At the beginning of the year, Wes and I looked at our budget, and realized we have been spending a lot more since having a second baby. Some of the expense is formula we didn't initially plan on having to buy. We also had been spending more just because of lack of time and energy since adjusting to life with 2 littles.
We have a list of things that are important for us to save up for by the end of the year. We need a new vehicle, we would like to move closer the places we go daily and weekly (work, church, preschool, friends), and now we have to buy Joslynne her own plane ticket when we travel. We've been wanting to make some changes to safer, healthier products in our home for a while now too!
One of our biggest expenses every month is food. Obviously, one of the most important too, but it seemed higher than necessary, so we started looking for ways to save. I wanted to find easy, practical, and simple ideas that wouldn't disrupt our lives or sacrifice health. These are just a few ideas that have been sucessful for us! I'm planning to share a part 2 with non food related ideas next week!
Eggs are so cheap, but a really great source of protein. They are easy to buy in large amounts, and can stay good for a while. Joslynne has an egg allergy, but the rest of us eat eggs at least once a week for dinner, lots of breakfasts, and even some lunches.
I love how easy they are to make in many different ways too!
Wes likes to bring granola bars to work everyday. They are also an easy grab and go snack. I started making homemade bars so we didn't have to buy boxes of them weekly. We love this recipe! It tastes like eating cookies. ;)
We started eating one meatless meal a week. However, I wanted to still add protein to our meals. One of our favorites is protein pancakes! We buy boxes of Kodiak Cake Protein Pancake Mix in bulk. You can just add water! These are some of the only pancakes we've found that don't have eggs or soy so our whole family can eat them. ;)
Other favorites to add to meatless meals are beans and quinoa for protein!
Having a membership to a bulk store has been huge. We buy all of our meat and baking ingredients at Costco, as well as condiments. Their prices are super cheap for large quantities. We have an additional freezer in our garage so we can purchase more food at once. We take a Costco trip every 6-8 weeks and it saves a ton on our grocery bill!
Some favorites we find at Costco are: Milk, Flour, Sugar, Crackers, Cheese Sticks, Canned Goods, Paper Towels, Chicken, Ground Beef, Pork Roasts, Chicken Broth, Yogurt, Spaghetti, Pasta Sauce, BBQ Sauce, Fruit snacks, Salsa, Broth
Meal planning is huge for staying on budget. We make a list of meals for the week, and make a grocery list from that. This way, we don't buy more than we need or have things in the house that will expired before getting used.
We can buy milk in bulk at Costco, then freeze what we won't use right away! It's also really nice to have so much on hand so we don't run out often.
Homemade Baby Food
Baby food is so easy to make and really inexpensive. I can make a month's worth for Elaina in an hour. And it only costs a few dollars.
We make: Spinach, carrots, apples, peas, squash, sweet potato, pears, bananas, blueberries, and peaches often. We mix some too. ;)
We freeze the food in ice cube serving sizes. They last forever. At meals, we just thaw a cube of food to add to cereal or oatmeal. We also grab a cube to take out and about and it thaws by the time Elaina wants to eat.
We also make our own baby food pouches. We bought these refillable pouches and love them. They are so easy to clean and refill. We just fill a couple with a few cubes of baby food and put them in the fridge for a couple days. They are thawed when we grab one to give the baby!
We add Choomee covers to our pouches so Elaina can't squeeze the food out. These are amazing! The only way to get the food out is to suck on it, so no more disasters!
How we make the food:
1. Cube desired fruit or vegetable
2. Steam on stove top.
3. Remove from heat and cool.
4. Puree using blender, food processor, or Magic Bullet (We are obsessed with this one and use it daily).
5. Spoon food puree into an ice tray and freeze.
6. Once frozen, pop out cubes and store in freezer safe container.
Stop Buying Drinks
When we decided to try spending less on food, we cut out any juice, soda, or drinks besides milk (and our antioxidant fav). Now we just drink water at meals, and it's healthier while lowering our spending!
Bring Food When We Go Out
If we know we are going to run errands or be out for a long time during the day, we try to bring our own snacks and lunch. We usually are packing a lunch box for Elaina anyways, so it's easy to fill it with food for the rest of us too!
We have made hundreds of dollars back by using Ibotta. This is an app that gives you cash back when you buy certain things in stores or online. I just scroll through their offers and add ones I want to use before going to the store. While shopping, you can scan barcodes to make sure you found the correct item. I scan my receipt as soon as I check out for cash back!
Some offers may require you to purchase 2 at once or a more expensive brand. However, there are bonuses for using a certain amount of offers, so sometimes it's worth it to stock up or buy the more expensive brand. For example, an additional $10 back if you use 20 offers by the end of the week. For something like that, I use all the offers for anything we will use to get the bonus.
Offers are always changing, so check often! Many items we buy anyways pop up all the time. :)
Walmart Grocery Pick up
As soon as I make a meal plan for the week, I submit my Walmart grocery order based on the meal plan. This allows me to buy only what we need. It's also pretty amazing to have the groceries brought straight to my car without getting the girls out! When I'm in the store, I almost always purchase something extra because it looks good, or I see a deal, get side tracked, etc.
Shop the Pantry
Meal planning also allows me to choose meals based on what we already have. I like to go into the pantry (and freezer) before planning our meals and making a grocery list, to see what we can use up. This helps us use everything before it expires and we buy less and waste less.
A couple years ago, I started making double batches of meals and freezing half for another day. This saves time since you are doing the same amount of work for 2 meals. It's so nice to be able to pull out a whole meal on a day we don't have time to cook! It also saves money since leftovers don't get wasted. I can't tell you how many times we've had 1/2 or one serving left of a meal in the fridge and we forget about it.
Purchase produce locally
We have a local grocery store that has great produce prices, and the quality is usually better than Walmart anyways! I think many cities have something like it, and I've heard good things about Aldi. ;)
We also have found that produce is usually cheaper at the farmer's market. Plus everything is organic and tastes amazing! We don't get there all the time, we always save money on fruit and vegetables when we do. There's a huge one in the city near us from June-October!
- Whole carrots are much cheaper than the already peeled baby carrots. Plus, Wes says they taste better. ;)
- Bagged apples are cheaper than buying them individually.
- Freeze half your spinach before it goes bad, or buy frozen spinach for smoothies
- Put herbs in a glass of water with ziplock bag over them in the fridge so they last longer.
- If you stock up on bread, freeze a loaf until you need it.
I know there are so many other money saving tips out there! These are just little changes I could make easily right away. I'd love to hear any other ideas you might have on how to save money on food!