I haven't always been good at a food budget. When I first married our local Walmart was our only option. I can remember spending $150-$200 for only 2 of us and being so discouraged because we came home with hardly anything. We rarely ate meat, and if we did, it was processed. That was hard for me, a farm girl who kinda "ate off the land". If we didn't grow it, we didn't eat it. We ate food in season.
But we moved to another state. Food prices were half of what I was use to paying. I was able to coupon and go through ads and find the best prices for food. I spent half of what I use to, and we fed more people!
Here are a few tricks and tips I have used through the years:-
1. The $1 store. When was the last time you went into yours? Guess what I found at mine? Unsweetened Almond milk for $1. Its a quart! They also have tea, brown rice, beans, spices, 6 ounces cheese, frozen fruit, frozen veggies (some can even find okra!),
2.I have also worked at a local CSA farm for a food share. A few hours one day a week and fresh veggies were a great deal for me. Granted this was when I couldn't garden. I know most don't or can't garden. I do garden now so I no longer need to work at a farm.
3. Check your local store for reduced meat, veggies, fruits etc. Kroger has a bin specifically for picked over produce. $1 a bag. Most things aren't that great of a deal, but sometimes I was able to find things like 4 Mangos for a $1! I also was able to find reduced produce. Look for the tags! I have been able to get most of my salad fixings this way. I use them right away and most are fine for a week or more. Same with meat. Just go look through the meats and look for the markdown tags. I have also done well with breads. One day at Walmart I brought home 4 pkg Joseph's pitas! I keep looking and eventually I hit the jackpot. It isn't always the same. Not always the same time of day either. Just check when you run in for "just" milk etc.
4. Don't neglect to look around at local gas stations for deals. I know this is probably one that makes you go HUH? I have a local gas station here that I know is all over the states. They sell bananas for $.39 a pound. Same with onions and potatoes. They also sell avocados, tomatoes, lettuce, etc. Eggs, OJ, meat, and milk are sometimes cheaper as well. Especially if you get their loyalty card.
5. Local dent or 2nd store. We have a few in my area. Some have food items, some don't. Its been a HUGE blessing for us. I was able to find tortillas for $1. Zevia or $.25 each. I even bought Jay Robb protein powder and WASA rye crackers! Teas and ingredients are also cheap. Just be sure to know your prices or you might not be getting the deal you think it is.
6. I don't buy my meat any specific store. I have been fortunate enough to purchase chicken breasts for only $1.49! I try to not pay more than $1.99 a pound for ANY meat. I do NOT buy steaks or expensive meat cuts. I do sometimes get pork roasts, but in all honestly my family does not enjoy pork, not even bacon (I have an odd family) so I mostly stick to just chicken breasts and ground beef. I do buy fish, tilapia and tuna mostly. I only get it when it is super cheap during lent and get enough for the year.
7. Buy milk when its reduced! I have found it for $.99 more than once at Aldi. I only bought a few gallons and then wondered WHY did I not get all 6 or a bunch anyway. Why? Cheese! I can make cottage/Ricotta cheese with just lemon juice! I use it to make ice cream and also smoothies and shakes. I can freeze it in 1/2 cup or 1 cup measurements. If you also like to make yogurt and kefir you will be set for a while with that as well. Finding milk reduced is like a party for us!
8. Make your own Kombucha, Kimchi, Kraut, Kefir (water and/or milk). It costs a little bit of time and some thought. If you are really adventurous you can try making your own sour dough or even Gwen's Bread into bagels, bread, tortillas, cinnamon rolls, buns, etc. I have a few tips and tricks I will share about that before long. I also make my own Stevia drops from the THM stevia powder. It stretches it and also I can use it so much easier than the powder.
9. Coupons: I know it has a bad name, but not EVERYTHING you buy is in a box or processed. Just the health and beauty aid etc were worth the time to do it. It helped me stockpile things I would normally spend $20, for about $5. That was awesome. I carefully picked the food things that we needed. Coupons are NOT just paper anymore. There are MANY digital coupons. Ibotta, Checkout 51, and Savings Star. There are also digital coupons for your stores. Did you know Kroger has many great deals that you can use 5 times? I just learned about their awesome deals. I use to avoid Pick N Save (our local Kroger affiliate store), because of their high prices that Aldi just couldn't beat.
10. Plan a menu BEFORE you go shopping. I like to go through my pantry and fridge etc to find out what I have on hand first. Then decide how I can use that to make my menu. Most weeks I spend $20 on each menu, but $20 or more to stock up on whatever things were on sale that week. You know, the deals I found. Usually no more than $50 or more a week to keep us fed.
11. I like to meal prep once or more a week. Mostly I do it for my husband because he is working on eating better. He is super easy and simple to meal prep for though. Not everyone is going to be this blessed. He has homemade kefir for breakfast. Salad or lunch, Boiled egg, Muffin, or PB and celery for snack. Supper he has whatever meal he chooses for the week. He is the Kombucha maker of the family so he'll usually have that with his supper at night. I wish I had his ability to eat the same thing THAT many times. I don't. For the rest of us we have a rotating breakfast menu. I have tried to move it around and it doesn't work. My kids REALLY like how we do this. LOL! Monday is Oatmeal. Tuesday is Eggs N Bacon (taters for non THM), Wednesday is cereal, Thursday is pancakes or waffles. Friday is leftovers. Saturday and Sunday is yogurt/kefir with whatever baked good we have. Sometimes Grandma spoils them with donuts, but normally it is bagels or toast etc.
12. OAMC. - Once A Month Cooking. I make 6-8 weeks worth of suppers in a day. I pick my favorites from the THM Cookbooks. Those are the menus I share with you on MWM. The last one I did has been a while. I do it more in the summer time because of the heat and I can toss the meals into the crock pot. There are many menus here on my blog you can try or I am sure just a quick look on Pinterest can help you find a menu.
I KNOW it can sometimes be so discouraging and frustrating to be stuck with a small budget. I sometimes do not know HOW I do it on $200. I somehow manage to. When I get extra $, that is when I purchase things like protein powder or collagen. I don't usually purchase those on my budget. When I started THM I didn't add to my budget at all. I used no special ingredients. I can still do that if I wanted, but I would really miss collagen, oat fiber, or THM chocolate chips. Sometimes it helps when I have had eggs AGAIN that I remember, if I eat eggs I can afford to get the sweetener to make the sweet treats I crave.