Noel’s Kitchen Tips is about sharing frugal ways for families to eat at home more often. You’ll not only save money but you’ll create some wonderful memories of those family mealtimes. If you’re an avid reader than you know I talk a lot about meal planning to save money as well. We’ve learned over the years that to be successful in saving money, we had to track all of our expenses, budget and start cutting down our spending. Groceries used to be high on the list of money overspent until I started meal planning. I know there are lots of people who have a $600 to $800 a month grocery bill for a family of 6 to 8 people. That’s an awful lot of money if you think about it. You could be feeding your family for less by meal planning and that extra money could be saved for a family vacation or your children’s college fund.
One way I’ve learned to save money is by making homemade foods and other household items. Making homemade foods means I’m spending less money at the grocery store and more time and money is saved for my family. (We would love to take another trip to Disneyland.) I also get to spend more time with my family because I’m spending less of my time running around looking for items I don’t really need. One of the fun parts of being in the kitchen is making those delicious and comforting meals for my family from scratch.
By making homemade foods and meals, we’ve saved our family a ton of money and cut way down on our grocery bill. Since the beginning of this year, we started storing the foods we eat often to build up our emergency foods and have cut our grocery bill down even more. (We’ll discuss the topic on storing emergency foods and building a pantry supply in another post.)
Plan Monthly Meals
Over the past few months, I’ve been working on a better way to create our meal plans using those homemade foods and mixes to save more time, save my family money and stocked up our pantry. The solution…meal planning for the whole month! It’s actually pretty easy to do. When we are getting ready for a new month, I sit down with the family, have a list of what’s on hand in my pantry, fridge and freezer and plan out our meals to prepare. It’s a HUGE venture to shop for a family of 4 to 6 for a whole month, so I make sure to have a plan for the grocery store. A little tip: make sure to go by yourself so you’re not buying what’s not needed. Too many temptations for the kids and even the hubby.
Organize Your Kitchen and Take Inventory
I started off by taking one whole day to re-organize my pantry, fridge, freezer and garage (space dedicated for extra pantry and emergency items). To make extra space and preserve the shelf life of some of our pantry items, I purchased food storage bins for my bulk items at Lowe’s like the ones here for an extremely low price. You have to purchase the lids separate. The Lowe’s I went to, had the regular lid like the one here. But there are also the Gamma Seal lids if you’ll be using the food stored in the buckets on a regular basis.
Next I took inventory of what we have on hand. We have 1 big pantry, kitchen cabinets, 1 fridge/freezer combo and a small portion of the garage which I will be moving to the hall pantry closet. (It gets way to hot in summer months.) We are are working on replacing our freezer that broke down at the end of last year for extra freezer space. I’ve basically written down everything we have on hand, allowing me now meal plan for the whole entire month.
Write Your Favorite Meals Out
I also have a new dedicated shelf in my kitchen, with my favorite cookbooks. The internet spoils us with being able to look up recipes online but I still cherish some of my favorite cookbooks. A few favorite family meals that always make it on our menu Homemade Pizza for our Friday Family Movie Night, Homemade Biscuits as a side for dinner or with jam for breakfast and some great main dishes like this Crock Pot Roast allowing us to have multiple meals using this one main ingredient.
Writing down a month worth of meals can seem overwhelming for someone who’s never done it before. Simply start off with one week, then two and go from there. You know what your family eats right? Each night you prepare a meal, write it down. Next thing you know, you’ll have a month’s worth of meals written down. Once you have your month’s worth of meals, it may turn out that you don’t actually eat all 28- 31 days worth of meals. That’s alright. We all usually have a few nights when there are leftovers. Eat leftovers to clean out the fridge and so no food goes to waste. Remember, we’re trying to save money not throw it away. It’s cheaper to warm up some leftovers or scramble an egg, boil rice or pasta than it is to drive thru a fast food place. Plus it’s healthier for you and your family! And like I always say…Eating Out is Expensive…Eating with Family…Priceless!
Shop Where It’s Affordable
Once my meal plan is ready to go, I review the grocery store ads. I no longer limit myself to just one store. I now shop at Raley’s, Winco and Wal-Mart. These stores all have THE BEST prices for saving my family money. If we can’t get to the farmer’s market, I really like the produce section at our local Raley’s and their meat department is great when they have BOGO sales. Occasionally, I will shop at Costco every 4 to 6 months. Costco is great for all my usual baking supplies, butter, and eggs. They are very affordable when buying yeast, seasonings, flour, sugar and dried fruit like mango, raisins or craisins. I go through so much flour, since I now make my ready made mixes to bake all our bread, tortillas, pizza, buns, and rolls.
Large wholesale places like Sam’s Club or Costco can bet expensive on your family’s grocery bill when you start buying their pre- packaged frozen foods and snacks. I now stay clear of these sections. They are way too tempting for families and always cost us way too much money. I do try and cut those coupons and use them along with sale prices, when they apply.
