There are times in life when the money is not flowing and the bills are barely getting paid. These situations can arise from loss of a job or higher standards of living or unfortunate illness. Sometimes an emergency situation pops up out of nowhere and costs more than a person can afford; an expensive auto repair, or home repair, for example. When money is tight, so is the grocery budget, which forces people to rethink how they go about grocery shopping. Living on a tight budget really makes a person stop and realize just how much they spend on food items.If you are faced with the unfortunate situation of having to make dollars stretch even more than normal, then read on for some really good grocery tips.
If you have the space in your yard, start a garden (check out what kinds of things you can grow in your area before you start planting). A garden is a great way to save money on some of your favorite produce items like tomatoes, onions and carrots. If you do not have the ground to grow a garden, such as people that live in apartment buildings, you can still grow a small garden inside your home! Window box gardens are quite popular in bigger cities. All it takes is some good research online or at your library, and the purchase of the seeds. The rest is up to the tender loving care you give your garden! Side note: if you know someone that has a garden, ask them for tips and suggestions.
*Figure out your weekly budget
Sit down and plan out your meals for a week and then shop according to the amount allotted for a week. For example if your monthly grocery budget is $50, then your weekly budget is $12.50. This breakdown may make your situation seem even worse, however it is actually doable. One way to do it is by careful meal planning and buying things that make one or two new meals; leftovers are an affordable option for the other days. Note: dress up leftovers by adding little things like seasonings and vegetables.
Bags of dry pasta are inexpensive and can be used to create several different meals. They also do not go bad quickly and are very easy to stock up on and store. Pasta comes in many different styles and textures, and is dressed up in so many different ways that you can come up with a new flavor every few days and not get bored!
*Dry beans and lentils
Now some people might frown at the thought of living on beans, but many delicious meals are made with beans. There are a lot of different kinds of beans and that wide variety makes preparation options literally endless. For example: 15 Bean Soup is absolutely delicious and you can pick and choose the beans you want to throw into the pot! The great thing about beans is the amount of protein they contain, beans are really good for you. They can be substituted for meat dishes once in awhile.
Not only can you make regular loaves of sandwich bread, you can create a whole smorgasbord of other whole wheat goodies. From pancakes to dinner rolls and a bunch of things in between. Invest in a large sack of whole wheat flour and some yeast and let the baking begin! Making homemade breads is a lot of fun and tastes so much better than anything you can buy at the store. The added bonus is that homemade bread products do not contain any preservatives.
*Omit the unhealthy stuff
Stop buying the sugary snacks, salty chips, soda pop and all those other unhealthy processed foods. Prepackaged foods are included in this group as well. Sure those foods are convenient and sometimes really cheap, but wow they are not very good for you! These are actually luxury foods that should be avoided when you are forced into shopping on a very small budget.
This is a good way to buy meats like ground beef. Buy a family pack of ground beef, take it home and divide it into smaller portions and freeze until needed. This is also useful when buying things like rice, beans, pastas and sometimes canned goods (some grocers will offer a case of canned goods for a really low price). Before buying anything in bulk sizes, make sure you have airtight containers and freezer bags to store the items.
*Shop only the sales
Scour your local grocery store ads and keep an eye out for in store specials that are not advertised. If you stick to buying necessities on sale, you can save some pretty good money over the course of a month. Avoid the sale items that you cannot afford to waste money on like soda and processed snack foods! Great sales on these items can make it seem like the items are affordable, but then you could end up stuck with a bag of chips as your lunch for the next week because you cannot afford to buy anything else.
People who live in certain areas and in bigger cities often have access to grocers that sell “scratch and dent” food products. What this means is that there is something visibly wrong with the item packaging such as a dented can or cans missing the label. Sometimes you can really stock up on these deeply discounted items and have money leftover! Be prepared, many of these discount stores do not offer bags or boxes to carry the food home in, so bring your own bags.
*Have a party
Okay, maybe not a real party, instead consider it a potluck lunch/dinner with friends and/or family members. Ask everyone to bring one dish and you will make a dish and then you all sit down together and enjoy the group effort. This is a fun way to eat and have fun visiting with loved ones. When the event is over, divide up the food evenly among the attendees. You could end up with enough leftovers to eat for a couple of days!
No one said life on an extremely limited budget is fun. When times are tough, you have to buckle down and do the best you can with what you have available to you. Learn how to cook things from scratch. By doing this meals stretch longer. For example, a pot of vegetable soup can be used over several meals. All things are possible with some creative planning and by keeping track of the good sales!