What Do You Eat on a Small Grocery Budget?

The question of what we eat on a small grocery budget has been asked multiple times over the past several years. I am always taken aback by the question because what we eat is very “normal” to us. We don’t typically think of our diets any different than our neighbors, until we start looking inside of everyone else’s shopping carts.

First off, I want to say what works for us may not work for your family. However, that does not mean you couldn’t change a few things you eat or how you shop to save a significant amount on your grocery budget.

Adapt What You Eat

Each time we move, which happens frequently because we are a military family. We learn new ways to save money. Resulting in our diets changing ever so slightly to maximize savings.

When we lived in Washington, we could buy delicious and affordable beef from my uncle. But now that we live in England, meat is twice the cost.

We had to dramatically cut down on our meat consumption. However, we shop at Aldi where you can get AMAZING prices on produce! Now we supplement our meals with tons of veggies to make the meat stretch further.

Our living situations also dictate how we save money. Here in England we have a tiny, and I mean TINY, freezer and very little cabinet space for food storage. In the U.S. we had TONS of space! In the U.S. we took advantage of sales and produce from our garden by freezing and storing a lot of food to save money.

Here in England, I am not working and we have a lot more time on our hands. We are able to cook absolutely everything from scratch, which saves lots of money! We simply did not have time when living in the U.S. when we both worked full-time and our weekends were filled with home improvement projects.

Eat on a Small Grocery Budget

What Do You Eat?

Getting back to the main question, we eat very “normal” American meals.

  • Tacos & Fajitas
  • Pasta Dishes: Spaghetti, Lasagna, Cajun Chicken Pasta, Stroganoff, Goulash
  • Pizza
  • Chicken Breasts – Lime, Lemon, Parmesan, etc.
  • Buffalo Chicken Wraps/Salad
  • Asian Inspired Meals – Orange Chicken, Cashew Chicken, Chicken Yakisoba, Stir Fry
  • Casseroles – Green Bean, Teriyaki Chicken, Black Bean
  • Soups – Chicken Noodle, Taco, Potato, Vegetable
  • In the summer we grill beef and turkey burgers

As you can see, very “normal” American meals. Nothing too fancy, but plenty of variety. We do splurge from time to time on fish or a pricier cut of meat. We also try to add in new to us recipes here and there to prevent burn out on “rice and bean” meals. Check out more delicious Budget Friendly Recipes on my Pinterest board.

How Do We Really Save Money?

I don’t think the question should be what do we eat on a small grocery budget, but “how” we eat on a small grocery budget. The “how” has so many more possibilities of budget reducing strategies.

  • Eat a minimum of one “cheap” meal each week, usually a soup or casserole.
  • Eat only one meal a week where meat is the main course.
  • Left Overs! We only cook 3-4 meals in a week to cover all lunches and dinners.
  • Portion Control! You can make a large casserole and it could last your family 1 meal or 3 meals depending on the portion sizes. Supplement the meal with a less expensive side, like a veggie or pasta/rice.
  • Less Meat, more Veggies. Filet your chicken breasts when it is the main course. Use half the amount of ground beef and stretch it with beans, onions and veggies.
  • Cook from Scratch. We make so many of our sauces and salad dressing from scratch. They take minutes and are a fraction of the cost.
  • Snack on fresh produce and skip the highly processed and expensive “snack foods,”
  • Don’t be a brand snob. Yes I agree, there are a handful of store brand items that are nowhere near brand name. However, majority of store brand items are just as good at a fraction of the cost… think pasta, tomato sauce, canned veggies and beans.
  • Shop with a meal plan and grocery list. STICK TO IT! This will help avoid food waste, which will save you $$$. Trust me! The average U.S. family of four wastes $640 each year in food! That’s more than $50/month!!! If you live in the U.K. it’s not any better, wasting £470 a year in the average household.
  • Limit the number of times in a month you go into a grocery store. We are all guilty of picking up one or two things not on our list. If you go to the grocery store every couple of days, that really adds up!
  • Limit buying disposable paper goods (paper towels, plates, plastic wrap, sandwich bags, etc.). Instead use reusable products like storage containers.

