According to recent data, US households with children spend approximately $160.35 per week on groceries.
If you’re looking to reduce your spend on food, there are some simple ways to cut down your costs by changing your buying and cooking habits.
Frugal family meals don’t have to mean unhealthy ingredients and dull dinners. Follow our 15 tips to reduce your family food budget whilst providing healthy, nutritious meals.
15 tips for frugal family meals
Feeding a family on a budget is not an easy task, but it can be done with careful planning.
1. Set a budget
Preparing frugal family meals require a budget.
To start, keep track of what you usually spend on your grocery shop by keeping receipts or going back through your bank statements.
Once you know what you typically spend you can cut out any unnecessary purchases and decide on a realistic budget.
A top tip when budgeting is to write a list of your grocery shopping priorities. If you need to reduce your budget, it’s easier to take items off the bottom of your priority list.
A monthly shopping budget is easier to stick to, however you could do a weekly one if you prefer. Avoid eating out as this will easily push you over your carefully thought out budget.
2. Switch to a cheaper grocery store
Switch your favourite branded products to own-brand alternatives. You might be pleasantly surprised by the taste and quality as well as the savings available.
3. Shop online to make it easier to stick to your family food budget
Shopping online allows you to manage your budget more effectively as you can keep track of how much you’re spending and easily take items out of your basket or swap them for cheaper alternatives.
When shopping online it’s easy to quickly check prices to make sure you’re not overspending on certain products.
Many banking apps also help you stick to budgets by sending you notifications every time you make a purchase or notifying you how much money you have left in a certain period.
4. Make a meal plan
Frugal meal plans are the easiest way to cut your family food budget, and it will also help you work out how to use any leftovers and avoid waste.
Make a list of what you’re going to eat every day for breakfast, lunch and dinner, using up any ingredients that you already have in your fridge or cupboard.
Avoid recipes that require special ingredients that you will only use once.
You can use a reusable family planner that you stick on your fridge or an Excel spreadsheet, based on your preferences.
If you get stuck for meal inspiration, browse the internet or use a cookbook. Try sharing ideas with family members and friends to try out new frugal recipes.
From your menu plan, write a shopping list for all of the items that you need for the week or month.
Having a plan will mean you’re less likely to spend money on unnecessary items or order a takeaway.
Try planning for two or four weeks at a time to give you the biggest savings.
5. Shop at final reductions times
Items with a yellow label are reduced to clear and can save you up to 75%. These items are normally at the end of their shelf life; however, they are still perfectly good food and can save you a lot of money.
Reduction times will vary by grocery store and depend on opening times but are typically mid-morning or after 7 pm.
Try shopping at different times and work out when your store usually reduces their prices.
If possible, avoid shopping when you’re hungry as this will encourage you to pick up items that are not on your list as a quick snack.
6. Shop in season
For really frugal meals, shop seasonally. Seasonal produce tastes better, has more nutrients and it costs less. The reason it costs less is that there are often large harvests that need to be sold, driving the price down.
If you buy local seasonal produce there is no need for transportation costs, making the unit costs lower.
Research and make a note of which produce is in season then plan your meals around them.
Seasonal produce is a great choice for healthy frugal meals.
7. Try meat-free meals
Meat is often one of the most expensive items in a food shop. Use lentils, pulses or vegetables instead of meat for one or two meals a week and you will be surprised at how much you can save.
Recipes such as pies, pasta bakes, curries and roasts can easily be adapted with some simple ingredient swaps that are both cost-effective and nutritious.
8. Use leftovers for tomorrow’s lunch or dinner
Americans discard nearly 40 million tons of food every year.
Help the environment and cut the cost of your weekly grocery shop by getting creative with your leftovers. Here are some ideas to try:
- Place potato peelings in an ovenproof dish, cover them with salt, pepper and other spices and cook them in the oven until they are crispy.
- Freeze leftover sauces in ice cube trays then use them to flavour new dishes.
- Use any cheese remains to make a tasty cheese sauce for a pasta bake.
Don’t be tempted to throw away fruit and vegetables that are past their best before date, they often last much longer.
9. Make your own bread
Did you know that the ingredients needed to make a homemade loaf will cost between $0.75-$0.79, which is two-thirds of the average cost of a grocery store-bought loaf?
You can also bake more than one loaf at a time, saving you the cost of preheating your oven for a second loaf and saving you precious time. Freeze any bread you don’t need for another day.
10. Use your local butcher
A butcher will have a wider selection of meats available, allowing them to offer alternative cuts of meat that can save you money without sacrificing on the quality or flavour.
Butchers often have special deals, especially if you bulk buy, so you can get more for your cash.
11. Buy certain items in bulk
There are many foods that will last a very long time and will save you money if you buy them in bulk, including:
- White rice
- Soy sauce
- Baking soda
These staple ingredients are always handy to have in your cupboard and will help you knock up some tasty and nutritious meals when you’re short of time, or money.
Bulk buying is ideal for frugal large family meals.
12. Use frozen fruit, vegetables and fish in frugal family meals
Frozen fruit and vegetables are just as nutritious, sometimes even more so, than fresh produce.
Frozen produce is picked when they are at the most nutritious stage.
Once harvested, the fruit and vegetables are washed, prepared, frozen and packages within a few hours, locking all the goodness in.
Frozen items are often much cheaper too. Frozen fish is more affordable than fresh fish and is also more convenient.
On the days that you haven’t been able to plan your meals, simply defrost your frozen fish and you will have a healthy dinner in no time or effort.
Try portioning items in your freezer to save time and reduce waste when preparing your meals.
13. Bulk up meals with cheap wholefoods
The cheapest foods on the grocery store shelves are pulses such as beans, lentils and peas.
Pulses are also packed full of fibre, vitamins and minerals, making them a healthy alternative to meat.
Try using lentils in your usual bolognese instead of mince, or use half of each to reduce the cost of the meal and bulk it out.
14. Grow your own produce
You can save a lot of money by learning how to grow your own food.
Growing your own produce is simple, nutritious and better for the environment.
Fruit and vegetable seeds are inexpensive and they will result in a lot of produce.
It has been proven that growing your own vegetables will motivate you to eat more fresh food and live a healthier lifestyle.
15. Eat more eggs
Eggs are inexpensive and packed full of protein and nutrients. There are also lots of ways you can use them in your meals and they have a good shelf life.
Eggs can be boiled, baked, scrambled, fried or poached. Eggs are also a versatile ingredient that you can use for breakfast, lunch, dinner or dessert.
Slash your family food budget
Now you’ve got your family food budget and frugal family meals mastered, keep your other personal finances in check with the latest financial advice on our website.