Grocery Shop Alone…If you can
Once I have gone through all the adds, I make my list. I look at what needs to be replaced in our pantry, freezer, and fridge. Simply stick to the basics. If there’s a sale on canned goods, I want to make sure that my canned goods can go in a lot of my recipes or added to my emergency food supply. We even started making a lot of our own canned foods last year. We are trying to get away from all those nasty preservatives, which are found in store bought foods. I always shop from my pantry first, before venturing out on my shopping trip. I want to make sure everything gets used in my pantry and rotate our stock.
Throughout the month I write down on a list we have on the fridge an item when we run out of it and then I know it needs to be replaced. This system works very well for my family and I. The hubby and the kids have learned to write stuff down too.
I no longer buy those prepackaged snacks. No fruit snacks, fruit roll ups, or anything like that. I make the kids Homemade Fruit Snacks, and cheese crackers, however, I will buy some crackers like saltines for the month and maybe a small bag of pretzels if I don’t have the time to make them. Our kids love homemade crackers, plus they’re better for them. We make our own granola, granola bars and trail mix too. We stay clear of all those unhealthy “typical kid snacks”. They are unhealthy, cost more and I can get more for my money by going homemade. Taking these types of foods off of your grocery list will save you money like crazy. I promise!
The less our kids snack on throughout the day, the better they will eat when it comes to mealtime. I try to keep snacks in between our meals simple and at a reasonable time. Cut up some fruit and veggies or yogurt with crackers and always have it on hand ready to go. We want our kids to actually be hungry for their meals, so they are filling up on good healthy meals, rather than those sugar filled foods.
Once all the planning is done, I go shopping. I always try and go by myself if possible. This is the BIGGEST part to saving money. I can take my time making sure I’m getting the most for my money and not worry about the begging and whining, and being impatient, which kids sometimes do. When I shop for a month I usually do it in one day. It usually takes me about 3-4 hours including driving time. (The closest Wal-Mart is 30 minutes away.) That may seem like a lot of time, but when I think about all the time it saves me later, it is so worth it.
Once the shopping is done, everything is brought in. It basically takes over my kitchen, dining table and counters.
I begin putting freezer then the fridge food away first, while Hubby and the kids bring in everything else from the car. I always do the pantry stuff last. While putting away the food, I always divide things like tortillas and other bulk foods into quart size or gallon size freezer bags. I usually portion out what I know my family will eat at one meal time. By doing this, it helps our food stay longer. I only thaw out what I know we will use that week. The rest will stay in the freezer until I need it.
I don’t buy a lot of canned veggies and fruit unless they are on sale or I need them for our emergency food pantry. I like to buy certain vegetable fresh and cut them up, so I can have fresh fruits and veggies all month long. Again, freezing in portions until ready to use. I love those snack size bags to keep in the fridge with fresh cut veggies for the kids. (We try and reuse the snack bags, by rinsing and drying them.) I try and freeze the extra butter, yogurt, cream cheese, bread, shredded cheese, and lunch meat. Freezing these items is essential to our month of shopping. It helps the food last longer and not go bad. When we replace our second freezer, I’m hoping to be able to add milk to the list of freezable items. I also bake a lot of our muffins, breads, cookies in big batches from the ready made mixes I have and freeze them. Then we have yummy baked goods on hand anytime we want.
When it comes to cereal, every month I purchase a few boxes of Corns Flakes, Shredded Wheat and Cheerios to have for breakfast. I buy the generic brand. We also make our own oatmeal packets. You can find some great breakfast ideas here.
The Rewards of Saving
Wow! I know I was pretty long post. Probably one of the longest post I’ve written here, but I had way too much good information to share. And there are many more posts to come where I will share on how we are saving money each month, but as I mentioned earlier, groceries was the biggest for us and is usually the biggest bill for most families. I remember years ago, we would spend close to $600 on groceries every month. I used to go every two weeks and spend about $200 then run back to the store because I didn’t have something and end up wasting and spending more and getting more than I went there for. Once I started implementing all of these these tips I shared today, our grocery bill reduced tremendously. We now spend less than $200 dollars on groceries a month. (I’ll discuss this in another post, but I can tell you my last bill was around $173 and that includes some items purchased for our camping trip.) I pay in cash, or do debit so I am more accountable for the money. plus, I’m also shopping from my pantry first.
I am quite proud of how much I save and the pantry I’ve started to build up for my family. It is a challenge, takes a little bit of time and effort but one I enjoy and welcome. I love finding those good deals, I love cutting out coupons and using them to help save on my groceries, etc., I love knowing we’re covered in an emergency and I absolutely love making those homemade, delicious comforting recipes for my family. I love sharing my passion for cooking and family mealtimes with all of you! This is one of the best jobs ever. Helping my family save money is something I enjoy doing. I hope I’ve inspired you a little and you can use these tips to help your family. Remember, it doesn’t have to be done all at one time, so don’t overwhelm yourself. Just pick one or two and try them out to see what works for your family.
I am not wonder woman, I started out doing a little bit here and there until I figured out what worked for my family. I am a just a mother and a wife and I love it!! I promise you that if you start using these tips as I suggested, your grocery bill can be cut in half or greatly reduced so you can start saving money. I can’t wait to hear how your grocery shopping goes this month. Any challenges come up? If you have any questions let me know. Also if you have some money saving tips on how your family saves on groceries you would like to share, let me know. I’d love to have you as a guest.