How to Feed a Full House on a Low Budget

Meal preparation in large households can be a costly expense for families on a fixed income. With rising food costs, a family of four can expect to pay between $146 and $289 a week on groceries. Food expenses in bigger families, particularly those with growing children and adolescents, is the second largest bill, following closely behind rent. Below are tips to reduce the expense of putting food on the table.

Buy In Bulk

Warehouse clubs are wholesale retailers that offer a vast selection of products in bulk quantities for lower unit prices. Although warehouse clubs typically have an annual membership fee just to shop at the location, overall cost for food is 25 percent less expensive than at grocery stores. For instance, a precooked rotisserie chicken at a grocery store typically costs $9, while a warehouse club charges less than $5. Likewise, a 12-pack of soda costs about $5.50 at a grocery store for a unit price of $0.46 per can, while a 35-pack of soda costs less than $11 at a wholesaler for a unit price of $0.31 per can. While a $0.15 difference may not seem like big savings, a family that consumes six cans of soda a day will save $328.50 annually. Apply these saving over many food items and a warehouse membership will not only pay for itself, but also save families thousands each year.

Make Meals That Last

Most family cooks understand that meal preparation for eight people is not much harder than cooking for six or four. Meals such as stews are simple to make larger just by increasing the amount of ingredients accordingly. Feasts that can last a couple days just by adding fillers like potatoes or pasta can stretch the grocery budget more than a new dinner each night. Meals like spaghetti and chili are inexpensive, usually less than $10, and can last for multiple meals. Likewise, consider transforming dinner leftovers into new lunch creations by turning grilled chicken and rice into a chicken sandwich with a couple pieces of bread. Creating meals with whole grains like brown rice also makes meals more filling than ones that use white grains.

Premade Meals vs. Meals From Scratch

Many families believe that meals made from scratch are less costly than premade meals. Fortunately, for busy households, that notion is no longer true, as companies tailor products to fit the lives and budget of consumers. As stated earlier, a precooked rotisserie chicken can cost between $5 and $9 depending on where the consumer purchases. A raw rotisserie chicken at the same grocery store can cost over $12 plus the added expense of spices for flavor. Premade meals can also be an affordable treat, as many frozen pizzas are less expensive than those from delivery franchises. While not all premade meals are less expensive, some options like meal kits could save households both time and money.

Shop for Sales and Discounts

It may seem like common sense, but looking for products at reduced costs and utilizing coupons can reduce the average grocery bill by 30 percent. It can also be beneficial to look into the details of a sale. For instance, many food retailers offer buy-one-get-one (BOGO) sales, which are really half off promotions designed to encourage multiple purchases. Another way to save money on regularly consumed items is to opt for generic items or store brands rather than brand name products. Families that preplan meals based on the available sale items can purchase more food for the same costs.

Shop Around

While it is convenient to do all shopping in one centralized location, making purchases at different vendors can reduce overall costs. Look at fliers and prices of local food retailers and wholesalers for upcoming sales when planning meals for the upcoming week prior to grocery shopping, as an item at one location may be half its price at another location.

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