How to Reduce Your Family Food Costs

To grow wealthy, it is critical to cut expenses enough to provide money for regular investing.  You really need to have at least $300-$500 each month to put into your investing account so you can acquire stocks and mutual funds and build your portfolio.  Obviously it would be nice to just get a big raise to provide the needed cash, but for most people it is a matter of cutting expenses to free up cash.

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Food is a great place to cut spending, particularly if you eat out often.  Simply by cooking at home more often and bringing leftovers for lunch you can cut your food spending dramatically.  Even beyond eating in, there are ways you can stretch your food dollar without sacrificing quality or health.  In fact, you may actually eat better.

There have also been people questioning the ability for a family on food stamps to afford to eat with budgets of about $100 per week for a family of four. Several groups have said it just cannot be done. To test this hypothesis, a local radio station had a contest to see if families could buy enough food for a week on $100. Three families that have learned to plan their meals and stretch their food dollars entered the contest and all were able to complete the challenge easily. In fact, every family said they actually ended up spending more than the normally did when they fed their own family regularly.

So what are the ways to reduce your grocery bill?  Here are some ways:

1) Stay away from processed foods.  Buying TV dinners will cost you a lot more than buying the same ingredients separately and assembling the meal yourself.  Likewise, it s a lot cheaper (and healthier) to make your own food from fresh ingredients than it is to but a box of breaded frozen food.

2) Buy a whole chicken and make three meals.  Instead of buying skinless breast meat – the most expensive way to buy chicken, buy a whole chicken, cut it up, and freeze for separate meals.  With a whole chicken you can 1) fry or bake the thighs and legs for one meal, 2) dice the breast meat for a stir fry for a second meal, and 3) boil the carcus for a soup base, using the back meat and other scraps as the protein for the soup.  Note you can also save up the wings until you have enough for a meal of fried or hot wings.

3) Leave out the meat for a few meals.  Beans and rice is great for a meal a week, particularly if you spice things up with chili powder or and cumin.  Meat costs a lot, so if you can leave it out for a meal or two, you can really cut your costs.

4) Make meals that stretch ingredients.  There are meals that use a little bit of more expensive ingredients and stretch them with less expensive ingredients.  Examples are soups that contain a lot of vegetables and a little meat, chili that has a little burger meat and a lot of beans, and spaghetti that may contain no meat at all or perhaps just a half pound of beef or sausage meat.

5) Make your own drinks.  Cans of soda or bottles of juice can really bump your costs up.  Instead, make a jug of iced tea of lemon-aide for pennies.  Since most juices are just sugar anyway, it might be just fine to bring out the Kool-Aid at a quarter a half gallon with its added vitamin C.

6) Use slow cooking and other tenderizing techniques to make cheap cuts of beef tender.  Stew meat is a tough cut of meat made tender by slow simmering in a stew.  A pot of stew with potatoes, carrots, and stew meat can feed a family of four for maybe $5.

7) Buy extra and separate into multiple meals.  It is almost always cheaper to buy in bulk.  Buy a large pack of meat and separate it into individual meals in freezer bags.  For example, buy a pack of 12 pork chops and separate into three bags of four chops each.

8) Get in tune with the seasons.  Things like lettuce and melons are really expensive in the winter but cheap in the summer.  See what’s in season and craft your meals around it rather than trying to make a dish with expensive ingredients that don’t taste that great because  they were picked green for shipping a long distance.

9) Make your own mixes, or just assemble from scratch.  Pancake mix is nothing more than flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt.  You can assemble this yourself for less.  Some mixes contain powdered eggs and milk as well.  It will taste a lot better with a fresh egg and milk without a lot more work.

10) Make a plan before going to the store.  Go to the store when you’re hungry and you’ll buy a lot more than you need.  Instead, prepare menus for a week or two at a time, prepare a food list, and just buy what’s on the list when you go to the store.  This also avoids wasting food by making sure fresh foods are cooked early in the week before they go bad.

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