Feeding a Family for $300 a Month
by Tawra Kellam
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I do something that most people think they can't do today. I feed my family of five for $300 a month. Most people say that's an impossible feat, but what boggles minds even more is that I do it without using coupons.
How do I do it? First, I use what I have. If I don't have milk in the house, I don't make a special trip to the store for it. The kids won't die from malnutrition if they miss drinking milk for a day or two. If I'm out of bread, I'll make some cornbread or muffins. If I'm out of fresh veggies, I will use canned or frozen instead. Stop going to the store for one or two things. I shop for food two to three times a month and that's it. You'd be amazed how much this saves on the cost of gas.
Shopping the clearance sections, I regularly find milk on clearance for $1.20 a gallon. My store marks the milk down a few days before the "sell by" date. The great part is that milk stays fresh for one week after it's opened. I generally only buy the milk when it's marked down and I buy enough to last until the next time I find a great deal on it. I throw several in the freezer and then I don't have to make a special trip for milk (or pay the premium price). Just thaw, shake and serve.
Purchase meat only on sale or on clearance. Again, butchers mark down their meat a day or two before the "sell by" date. Generally, meat is good for three to four days after the "sell by" date in the fridge or six months in the freezer.
I never buy meat unless it's on sale for $1.99 or less a pound. If it's not on sale, we don't eat it. (Even so, we never have a shortage of meat in our house.) You can get some great unadvertised deals just by watching the meat counter's clearance items. I found five-pound rolls of hamburger for $5.95 each just the other day. Of course, I stocked up and will have enough hamburger to last the next six months.
I can get "soup bones" with enough meat on them to make a great vegetable stew for under $3 for the entire family! Add some rolls and you have a complete meal for five for less than $4. When chicken is on sale for $1.66 per pound, I stock up. I do this with all my meats. This way, we can always have a variety of meats."
Here's another important tip: Ask. Most people are intimidated by asking, but I regularly ask when things will go on sale or be marked down. By asking, I've found out that bananas, milk and meat are marked down each morning. I try to shop in the mornings to get the best deals. When we lived in Texas, the stores marked things down in the evening, so we made it a point to go shopping in the evening. Adjust your shopping times to find the best deals.
Serve your family proper portions of food. Most parents give their kids way too much milk, juice and soda. My kids get soda on special occasions only. They eat milk with their cereal. For snacks, they eat a piece of string cheese, fruit or one or two cookies. The kids don't sip on milk or juice all day long. They drink water and are just fine with it.
As a general rule, I try to give them one vegetable and one fruit for lunch and dinner and then a piece of fruit with cookies or cheese as a snack. This way, they get their "five a day" in very easily. Stop letting kids just "graze" on chips and other snack foods all day. My kids get one small "bowl" of chips (1/2 cup to 1 cup depending on the size of the chips) a day and that's it.
So what do we eat? Here are some of our menus:
- Slow cooked roast, brown gravy, onions, carrots, potatoes, buttermilk muffins and a fruit plate
- The next day, the leftovers from the roast are used as barbecue beef along with potato salad, green beans and strawberries or grapes.
- Pizza (homemade), tossed salad and fruit
- Maple glazed chicken, scalloped potatoes, glazed carrots, applesauce and dinner rolls
- Sloppy Joes, cucumbers and tomatoes
- Tacos, refried beans, green beans, sliced apples and tortilla chips with honey
With savvy shopping, you to can cut your grocery bill even when prices are going up!
Note: Prices are different in different areas and change over time, so your experience may differ.
Jill Cooper and Tawra Kellam are frugal living experts and the editors of LivingOnADime.com. As a single mother of two, Jill Cooper started her own business without any capital and paid off $35,000 debt in 5 years on $1,000 a month income. Tawra and her husband paid off $20,000 debt in 5 years on $22,000 a year income. Tawra and Jill teach thousands of readers each month how to save money on their grocery bill and get out of debt.
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