If there is anything that really puts a strain on a parent’s wallet: it is grocery shopping. Food is a necessity and children tend to eat a huge quantity of food. My little guy is only 15 months and he is already making a little dent in the pocketbook by inhaling fruit and veggies like no tomorrow (which is a good thing!). Ultimately, when you have children you will have to adjust your grocery shopping budget accordingly. However, there are ways to save at the grocery store:
Suggestions to Trim your Grocery Shopping Costs:
1. Meal Plan
Many people (including myself) meal plan for the week. By looking ahead at the week and knowing what you need to prepare, you can opt to only buy what you really need at the grocery store. There is a tendency to over-buy at the grocery store when you do not have a plan and sometimes fresh food can become wasted. For example, if you know that you have three events that provide dinner over the course of the week, you probably do not need as much protein and fresh vegetables. Meal plan not only your dinners, but your breakfast and lunch options too! Once you have planned your meals for the week, create a shopping list. When you head to the grocery store, try to stick to your list.
2. Eat leftovers for lunch
My husband and I prefer to eat leftovers from dinner for our lunches. I am not a sandwich person, so I try and plan dinners that will have a serving or two leftover for lunch. Obviously, some workplaces/schools do not have the option to re-heat food; but you can easily create a chicken sandwich with leftover roast chicken, or even cold pizza (remember to use a cold pack to keep food temperatures safe).
3. Invest in a deep freezer and buy frozen food/meats on sale
I will never buy full-price chicken or beef. I always look for a sale and when there is one, I stock up. One of the best purchases we made was a stand-up deep freezer. I have enough room to store lots of frozen meat and veggies. Meat sales do rotate (roughly every 4-6 weeks), so if you plan it right, by the time your meat supply has run out, there is another sale. To prevent freezer burn, we re-wrap our meat in freezer paper and then use a FoodSaver to seal the meat in a plastic bag.
4. Buy non-perishables on sale
Like meat, I will also never pay full-price on certain non-perishable items like: laundry soap, dry pasta, peanut butter, jam, canned beans, rice, toilet paper, toothpaste, and coffee. You will need a pantry or other storage space to store your items, but if there is a good sale, stock up and save. This does not mean go crazy and buy 100 items, but rather, like the fresh meat, you can buy on sale and stock up to have enough for the next sale. I cannot tell you how happy I was one day when I saw that my favorite brand of laundry soap was not only on sale, but also had a sticker for 50% off (it was being discontinued in the store).
5. Buy your fresh fruits and vegetables in season
This tip can be a little hard to manage, especially during a Canadian winter, but be mindful of fruit and vegetable sales when shopping. If strawberries are going for $5 a pint, they simply will not be bought and I will look for another option. When fruit and vegetables are in season, they are generally a bit cheaper, so take advantage of the fresh items available. Check out Foodland Ontario for a great chart on fruit and vegetable availability. Also, here in Ottawa there are many roadside stands that offer local fresh produce. Not only is the produce a bit more fresh, they taste better and also last a bit longer.
6. Make certain items yourself
Beware of products that have everything “done for you”: cottage cheese in individual packs, pre-cut vegetables, pre-washed salad and cheese/meat/cracker packs. The cost of preparing everything for you comes at a premium. For example, I recently noticed at the grocery store that butternut squash pre-cut was almost $4 for a small amount. Buying the butternut squash whole comes out to almost half of that. It does take a bit more work to peel and chop that butternut squash, but there will be savings (and your butternut squash soup will probably taste better). Another example is muffins. A 6-pack of large muffins will cost about $4, but for a few dollars less, you can buy a ready-made package and make 12 smaller muffins (which also probably taste better). Certain food items that I make myself are: stir fry sauce, muffins, cookies, bolognese sauce, chili and chicken pot pie filling.
So those are some of my tips at keeping my food budget reasonable, even with children. It does take some practice and time to get used to, but with a few cost-savings measures, you may be able to panic less at the check-out line.
Do you have any tips that you would like to share? Comment below!