Buckling Down on the Food Spending
Since starting the Winey Parent, we have really buckled down on our spending. The biggest area of our budget that we have been able to save money is on our food budget. If you ever get a chance to sit down and look at how much you spend on food, you might be surprised. Those occasional nights of take out or dining out really add up. So do those coffees you normally pick up at Dunkin Donuts or Starbucks. Stop spending money on things you can make yourself for less!
To help you stay on track and not eat out, it helps to have a plan in place. Of course, if you have nothing planned for dinner and you are exhausted and starving, you are going to call for takeout! So, make sure you have a plan for meals that will prevent you from ordering. I created a meal planning board after the kids took my spiral notebook and scribbled in it one too many times.
Index Those Cheaper Recipes
Step one to meal planning, aka saving money, is to gather a small collection of budget-friendly, yet still healthy meals that your family likes. I decided to write these meal ideas down on index cards to keep and reuse. The best part about these index cards is that the ingredients and directions are right there on the card. Now, I don’t have to go searching for the recipe. With my meal planning board, I have a box of meal ideas ready to put in place, so meal planning is a breeze now! Plus, I make my grocery list for the week much faster, because all of the ingredients are on those cards. Find a system that works for you and do it!
If you need inspiration for meals, Pinterest is your one stop shop! I like to search for “healthy budget meals” when I am looking for inspiration. If you just search for budget meals you will find a lot of carbs and meals that don’t really work with the Weight Watchers’ lifestyle Travis and I are trying to achieve. That’s not to say they aren’t delicious or nutritious, but we still want to maintain or lose weight while eating for less. We also collected a large collection of recipes that are meatless. Meat is expensive. Try eating it only 2-3 times a week, if that. We eat a lot of other sources of protein like eggs and beans to help us feel satisfied. And honestly, I don’t miss eating meat all the time.
Go by the List = Save Money
Step two of meal planning is actually sticking to your meal plan! Once you have decided on your meals for the week, create your grocery list. I like to see what is on sale before starting my meal plan so that I can create meals that have ingredients on sale. Also, take a look at your pantry and use what you have before buying more (I need to get better on this one!). Once you have your list in hand, TAKE IT WITH YOU to Aldi or whatever store you choose.
We like Aldi because they have low prices on quality food every day. I can’t tell you how many times Travis and I would get halfway to the store and realize we didn’t have the grocery list. No list means you are going to spend more AND you are going to forget something you need. Forgetting something you need for your meal plan means that you are going to go back to the store and spend even more money. So, since we’re experts on forgetting our list – TAKE THE LIST! I read one tip that suggested taking a picture of the list with your phone in case you do forget it.
Take Out & Defrost to Avoid Eating Take-Out
Step three in meal planning is making sure you have taken whatever needs to be defrosted out of the freezer in enough time that it can actually defrost and you can actually cook it. I am usually guilty of forgetting to defrost the meat, so creating our meal planning board has held both Travis and I accountable to the plan and he can help remember to take the meat out of the freezer.
There were plenty of times over the past few years where we’d forget. Once we got home, ordering take-out was so easy. Ah, just a phone call away (after we FINALLY decided on what we wanted). So, avoid our previous mistakes by remembering to take out whatever food from the freezer that needs defrosting. Set a reminder on your phone to help. For example, if you meal plan on Sunday, also set up reminders on your phone calendar to notify you when you need to do so.
Best Winey Parent Tips for Saving Money on Food
In a nutshell, here are the best tips I can give you to save money on your food budget:
- Create a meal plan
- And stick to it
- Make a list and take it with you to the store
- Also, stick to it
- Eat less meat
- Beans and eggs are inexpensive and delicious sources of protein that you can weave into your meal plan for more meatless meals
- Grow your own food
- Follow us on Pinterest for more recipes, budgeting tips, and meal planning ideas