There are so many different ways to trim down your grocery budget. The key is to slowly add new ways to decrease your grocery budget each month. Give yourself a challenge to trim $5 off your average weekly grocery shopping trip. That will save you $20-$25 each month ($260/year)! Once that is comfortable, trying trimming your budget by another $5/week.

What Do You Think:

How Do You Save on Groceries?
Have You Been Successful Trimming Down Your Grocery Budget? How?

 


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6 Steps to Establish a Minimalist Christmas – Saving Your Sanity & Budget

establishing a minimalist christmas

Establish a Minimalist Christmas

Christmas is quickly approaching and many of us have been planning our holiday traditions, shopping and activities for weeks, if not months now. For many, the holiday season is a stressful time, attending countless parties, last minute shopping, stretching our budgets until it explodes, and traditions that feel more like obligations. All of these holiday festivities leave all of us exhausted by the New Year.

Four years ago, my husband and I decided there was no need for the Christmas “extras” that were more stressful than meaningful to us. We wanted to celebrate Christmas in a way that was true to the meaning and spirit of Christmas. We were able to accomplish this by establishing our priorities and implementing a Minimalist Christmas

Establish Your Priorities

We all have specific traditions or activities that are essential to our Christmas celebration. You may even catch yourself saying… “it wouldn’t be Christmas without _______.”

The first step in establishing a minimalist Christmas is to determine what is important to you and your immediate family. What is your favorite part of the holidays? Perhaps you could not imagine Christmas without being surrounded by your extended family, stocking stuffers, a big holiday meal, and attending church.

Whatever the tradition or activity, big or small, if it is a priority to you. Write it down. Be sure to get the input of your spouse and children. After all, you want Christmas to be special to everyone in your household.

Eliminate or Reduce the Extras

Even for those of us who LOVE this time of year, there are those few traditions or activities we get suckered into participating. What are you not thrilled about during Christmas? Maybe it is your work Christmas party or exchanging gifts with all of your friends and acquaintances.

Now that you have established your priorities in step one, try your best to eliminate or at the very least greatly reduce all of the “extras” in your holiday season.

It is often all the small things that we pile on ourselves that are just too overwhelming and leave us exhausted after the holiday season.

Perhaps you would love to attend your Aunt Susie’s Christmas Party but it takes a lot more effort than just attending. You need to bring a couple of dishes for the potluck dinner and then don’t forget a gift for every family member for the gift exchange. Plus it is an all day (or two) commitment by the time you factor in getting all your family members ready, baking/cooking, shopping for gifts, wrapping gifts, and driving the hour to and from Aunt Susie’s home.

Instead of piling more on top of yourself consider why you want to attend and if it is really important to you.

Perhaps attending Aunt Susie’s Christmas party is important to you. You could consider opting out of the gift exchange or volunteer to buy drinks and tableware instead of spending hours in the kitchen.

Consider absolutely every holiday tradition and activity that is not essential for your Christmas celebration. Think of ways to eliminate or greatly reduce your involvement in each of these activities.

Find Different Methods to Implement Priorities

You may find instances that your priorities and your “extras” you eliminate contradict each other. For example, giving may be a huge part of your ideal Christmas celebration. However, shopping for all your friends and family is the most stressful part of your holiday. Just the thought of it sends your head spinning. Perhaps you do not care for receiving gifts, after all you are completely content living a minimalist lifestyle. Instead, I would suggest finding a different method to meet your holiday priorities. You could give your time or money to your favorite charities. You could give gifts to those who are struggling this Christmas season.

Communicating with Family and Friends

Step four is the most difficult part of establishing a minimalist Christmas. Now that you have priorities established and what your ideal Christmas would involve. It is now time to break the news to your family and friends who will be impacted by your Minimalist Christmas.

Many families discuss Christmas plans over Thanksgiving get togethers. Of course the more time your families and friends have to process and accept your ideas of your minimalist Christmas, the better.

