|Photo by miamism, via Flickr.|
We all want what's best for our families. That goes without saying. But, there are times when we may have to choose price over quality when it comes to food. I don't know anyone who actually believes Chicken McNuggets and a small fry counts as a balanced meal, but it (usually) does cost less than buying a pack of chicken fillets and fresh vegetables, and you don't have to cook. So, how can you eat at home and save money?
First of all, you do need to compare the quality of the food you are making to the quality of food you would be getting at a restaurant.
Example: A Happy Meal costs roughly $3 (according to my .25 second Google search since I haven't actually been to a McDonald's since high school...) and an entire bag of Tyson's chicken nuggets can cost you less than $5, and that contains 3-4x the number of nuggets you would get in a Happy Meal. So that is easily a $6-$9 difference! Just keep in mind that these are both heavily processed meals, meaning that they provide little nutritional value.
The initial cost of cooking at home may be higher, since you are accounting for equipment, condiments, and spices, but once you are down to replacing only what is missing from your inventory, it can absolutely be the less expensive option.
Tips for grocery shopping:
1. Check online grocers for your staple foods. This will prevent you from browsing and picking up more food than you need. You will also save time and money because these foods will be delivered right to your door and many offer free shipping and/or discounts like Amazon's subscribe and save program. I also like this idea because you can compare prices without leaving the couch.
2. Come up with a weekly/biweekly/monthly grocery list. It is possible to do your grocery shopping for the month in one trip. Once I try it, I will let you know how it goes. :) This is the list I plan to shop from once my family is in Texas, courtesy of cavemanstrong.com. Again, this will help you from getting off-track and making any impulsive purchases.
3. Subscribe to a "deals and steals" newsletter. I get weekly updates from forthoodsavers.com since that is tailored to what will be my local shopping area. There are tons of local, regional, and national coupon newsletters available online! (I will try to investigate the legitimacy of some bigger websites in the future.)
4. Sign up for newsletters or coupon clubs from grocery stores you visit most frequently. I am a part of the Publix Baby Club and I get really valuable coupons (including BOGO and FREE products) every quarter for baby-related items as well as some "family" related items. For example, I just got $1 off coupons for fresh meat and deli items, which are extremely hard to find.
And for my military mamas, don't forget to sign up for the Commissary Connection. The Commissary Rewards Card also recently became available worldwide. If you use one, leave me a comment and tell me how you like it!
5. This is the oldest trick in the book, but ONLY shop the perimeter of the grocery store. My husband and I have made a habit of hitting the produce, meat, and dairy sections on our trips. That way we aren't tempted to try out the new Ben & Jerry's flavors or pick up some donuts for an "easy" breakfast. (Because scrambling eggs is just so hard...)