How to Save Money on Meals for Your Family

Now that you know How to Save Money Shopping for Groceries it’s time turn our focus to something you have control over: feeding your family. You can’t control the grocery prices or what is available at your store at any given time but you can control what you do with the products you buy and bring home to your family. You can save a lot of money if you put a little bit of thought into the meals that you eat with your family.

Here are a few things that I do to save money on meals for our family:

1. Find good recipes that your family loves that are easy and inexpensive to prepare.
You don’t have to be Martha Stewart and cook a meal every night that takes hours to prepare and features ingredients like truffle oil, etc. You can feed your family good and healthy food and do it less time and for less money. Just choose recipes that are ones that your family will enjoy and that have less expensive ingredients. Casseroles are a really great option because you can throw anything you want in and it works. You can change them based on what you have and what’s on sale. My kids love them and it’s a great way for me to get them to eat new things. If you have a recipe that you really like that features an expensive ingredient you can always come up with a change to bring down the price or you could make it less often.

2. Plan your meals based on what is on sale at your local grocery store AND what you already have in your pantry.
We learned this in my series How I Save Money Shopping for Groceries: Part One. Make a menu for the week of what your family will eat. You can do this for breakfast, lunch and dinner or for just dinner or really whatever works best for your family. I usually just make my menu for dinners but often I include a few ideas for lunches. Take into account what you already have at home and what is on sale at the grocery store.

3. Waste less!
When you plan meals taking into account what you already have on hand you will find that you are throwing out less food. Everyone is guilty of this (me included) and it is such a waste of money. Every time you throw out food you are throwing out the dollars you spent to buy that food. If you work to use up what you have you will find that you are needing to buy less and thus are saving more.

4. Use your freezer!
My freezer is my biggest money saving tool and it’s one of my most used purchases for sure. In How I Save Money Shopping for Groceries: Part Three I told you how I buy items (meat, bread, tortillas, etc.) close to expiration at a deep discount and then freeze what I won’t use right away. Freezer cooking is another great way to save time and money. I make dishes (burritos, breakfast burritos, waffles, pancakes, etc.) specifically to be frozen and then eaten at a later date. I also make casseroles for dinner and we eat one half and freeze the other (this is what I do the most as it requires absolutely NO extra effort, I’m already cooking dinner). I cannot tell you enough how much I love, love, love my freezer. It saves me not only money but time and who couldn’t use more time? As a Mom I can always use more time!

5. Use less meat.
Meat is often the most expensive ingredient in any recipe. If you can cut down on the amount of meat you use you will see a big savings in your grocery bill. I often use less meat and more veggies in my recipes. My family hasn’t complained and we’re all eating healthier. I use less hamburger (or chicken) and put beans and corn into Mexican dishes (we eat a lot of Mexican, we LOVE Mexican). This works well in chili as well. I also put brown rice and other veggies into casseroles and cut back on chicken, pork, etc. You’re still eating well and you’re feeling full but for less money.

6. Pack lunches and snacks. 
If you have errands or other plans during the snack time or lunch time hours why not pack something from home instead of buying something while you’re out? If you bring your own water from home it’s FREE. If you buy a bottle at a convenient store you’ll pay almost $2. That adds up. Same goes for snacks. You can buy one granola bar for $1.50 or you can buy an entire box for that price and bring one with you or just keep it in your bag. Lunches are easy, too. Just plan ahead and pack something to bring along with you. This works really well for kids, too. It just takes a little effort and it will keep you eating healthier (you won’t be getting fast food or junk) and saving money. Do it the night before if you know you’ll have a busy morning.

7. Eat out less.
This is a no brainer: you will pay more for someone else to cook your food than you will to cook it yourself. We all enjoy a nice meal out at a restaurant, myself included. But if you eat out every day you will spend a ton of money doing it. Cut down on the number of times you eat out and you will probably enjoy it more and be saving money at the same time. If you like to eat meals out with friends try taking turns hosting each other at your own homes. Or share the cooking duties and have everyone bring a dish. You’ll still have a great time and eat a great meal but you will all save a ton of money!

8. Take advantage of the free meals offered by restaurants.
Almost every restaurant out there is offering something for free. Just recently there were several offering free kids meals with the purchase of an adult entree (I think Chilis and Olive Garden?). There are clubs you can sign up for at each restaurant where you can earn points for free appetizers or entrees. This year was leap year and many restaurants (including Outback and Bonefish) were giving away their signature appetizers. There are special days each year where you can get something free at many smaller chain restaurants/stores including free pretzel day at Auntie Anne’s, free slurpee day at 7-11, free coffee at McDonald’s, etc. It feels like these are happening every week. Take advantage of what is free in your town and work that into your schedule to save even more money on your meals!

You definitely don’t need to do all of these things right away in order to see a change in your grocery budget. You can start small and pick one or two and see how it works for your family. You will find yourself spending less money at the grocery store each week because you are using what you have in a smarter way. Anyone can do this, you don’t even have to be a good cook. There are plenty of simple recipes out there. I challenge you to give it a try and how much you can save!

There is so much more that you can do to save money! Want to learn more? Want to learn to shop like I do? Email me at madeinearlysville (at) gmail (dot) com to sign up for my class!


2 thoughts on “How to Save Money on Meals for Your Family”

  1. These are great tips! Planning meals is something I need to be better at, and also not wasting food. When I plan, the key is actually making those meals. 😉 Otherwise, it kind of defeats the purpose.

    1. Thanks Kim! We were JUST like that before we had kids. We were all over the place and could never stick to anything. Don’t be too hard on yourself, it will come soon enough!

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