How to Feed Your Family on a Budget (so You Don’t Feel Poor)
So you’ve worked out your grocery budget. With the numbers you’ve come up with, you’ll be living off of beans and rice until 2098. Sound familiar? The struggle is real when it comes to sticking to a budget. And a lot of the time, it can make you feel like there’s no way to feed your family on a budget.
The good news is that I know it can be done. I’ve been able to feed my family of five on $75/ week for years and we’ve never eaten better. Never once have we felt poor or broke because we live on a budget. My 3 always-hungry sons and my even-hungrier husband eat well and all on a budget.
But I wasn’t always like that!
For years I always that being a “good wife and mother” meant that I needed to cook gourmet meals and shop at Whole Foods and sink my family further into debt just to maintain this kind of grocery spending.
We regularly spent more than $700/month on food (even back when it was just 3 of us)! Something needed to change, but I went from one end of the spectrum to the other. I not only stopped spending that much on groceries, but I just stopped spending on groceries altogether. Beans and rice all day, every day. We were poor and we ate like it.
It wasn’t until my husband told me that if he saw another platter of beans and rice, he was going to lose his mind that I realized that something needed to change. It took a while, but within a year, we were eating better than we ever had and we had started our $75/week budget.
I took the long route to finding the answers to help me feed my family on a budget. I don’t want you to wander around the internet aimlessly for years looking for the answers.
How to Feed Your Family on a Budget (so You Don’t Feel Poor)
Step 1: Make a Budget
This will always be step one. Break out that budget and get to work. You’ll need to go through all of your old bank statements to find exactly how much you’ve spent on food in the past 3 months. Find the average for each month and see what you think of that number.
How do you know if a number is too high or too low?
The general rule with budgeting for groceries is (and I didn’t come up with this number!) $100 per person per month. So a family of 4 should have a grocery budget of $400/month or $100/week (I hate monthly budgets, so this is what I use instead).
If that sounds way too low for you, try to get as close to it as you think you can. Don’t stretch yourself too thin to start out with or you’ll lose the will to budget and just throw it out the window. Cut back little by little and see if you can cut back more the next month.
How can you cut back without making your family feel poor?
Step 2: Shop Around for Grocery Stores
Are you a Whole Foods shopper with a new $100/week budget? Sure, you could go to Whole Foods and buy 1 bag of white rice and one bag of bulk oatmeal and have $.62 left over. Or you could find the closest Aldi and stock your whole fridge for the same amount of money.
The reason that our grocery budget is so low is thanks to Aldi and our local discount grocery stores.
What’s a discount grocery store?
A discount grocery store is a place to get all of your favorite name brand food for pennies on the dollar. Often, the food at the discount grocery has boxes bent at the corner, cans that have been slightly dinged, or food that’s close to expiration. And some of the time, a big store (like Whole Foods) ordered too much of a product and there’s nothing wrong with it at all.
I want you to stop what you’re doing and search “discount grocer” and then your zip code into Google and see what there is close to you. Even if it’s out of the way (ours is about 30 minutes away), the savings are 100% worth it.
But what should I buy?
Step 3: Start Meal Planning
Before your run away, I don’t actually want you to do any work! I do want you to start a meal plan for your family so that you can know exactly what to buy at the grocery store instead of coming home and wondering what to make for dinner.
How do you do this without doing any work?
One of my all-time favorite resources for meal planning and delicious recipes for a budget is $5 Dinners. I credit Erin Chase’s book for teaching me how to cook for my family, as well as teaching me that there are more meals for a budget than just beans and rice.
$5 Dinners is an online program that allows you to pick out your recipes for the week, and will then make a shopping list for you from all of the ingredients that you need for the whole week. The best part (aside from how amazing the recipes are) is that all of the meals are under $5 each to make! It takes care of all of the hard parts of meal planning and you get to feed your family on a budget.
You can get a 14-day free trial for $5 Dinners here. Even after the free trial, it’s only $5 per month for access to all of the recipes and the pre-made shopping list. It would take me hours and hours to do all of that work, so I’m glad to pay someone else $5/ month to do it!
Step 4: More With Less
My mother-in-law is basically my idol. She fed a family of 9 on one salary that was often very, very low. And all 7 of her children have the biggest appetites that I’ve ever seen! She had a cookbook that she used since she was a newlywed and passed it on to me.
It’s called More With Less. If you only ever buy one cookbook, let it be this one. Most of the recipes only have 4 ingredients that you probably have in your pantry, and they’re shockingly delicious.
When dinnertime is sneaking up on me and I haven’t gone food shopping yet, this is the only cookbook I use. I’ve never been disappointed with any of the recipes and neither has anyone in my family.
We still live off of one income in out family, so our grocery budget is always tight. And thanks to these 4 tips, I don’t really ever worry about going over budget. And I know that my family will never feel poor when I make them dinner. It really is possible to feed your family on a budget.
What does your grocery budget look like?
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