If you typically exchange gifts with people who you will not be exchanging gifts for your minimalist Christmas. You will need to let them know. If you are skipping out on certain parties or activities you will need to inform the people who it impacts. Of course you can always present an alternative to your previous tradition. Something simpler, easier, less time consuming and more budget friendly.

We all have a couple of family members who truly believe the more extravagant the Christmas celebration, the better. They will honestly think you have gone completely mad and probably will not initially believe you that you really want a minimalist Christmas. Although you need to be sensitive to their thoughts and wishes, you also need to keep your priorities first in importance.

Set the Parameters

Now you have established your priorities and you have communicated your wishes to all who are involved. It is time to set parameters to your minimalist Christmas. These parameters will help you stick to your minimalist plan when you are spontaneously invited to a Christmas tradition or activity.

For example, your parameters could be we are buying gifts for these 10 people on our list. No more, no less. We are spending Christmas morning at home with only our immediate family members. I am only baking X,Y, and Z. Nothing more.

Minimizing Christmas is a Process

Now that you have a plan to implement and you are confident in approaching your family and friends with your plan. It is now time for the sixth and final step. Just as living a minimalist or frugal lifestyle is a process, so is implementing a minimalist Christmas.

Your first minimalist Christmas may look oddly like your traditional Christmas with only one or two things modified. However, after a couple of years of implementing a minimalist Christmas. Your Christmas will become more and more ideal for you and your family. Not only saving your sanity, but also your budget.

However you end up spending your Christmas, please remember the true meaning and spirit of the holiday. Surround yourself with your loved ones and cherish your many blessings. Wishing you all a very Merry Christmas… or as they say in England… Happy Christmas! 🙂

 

What do YOU Think?

How have You Scaled back Your Christmas Celebration?
What Traditions have You or would You Want to Eliminate?
Is a Minimalist Christmas Right for You?

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Our Baby Budget

Baby Budget $1000 per Year

Did you miss the GREAT NEWS I shared with you all yesterday??? Well, if you did you may be wondering why I am talking about a baby budget. Yes! You guessed it… we are having a baby boy who is expected to arrive in February! We are thrilled beyond belief! The pregnancy is going well and the little guy is growing and incredibly active!

Our Initial Thoughts

The several months before we decided to try to get pregnant we had many conversations about how a baby would change our lives and our finances. Of course you do not know until you are actually living it, but we used our imaginations.

Although we felt we were ready (as ready as one can be) to start a family. We really did not want to let up our foot from the gas with our mortgage freedom goal.

We have a few friends who had babies and are raising children on very tight budgets. Oh yeah, and the obvious one of our parents raising us on very tight budgets out of necessity.  So, we knew it was definitely possible and we have some great role models. We just needed to find a way for it to work for us.

So, as with all great ideas I started dreaming and brain storming ideas. I knew with all the cutesy baby products out there. I would be tempted to buy more than the necessities.

I wanted to create a challenge for us that would help limit our spending and force us out of impulse baby purchases. After researching prices on diapers, formula (plan to breastfeed but just in case), baby gear, clothes, and all the gadgets and gizmos. I came up with a challenge to present to my husband.

Baby Budget Challenge

Our Baby Budget Challenge is to spend less than $1000 on all baby purchases in the first year. This includes all baby products bought to prepare for baby and all products bought before our little guy has his first birthday.

This challenge will not include maternity expenses or postpartum care expenses for me. However, it will include all items for baby from car seat, crib, diapers, wipes, breast feeding supplies, baby food, stroller, clothes, Christmas presents, medical expenses, baby & me classes, etc. However, it will not include saving for college. We hope to save more than $1000 in the first year for college!

How Will We Spend Only $1000?

If you are a parent who spends over $100 just to feed and diaper your little one each month you are probably thinking “yeah, okay Nichole you are so ignorant when it comes to baby expenses.” You would be right. I am quite ignorant when it comes to baby expenses. Although, I have done my research and I do have a plan!

Buy Gently Used

We will buy many of our baby items gently used. You can find many baby items that look brand new for a fraction of the initial price tag. However, there are a few items we will probably pass on buying used such as a crib mattress and car seat.

