Sunday, September 5, 2010

Feeding a family of four on $200.00 a month or less

I find myself going to Kroger twice a week, then Walmart for a few more items and then by Saturday, I need more food. I have spent 150.00 or more in a week on groceries by not planning and shopping right. Not any more. Times a tough and I don't have the funds to spare on sloppy shopping habits. So....As I have learned, I will share with you some tips today and continue for the next few months with recipes, grocery lists and meal options for families with various dietary needs.
If you REALLY want to save money on groceries, shop once a week and have enough for three meals a day, you'll have to follow these simple instructions. Modify to suit your dietary needs but try to stay withing these guild lines.

OKAY: First step today: Don't be discouraged, read this all the way through, take your time, it will OK.....It's worth the simple amount of work ahead.

Try to shop without purchasing processed foods. Buy from a bulk foods store if you can and only eat whole foods, which means that you’ll make almost everything from scratch and usually with 6 ingredients or less. You’ll also learn to abuse your crock-pot. If you don’t have one, buy one. It’s a great 15.00 investment. So if you are saying , "this is not going to be feasible for our family... I work all day and the last thing I want to do is come home and cook a dinner from scratch'. Wait! Keep reading, It doesn't even take that much time if you do some smart preparation ahead of time.

One side note: There is a theory about processed food that seems to be true for many folks including my family and me. Eat less processed, garbage, food and see your doctor less.

Once you have decided that you will not eat processed food the next step is to round up 31 days worth of recipes. We have a monthly menu that we use each month. Every 1st of any month is always the same breakfast, lunch and dinner. My family never tires from any one thing because they only eat that item once a month except for breakfast and lunches which may repeat because, of course, I am not a restaurant. So to clarify you will make a month's worth of menus that you will start over again the following month. So in essence you have a year's worth of menus with your 1-month menu plan.
If you can make a calendar or print one out from the Internet you’ll have space for what you need…

Here is an example of from one of our days:
Breakfast: scrambled eggs & cheese in a wrap, OJ
Lunch: turkey & cheese sandwich wrap, fruit, yogurt or applesauce
Dinner: Mac n cheese casserole, broccoli

So in each block, or day of the calendar, write out a list of what you will eat for the day. Once you have all of your blocks or days filled with breakfasts, lunches, and dinners, you need to number each week. So the first full week will be Week 1, Week 2, and so forth. Start your weeks on a Sunday, not on the 1st day of the month.

For desserts or snacks pick three for each week and write them either in the margin or down at the bottom. I like to write them in the margin of the corresponding week so I know when I am supposed to make it. After you have completed this step you need to secure five pieces of paper and each you will Name Week ___ Shopping List. Go to Week 1 on your calendar and make a list of all of the things you will need to accomplish those dishes onto your Week 1 Shopping List. That way at any given week you know what you need to shop for. You do not need to deviate from this list unless you have run out of staples. So you should have the same total to budget for every week you go grocery shopping. No more of these crazy amounts to pay for groceries each week. Do this same thing for all the weeks in the month - you should end up with five just to cover you in all cases. Now you have a months' worth of menus and your shopping lists for each week.

It's best to place all of these items into a binder for organization.
Behind your Monthly Calendar you need to put tabs with Week 1, 2, 3, 4, & 5 on them. This is so that you can file all of the recipes for that week behind the tab.(You can also place coupons in these sections to use when shopping). This way when you need to look up September Week 4, Thursday's recipe all you have to do is flip to that section in your binder and you have everything ready. If someone else is doing the cooking they will also be able to find out what to cook for the night with relative ease

The key to making this work is selecting cost effective dinners that you can stretch or get the ingredients for less. For instance, on the night you make chili, you can make a big crock-pot full so that you can bet that you will be having chili the next day for lunch. Or lets say that you have crock pot chicken 'n' dumplings. That requires a chicken carcass so you can make chicken broth from that and it can be used for soup later in the week. Be creative. Come up with menus for different days that compliment other days. Grow a garden so you can have fresh produce and you might be able to whittle down your weekly shopping bill even more.

If you work full time this is not a problem. Set aside a Saturday to cook some of the things that you can freeze like lasagna. Other things that are crock-pot recipes - get up 10 minutes earlier and put all the ingredients in and have a hot meal done and ready when you get home. On the Saturday you decide to cook a couple of things go ahead and chop a bag of onions or carrots and put them into a Ziploc so you don't have to cut anything during the week. This should not take up a long time on Saturday - maybe two hours or so. If you have kids you need to put them to work. Ages 8 and up should be allowed to peel carrots, dice onions, etc. Being in a family means that you contribute to the family's well being. That means helping in meal preparation, clean up, etc.

The initial work sounds like a lot but it really isn’t more than an hour or so. However, I will make it easy here for you by doing a lot of the work for you.
Stay tuned for later in the week when I will blog a weeks worth of recipes and the grocery lists that accomany them.

-Let This Circle be Unbroken