Large families take extra work, planning and money. Feeding a large family on a skinny budget is not always easy, but it can be done! in fact, if you try some new and creative ideas, you might actually feel like you’re living on a much heftier budget!
Our family has grown rapidly. My husband and I were married in 2000, and by 2008, we had four kids. Now, we have six. Our needs continue to grow, and our grocery budget has to be continually altered to keep up with our growing kids!
By far, our most pressing budget challenges are found in our food and grocery bill. Our family was growing tired of feeling like we had to live on skimpy, tasteless meals. I often thought, “If I only had $200 more in our food budget, I could make this work!” Well, the $200 didn’t come, but new and creative ideas did — and you know what? They really made a difference!
Since changing our food plan, we have been quite happy with our meal choices — even though they are still budget-friendly!
Here are some grocery budget tips that help our large family live on a skinny budget.
Tips for Feeding a Large Family on a Skinny Budget
- Check-out discount stores. I remember when my husband mentioned a discount grocery store to me. I thought there was no way that I could actually do better on my grocery bill at that place. I was already shopping at Aldi, the day old bread store and catching morning markdowns at local grocery stores. But, just to check out a friend’s advice, we took a 40 minute drive to this supposedly wonderful grocery store. I can not tell you how much I wanted to kick myself! Why hadn’t I listened sooner? Our family stocked up on cheese, frozen pizzas, chicken tenders, name-brand cereals etc. We had two huge grocery carts overflowing with food. Out total was $140 and that lasted us for two weeks — sometimes longer. If you know of a discount store in your area, make the time and effort to check it out. You may be pleasantly surprised! No coupon clipping is necessary — yay!
- Cut back on meat. We mentioned this tip in a different post. It really does help. We eat lasagna and spaghetti without meat and no one misses it. Also, try adding beans to your meat dishes to make them stretch. A great way to try this is adding pinto beans in with your meat for tacos. Prepare half the meat you do normally, and add the other half back with beans. Also, stir-frys and soups are great meals that require very little meat!
- Whip up some freezer meals. Freezer meals are great because you can spend a few hours making up a bunch of meals to freeze for a later date. This cuts back on your cost because you are not tempted to run out and grab something when you are pinched for time and everyone’s tummies are growing! You can just grab a meal from your freezer, and pop it in the oven!
- Replace milk with water. My kiddos love milk, especially my two youngest kids. They are always asking for milk, but fresh, cold milk costs about $9-$10 a gallon here. We buy boxed UHT milk, but we also cut back on how much we use when cooking. I typically experiment and cut down many of my recipe by 1/2 cup of milk and do the other half with water. It has worked great for scrambled eggs, pancakes, muffins and even smoothies. No one seemed to notice, so I didn’t tell my family. Shhh! Don’t spill the secret!
- Stop buying drinks. Juice, soft drinks and flavored teas are rarely found at our home. We mainly drink water, sweet or green tea and home-made lemonade. Buying drinks can really add up fast. Try making your own flavored waters and teas. Some people even make their own soda, but we don’t. We just don’t buy the stuff on a regular basis. If you don’t want to squeeze lemons for home-made lemonade, buy some bottled lemon juice and combine that with sugar and water to make lemonade for your family. We make it often, and it only takes about five minutes to make!
- Buy discounted, close to date food. Don’t be scared to buy that gallon of milk that’s marked down because it expires tomorrow! You can easily freeze it. Pour out some of the milk into a smaller container and freeze. Milk expands during the freezing process, but many other items are easily frozen. Many times we would get some amazing deals by just purchasing near-to-date items. We have gotten expensive deli meats, cheeses, milk, ice cream, 12-grain breads, chocolates and more for a fraction of the price this way. Your freezer can be your best friend!
- Call your favorite companies. During my kid’s nap, sometimes I would look on the back of our fave food products and call their customer service line. I would then ask if they mailed out coupons. Some mailed me huge booklets, and some others refused to mail out coupons stating they send theirs to the Sunday newspaper. Typically I get way better coupons directly from the manufacturer than I do in a newspaper. It’s not going to hurt to call and ask!
- Cook from scratch. Don’t be intimidated about cooking from scratch — you can do it! There are so many recipes that are simple, easy, healthy and cheap that you don’t need a box or can for! Tuna or hamburger skillet, tomato soup, hot cocoa, brownies, home-made bread, bagels, tortillas, re-fried beans — the list goes one! Do some research and experiment with some recipes. You are sure to find some that work for you and your budget!
What are your tips on feeding a large family on a skinny budget? I welcome your frugal-friendly ideas in the comments section!