I've been trying to find a way to share my strategy for slashing our monthly food budget, but haven't really had the time until now. A friend emailed me recently, asking for menu ideas to help her reduce her monthly grocery bill. Here is my reply.
When the hubby lost his job, I wanted to trim the fat on the budget. As far as groceries were concerned, I wanted to first make sure that my children were getting adequate nutrition. So, I got on www.mypyramid.gov and typed in our info to get free customized printouts of the exact amounts in each food group for recommended daily servings. I think for the youngest two, I had to google "daily recommended food servings" to get more specific info. At my house, we eat three meals, and two snacks (fruit and a dairy product) daily. So, I sat down with the serving sizes and actually divided it up and spread it out over 3 meals and 2 snacks a day. For example, at breakfast, I get 1 C dairy (usually milk because it's the easiest to measure), 1 oz protein (1 oz is an egg or 1 actual oz of cooked meat, or 1/4 C beans, or 1 tbsp peanut butter), and 2 oz grain (1 oz is a slice of bread. 1 C cold cereal, 1 C cooked cereal, grains, or rice), and 1/2 C fruit.
Then, the first week, I did my normal shopping which came out to $80 sans veggies (my veggies come from a CSA at $20 per week, but we won't be renewing unless the unemployment situation changes). That first week, I did all of the measurements and realized I still had 1/2 my food amount left over. So, the next week, I only had to spend about $40.
I believe in leftovers, especially now, since I have to make it count. So, when I make my menu, it includes lots of leftovers. I cook from scratch, which is very easy. When I go to the store, I only buy what's necessary to make the meals on my menu for the week. I also make sure I keep my pantry stocked with commodities and seasonings that I use regularly (ex. I always have onion, garlic, bell pepper, salt, black pepper, canned beans, and canned diced tomatoes).
I do not have a set menu plan or grocery list. Sorry. That is probably my next step. I did stop buying organic products this month because this is now going into month 4 and things are looking lean. If I don't have to buy commodities, I average $30-$40. If I do have to buy commodities, it's about $60-$70. This past week was $90 because I needed more commodities (sugar, flour, olive oil, etc) and I bought two loaf pans so I can start baking my own bread.
Here is an example of some things I cook:
-stir fry with whatever vegetables I have on hand and sausage or chicken
-spaghetti (again, I have resulted to buying the cheap metallic tasting Hunt's @ 99 cents per can and I add vegetables)
-baked chicken (we eat the chicken for 2 days and then I make soup and we eat for 2 more days)
-beans (usually from scratch. Canned is for the lunch soups)
Those are my staples. It's usually very little meat (expensive) and lots of grains and veggies.
This week's example:
Oatmeal/Grits/Pancakes (could do more if Andrew could eat eggs)
Milk/Orange Juice from concentrate
Home made fruit salad
2 veggies (so far, salad and sauteed zucchini or squash from the CSA box)
Red beans and rice
2 veggies from the CSA box
Tonight, I'm adding cornbread for variety
So, that's the whole week's menu. Spaghetti and Beans all week. But, we are in a different financial situation. You probably just need to do 2-3 nights of the same meal.
Anyway, lots of info. If you need more, let me know. Any suggestions from my readers would also be greatly appreciated.