Graciously Accept Gifts

Our family is beyond excited about having a baby in the family. We are thrilled to be so lucky to have our little one be so loved before he even arrives. Several members of our family have already given or offered to give us certain gifts and gently used hand-me-downs. We humbly and graciously accept gifts.

Buy Only Basic Essentials

Yes, there are some really, and I mean REALLY cute baby items out there on the market. Plus there are some amazing high-tech baby gadgets that come with pretty hefty price tags. Although some of these items would be adorable or maybe even make our life a little easier. Babies really only need the basics. Food, a Safe Environment and Love.

I know we will buy a few things to make our life easier and probably a few things because they are “cute” but our ultimate goal is to buy only things the baby needs and will use.

Earn Gift Cards & Cash Back

From the beginning thoughts of starting a family, I have been trying to rack up gift cards and cash back to pay for future baby expenses. I initially got the idea when I read Retired By 40’s1 Year of Free Baby Wipes” post in February about how she paid for all baby wipes using Amazon gift cards from Swagbucks. I knew if I took it more extreme, I could do better than free wipes!

Here are the main websites I have been and will be earning gift cards and cash back to pay for baby items:

Swagbucks: Is a website where you earn points or “swagbucks” numerous ways (online searches, shopping, surveys, watching videos, etc.) and then you can redeem them for a variety of gift cards. I will be writing a post in the near future on how I have racked up enough points for $200 in Amazon Gift Cards. I have opted for Amazon gift cards because Amazon’s prices for baby gear are extremely competitive and they offer a 15% off baby registration completion discount and 20% off diapers for Prime Members.

Inbox Dollars: Is a website that offers cash back for tasks such as checking your email, completing surveys, internet searches and watching videos. So far, I have earned just under $40 and hope to have earned near $60 before baby arrives. I plan to use this cash to purchase some gently used baby items.

Inbox Pounds: For those of you in the United Kingdom, this is the sister website of Inbox Dollars. I find it more difficult to accumulate cash back only because there seems to be fewer options to earn cash back. Although, since my IP address is in the UK I tend to qualify for more surveys through this site. I should accumulate £20 (minimum cash out) just before baby arrives. I plan to use this cash back to purchase a month’s worth of diapers.

I-Say: Is a survey website that has both US and UK versions. I used it in the U.S. many years ago and now use the U.K. version while living in the U.K. I have found it to be my favorite survey site that is available to me while living in England. I favor this one because I qualify for majority of surveys and even when I do not qualify it at least gives me some points. The surveys are easy to understand, interesting topics, and can be completed in a rather short amount of time. I typically earn a £10 Amazon gift card every 2-3 months, taking 2-3 surveys/week. So far I have earned £60 (~$90) in Amazon gift cards. I plan to use these gift cards to buy the last minute essentials before baby arrives.

Ebates: Is a cashback website where you earn cashback with your online purchases. Majority of our baby purchases will be online and so we may as well be earning cash back from our purchases. For now, we will be using the cash back from Ebates to apply to our mortgage. However, once we are debt free (baby should be ~6 months old) we will use our cash back from Ebates for baby expenses.

Win Baby Products

A couple months before we were pregnant, I began entering into baby product giveaways on various blogs and websites. The good news is I have had a few wins! Next week, I will share details of my wins, including my favorite and the BEST pregnancy pillow EVER and an AWESOME gift card!

Tracking Our Progress

You will soon see “Baby Budget” in the menu at the top of the page (or upper right if you are on a phone). Here you will be able to find all our latest progress with our “$1000 Baby Budget.” I intend to share our “Minimalist Baby Wishlist,” a running total of our spent vs. remaining budget, baby products won, gifts, and what we have bought. I have not quite decided how often I will update these pages, but most likely monthly and possibly weekly once we are closer to the baby’s due date when our purchases will increase dramatically.

 

*This post does contain affiliate links. Please see disclosure policy for further details.

What Do You Think?

Is our “$1000 Baby Budget Challenge” achievable?
How could we stretch our baby budget more?
Is there anything we could add to enhance following this challenge?
If you have a baby or child are you willing to join the $1000 Budget Challenge with us? 

 

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