After mortgage and rent expenses, food is typically the largest monthly expense for a family of five. And since your mortgage and rent are fixed it makes sense to focus next on your food expenses. With a little planning and preparation, it is easy to lower your food budget and happily feed your family. Here are some household budget tips on how to get started.
Meat is expensive and can easily inflate your expenses. Don’t get rid of meat, but do add in more vegetables and rotate in some vegetarian entrees. There are an unlimited number of healthy vegetable dishes that are flavorful, healthy and inexpensive. Take beans for example. There are dozens of varieties to choose from and they contain protein, fiber and are low in fat. Also, look at healthy grains like cous cous or bulgar wheat. Check out a vegetarian recipe book from the library or visit a cooking website to find hundreds of vegetarian recipes.
Make Your Own Bread.
Bread is both filling and satisfying. Not only are the ingredients cheap and easy to store in your pantry, but you can make it in advance. Spend a few hours making the bread dough and then freeze it. Get a frozen loaf out before you leave for work and it will thaw and rise in time for dinner. Don’t limit yourself to just plain white bread. There are thousands of variations in flavors and grains, and you can use the same dough that makes a traditional loaf to make baguettes, french bread or round loaves. If you like buy sourdough starter sourdough, you can easily make a starter that will give your bread some extra kick. You can also include ciabattas, kaisers and dinner rolls to use for warm sandwiches.
Get a deep freeze. They do not auto defrost so they can store food for a much longer period than your typical freezer. Having a good freezer is key to saving money on food because it allows you to store food items that you make in advance, find on sale, buy in bulk, or grow in your garden.
Buy in Bulk.
Warehouse stores are popular for a reason. They allow steep discounts on most products, but you have to buy them in bulk. Keeping your household food budget in mind, only buy items that you will use, that you can freeze, and that are truly less expensive than buying at other stores. When you buy in bulk, divide the packages into smaller portions and store in your deep freeze.
Having a small garden can produce big savings. One tomato plant can cost as little as 50 cents and yield over 100 tomatoes. In a 6 by 12 foot garden you could grow the equivalent of $500 worth of produce. Even small planters with fresh herbs can save you money and give you motivation to cook at home. At harvest, find the best ways to preserve and store your vegetables. Often, a deep freeze is much quicker and easier than canning.
Shop the Sales.
Most grocery stores offer a few really good sales that are designed to lure customers from other stores. Take advantage of these deals. This is an especially good way to stock your freezer with meats, as there is almost always one kind of meat on sale.
Another budget tip is to forego dining out, as it is more expensive than eating at home. This is typically true, but by using coupons and finding inexpensive restaurants, you can also greatly reduce the amount of budget you require to dine out. If you dine out often, make sure you use loyalty programs and take advantage of any entertainment books that offer buy one get one free meals.