Yes, you read that right. I feed my family of 9, 3 meals and 2 snacks a day for $600 per month, including diapers for 3 kiddos, wipes, toiletries, and household items. That breaks down to $2.22 /person/day or $66.66/person/month. Currently in the U.S., food stamps allow for $125/person/month. That means we are eating for well below the average cost of most families.
So how do we do it? No we don't eat junk. We don't eat all organic either; although I would love to. We eat balanced, nutritious meals. We cook from scratch when time allows and shop smart. For me, that means I do as much of my shopping as I can at Aldi. If you have an Aldi near you and you're not using it, try it out! I guarantee you will save a ton of money! If I cannot get something at Aldi then I will go to Walmart. I also try to watch the sales ad at Kroger for any hot deals. Thankfully where I live we have an Aldi, Kroger, and Walmart all within a few minutes of each other and though it means more stops it can be worth it to help stretch the budget.
The big tall hubby is a carnivore for sure and he doesn't feel hes had a meal if it doesn't include meat, so meat is always included in our dinners and his lunches. We try to have fresh fruit every day as part of a meal or as a snack, and fresh vegetables with most dinners. We have chickens here on the homestead, so for much of the year we have plenty of fresh eggs.
TIP #1 KEEP A STOCKED PANTRY & KNOW YOUR PRICES
I keep a well stocked pantry at all times. When something goes on sale for a great deal, I stock up on it. It is important to familiarize yourself with what things cost so that when they go on sale you will know its a good time to stock up. For instance, Boneless Skinless Chicken Breasts can be purchased regularly here for about $2 lb, so when I see it go on sale for $1.39 lb I might buy 50 lbs or more and portion it up and freeze it. Then I might not have to buy chicken for several months. Make sense? Once, I saw canned vegetables go on sale for 4/$1 and I bought 300 cans, Did I go over budget that week? Sure! But I haven't bought canned vegetables since and that was over a year ago. I do this with as many items as I can. We have 2 deep freezers, and 2 refrigerators, which allow me to stock up when things are cheap.
TIP #2 MAKE A MEAL PLAN (and include ALL meals)
Another MUST to save money and stretch the dollar is to meal plan. Don't forget to include ALL MEALS, like breakfast, lunches and snacks. Taking the time to see what you have and writing a meal plan for each day is so important! If you don't know what you already have on hand, or what you are going to eat you will most definitely over spend at the store. Before I started meal planning I would often buy things only to find out I already had 3 of them hidden in my pantry. Now when I sit down to write out my meal plan, I check the pantry, fridge and freezers to see what I already have. That way when I head to the store with my list, I know I am only buying what we need. I do not plan snacks for certain days, but I do buy certain foods to be used for snacks only. To see my meal plan for the next 2 weeks click here.
TIP #3 COOK FROM SCRATCH WHEN YOU CAN
Something I try not to do is purchase pre-made snacks and meals. However, I am a busy Mama of 7, with kids in sports, and other activities. Sometimes life gets crazy and its nice to have convenience foods. I buy them on occasion when I need a hand or we are in a particularly busy season (i.e. new baby, sports season, etc). For the most part we try hard to eat healthy and stay away from processed foods, which in turn saves us ALOT of money. That stuff is expensive! I have learned to make almost everything we love right here at home. I can make fresh bagels, cinnamon rolls, homemade vanilla wafers, pizza crusts, fruit roll ups and even pretzels. Even if you don't think of yourself as a great cook, you'd be surprised what you can learn to make when money is tight. There are so many wonderful resources out there to help you get started.
TIP #4 EAT AT HOME
Eating out can single-handedly destroy your food budget! Notice my meal plan includes 3 meals a day for all 14 days? That's because we eat every meal at home when possible. We do budget a small amount of money each month for eating out but, I plan to eat every meal at home. If we do decide to eat a meal out that wasn't planned, we have that food leftover for another time. If we plan to eat out and don't for whatever reason, I know we still have a meal planned and all the ingredients we need to make it.
There you have it! These are the tips I use to save our family money and I hope they will help you too! If you would like to see more meal plans and how we stick to our budget, leave a comment below.