I am often asked how we keep all our boys fed, because they eat like horses! I have been a penny pincher since I was 10 years old so I have learned a few tricks. I decided to share my nonconventional tips as well because they really do help!
1. We don't eat out... hardly ever. As we approach our 1 year anniversary, we have eaten out with kids in toll maybe 3 times. We always eat at home. It's much more healthy for us and saves so much money.
2. We don't do boxed meals. Everything we make is from scratch. This is not only due to cost, but also due to dietary restrictions that we have. We were dairy free though DS3 has outgrown his allergy now and we are less restricted. We are completely nut free and limit gluten intake as I have Celiac disease and DS4 is autistic and DS5 is severe ADHD. We also avoid red food coloring like the plague except on special occasions.
3. We shop multiple stores. We shop according to our meal plan for the week and we stock up when what we need is at the lowest cost. For me this means keeping a notebook with a list of local stores and staples and the average price I have seen those items at. Then when we are preparing our shopping list we cross check sales ads and adjust as needed.
4. We coupon. Yes, I am that annoying lady who has a huge pile of coupons that she treats like her children. We will buy a ton of items when they are an amazing price. I haven't bought deodorant in 6 years and no we don't stink. I found a deal on deodorant where I was paid $.10 a stick to buy it and I hit up all the local store buying as many as I could. A few tips to couponing: be courteous and don't clear the shelf, let people go ahead of you, if you are planning on making a major haul ask to speak to the store manager when you arrive and tell them the crazy amount you plan on purchasing... they typically open up a register just for me so that way you are not holding up other shoppers or frustrating the cashier.
5. Buy in bulk when possible. Shelf stable items that can be bought cheaper in a big box store or online are lifesavers.
6. Grow/Raise your own. Our current rental doesn't allow for a big garden but we have some planters with herbs and tomatoes. When we move next year, we will be finding a place with room for a garden and chickens and possibly meat rabbits.
7. Go meatless. Many of our meals are meatless. Meat is pricy and too much is not good for you. Fresh veggies and grains are filling and good for you and much much cheaper.
8. Waste not want not. We save all of our scraps. I have freezer containers and I put left over veggies, broths, bones, fruits and grains into their own containers. We use the left overs for soup. We will make a huge pot of vegetable soup and the fruit for smoothies and the bones to make bone broth.
9. Crop share. Barter when you can. We have herbs that some of our friends don't and we trade. Our church offers a crop trade too which is excellent. We trade our herbs for squash and peppers mostly. Every penny counts.
10. Meal plan. I am the enforcer when it comes to meal plans. I have four meal plans that I rotate based on season. More salads in the warmer months and more soups in the cooler months. We stick to these.
11. Attend free food events. This not only helps our grocery budget but provides for a change in meals and free entertainment. Plus, who doesn't love free stuff.