Friday, November 07, 2008

CHEAP EATS: Cutting the cost of food

This is a little introduction to an ongoing series of blog posts called, "CHEAP EATS." In these I plan to discuss specific ideas for feeding your family well, but cheap.

Last week I talked about frugality and living within our means. I discussed that there are expenses in our budget that are fixed amounts and there are areas in our budget with some wiggle room. These are our discretionary expenses. One big area is food. Now, we all need to eat so this expense is not going away, but there can be a lot of variances in how much we spend in this area. On one extreme, you could eat 3 meals a day in a nice restaurant and spend a fortune to nourish your family. On the other hand, you could eat watered down gruel for your meals spending mere pennies a day and barely subsisting. My goal is to find a middle ground that works for my family, keeps them happy, well fed, and does not break our budget.

To cut the costs of feeding our family, we seldom eat out. On the occasions that we do, we choose places that we have found give us the most bang for our buck and also drink (free) water. Beverages in restaurants cost a fortune, often $2 a piece. With a family of 7, that would be an additional $14 to our meal!

The best way to save money on food is to prepare your meals at home. Even processed heat and eat type meals from the grocery store are usually cheaper than eating out. To save even more money, skip the processed foods altogether and cook from scratch. Although this is what I try to do most of the time, I will purchase processed foods when I find them reasonably priced and when I know that I am going to be particularly short on time. Having a few quick, throw together meals in my freezer or pantry may be just the thing that saves me from the temptation of eating out or driving through somewhere and bringing it home.

Because of the size of our family, our food budget can easily get out of hand if I am not careful. I have been striving to find ways to purchase food economically, but in addition to that, I have been seeking ways to use simple, inexpensive ingredients creatively to make cheap meals that everyone in my family enjoys and are good for us, too.

Keep your eye out for future installments.

Next up "CHEAP EATS: Oatmeal."

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