I was very committed to playing the coupon game for about two years. After my first daughter was born, I was trying any and every way to make our life work on one budget. It was a balancing act and still requires certain sacrifices. Worthy, but nonetheless, difficult.
Well, I learned that there is only so much couponing I am willing to do. I started to find my efforts were better spent in other areas. Work smarter, not harder - right?
(My coupon binder is now collecting dust.)
1. Meal Planning - For me, this is THE way to save on our food budget. When I slack off in this area it inevitably means we will overspend. Without some sort of plan for the week, I slip into the habit of running to the grocery store several times and spending more than I should. I'm also tempted to buy more convenience food which is pricier and less healthy than homemade (usually).
Some bloggers have beautiful methods they use for meal planning. Me? I jot down a menu on the top of my weekly grocery shopping list. It might get stuck on the fridge (if I remember) or it might just get lost in the abyss of my purse. Nevertheless, it is a strong start to me saving on our bottom line.
2. "Shopping" my pantry - I never used to be very good at this habit. Things would get pushed back into the corners and new food items would get set up front. So, I never really knew what I had and didn't have. While making my meal plan now, I'll do a quick pantry/fridge purge to see what we have lurking about. I usually have pieces for meals and then add what else is needed to my list. This can be challenging, especially when I'm crunched for time or I am really craving a certain dish.
3. Freezer Cooking - There is a TON of information online about this, and I have dabbled in it a few times. I haven't committed to certain days during the month where I freezer cook, but I feel like that is a necessary step for success. Choosing a few hours on a Saturday to prep my meals would make a huge difference. I did another swap recently with a friend, and was surprised at how simple it was to crank out 4 family servings of 2 healthy dishes.
Pinterest does not disappoint with it's abundance of freezer cooking recipes and tips. I loved how easy the Spinach Lasagna Rolls and Zucchini Turkey Burgers were to assemble and that my kitchen wasn't a complete disaster after ;).
4. KISS - Everyone knows this acronym, and it's a good one. Our weekly meals have become very simplified. Not boring, but nothing fancy. We tend to stick to meals with less than 4-5 ingredients. No really, it helps! If something does require more prep, I save it for the weekend. We eat meat-free meals about 1/2 the week as well. This means sandwiches, soup, breakfast foods, smoothies, eggs, etc..
What methods, besides coupons, have you used to save on your food budget? Which got you the most bang for your buck?