haul you are low on supplies; or it may be the beginning of your two week haul and you want some ideas of stuff to stock up on to make simple meals. I will try my best to give some ideas for simple meals my family utilizes quite often to just make it through. You may or may not have the items or all of the items needed.

  • Mac N Cheese is a huge staple in our house; whether it is made from a box meal or scraped together from scratch. It is an easy meal to put together. If you want to venture out in this direction, I encourage you to get comfortable in your own kitchen. Check out this post on my Meal Time blog page for a quick made from scratch recipe guide on how to make your own Mac N Cheese. Once you have the dish made you may want to spice it up by adding some saute’d veggies or some sort of meat product to it.
  • Simple Fried Rice. I will type out a quick recipe Here.
  • Ramen Noodles. Ramen is one of the cheapest pastas that you can buy, it its probably the best as food goes but it is cheap. You can make it a variety of ways and it will feed your family on the cheap. You make as the directions tell you to, then you can add in all sorts of veggies & meats of your choice if you want to or even eat it plain.
  • Butter Noodles; it is pretty darn simple. Boil the noodles of your choice and drain. Saute the noodles in a skillet with melted butter, salt/pepper, & anything else you wish to add to you pasta dish.

    Most pasta dishes are just so simple. You just need boiled pasta, Seasonings, & a Sauce of your choice. Most sauces like the cheese sauce I make in the recipe link above can be tweaked. I usually start off any sauce I am making the same way by making the roux (flour & melted butter (other oil) paste) then add in what I will use as a base from there. Perhaps some water & beef bouillon. I will sometimes cheat & just use beef gravy then thin it out to make a beef broth. You can also do a lot with rice. Get comfortable in your kitchen, it is okay to experiment if you have the resources. Cook more often from scratch/recipes or just cook period. You will become more comfortable in your kitchen over time. Learning to cook from kitchen staples is going to help pinch pennies & save money. Why buy something like pie crust or biscuit dough when you could make it your self! Flour, Sugar, Eggs, & Salt/Pepper can go a really long ways once you know how to utilize them to their full potential. It’s much easier to buy something that is pre-made but keep in mind it is also so much more expensive too.

How comfortable are you in the kitchen?
Do you have any tips or tricks?

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