Studies show that Americans throw away half of all food that is purchased, at grocery stores and in restaurants. Eating the food purchased might be the best approach for eating healthy on a budget. Spending less starts with a great plan that will guide purchasing, preparation and storage choices. Last minute purchases will consume a higher percentage of the budget than is affordable.
Create a Menu
An audible groan can be heard when the person in charge of providing meals thinks about all the work ahead preparing to feed the family. Start with seven days and a grocery list. This framework is helpful in creating subsequent weeks of menus that can be reused. Include lunches, snacks and breakfast in the grocery list to ensure the food supply is sufficient.
• Shop the ads – Check out all the coupons in your local paper and this online Coupon giant. Refuse to pay full price for any food item. Cheap food is not the same as inexpensive food. Great deals include well-timed purchases that will create multiple inexpensive healthy dinners. The purchase of a large ham from a post-holiday sale can provide multiple meals when the ham is stored in appropriate portions and frozen.
• Know a deal – Lack of knowledge will cause you to purchase items that are expensive. Creating low-budget healthy meals is not possible if less-than-savvy purchases consume the budget. Experience allows you to identify the best purchased for the upcoming week’s menus. So get familiar with local prices and cheaper alternatives.
Manage Your Food Inventory
A well-stocked kitchen opens the door to favorite recipes that can be prepared without a trip to the store. Experienced cooks know exactly what food is on-hand at all times. The importance of this practice cannot be overstated.
• Review before buying – Prior to any grocery shopping venture, the shopper must know what is already in the cupboards and fridge. Avoid all extra purchases that can wait a week, unless an extreme sale is offered on the item. Multiple open packages of the same item should be avoided since the food will age more rapidly.
• Purchase fresh food for 3-5 days – Vegetables from the farmer’s market are a treat every fall season. Too many of these vegetables will rot in the fridge because the cook is unsure how to prepare them. Find great recipes and use these treasures within the current week’s menu.
After a long day at work and school, the entire family can gather in the kitchen to prepare the evening meal. Great memories are made as the kids set the table, the adults guide the proceedings and everyone shares what happened that day. Time together will replace the desire to sit around a restaurant table for a price that can be five times more than cooking at home.
• Designate chores – Young children can participate in meal preparation to create a sense of community in the home. A small table set in the corner gives them a place to play while everyone else is setting the table, cooking and preparing the meal.
• Use the menu – Rearranging the week’s menu is acceptable at any time. Late arrivals can dictate a switch to an easier meal on the menu. Be flexible with the menu to make it a tool and not a cage.
• Allow extra time – Meal times might be later for the first few weeks that meals are prepared under the new system. Low-budget healthy meals are worth the time invested in the process. A frustrated cook must be appreciated for the hard work necessary to prepare great food.
• Include fun – Instead of ordering pizza, create a fun family time of making individual pizzas at home. With oversight, the children will learn to appreciate unique flavor combinations. Cheap food will be replaced with inexpensive healthy dinners every night.
Bring Your Lunch to Work
Evening meals cooked at home can become great lunches for the next day. Working adults can save hundreds of dollars every year by carrying lunch at least four days each week. Great food from home is healthier and much less expensive than eating out every day.
New office trends can be started when the conference room becomes a place where people gather to eat homemade lunches around the big table.
Create a Personal Approach
Conversations with friends and family members will reveal that every family takes a unique approach to saving money on the food budget. As prices rise, the importance of eating every morsel increases. Reducing waste and improving the shopping methods will make more money available each month for other expenditures.
Money that is still available in the food budget at the end of the month can be transferred to the summer vacation fund, which provides a healthy incentive to lower costs.