There’s no doubt that feeding the family eats up a significant portion of any family’s budget. Saving money can seem a distant ideal when the cost of groceries seem to increase every week, while your kids continue to get bigger and eat more! But with the cost of everything from home loan interest rates to electricity on the up, it makes sense to save money where you can. And it’s surprisingly easy to cut the cost of feeding your family once you have a little know-how.
In the kitchen
Slashing the cost of feeding your family begins at home. The truth is that it’s a lot cheaper to cook for the clan than it is to order take-aways or dine out. There are plenty of magazines and websites around to help you find recipes. With a few basic techniques on your side, you’ll be good to go!
Check out these useful links for great recipes:
Recipes and Menus - Budget meals
A few tips & tricks:
Plan your menus: While working out what you’re eating a week in advance isn’t very exciting, you’ll find it thrilling when you have everything you need on hand to create a meal.
Think about leftovers: Again, the excitement rating is low, but leftovers are a mom’s best friend. A night off cooking, without having to order in? What a pleasure!
Audit your pantry: By knowing exactly what you have in store, you’ll find that you’re buying less at the supermarket. Plus, it will give you a chance to use all those Indian spices you bought for that one curry six months ago.
Cook once, make two meals: Think about meals that do double-duty to help keep costs down and interest levels high. Chile con Carne can be eaten with rice one night, and then poured over corn chips to make nachos the next. Use bolognaise sauce for pasta one night and then in toasted sandwiches later in the week.
Go meat-free: Don’t forget eggs, vegetables, lentils and rice. These ingredients are relatively inexpensive and can be used to stretch meals a long way. If meat is on the menu every night, it can get expensive. Show the family they can live without it for a night or two and cut your food bills.
Get baking: Muesli bars, rusks, biscuits, rice bubble bars, and cakes – all of these things are expensive items at the shops, and relatively simple to make yourself. A few hours’ cooking on a weekend can save you a lot of money for kids’ snacks and lunch boxes. Plus, there’s the added advantage of knowing exactly what’s in them!
Cook with ingredients that are in season: In South Africa, you can enjoy recipes made with home grown avos virtually all year long. Choose from the Fuerte, Pinkerton and Ryan, available from March to August. You could also try the gorgeously nutty-flavoured dark-skinned Hass, which is available from June to November. You can also visit websites such as The South African Avocado Growers' Association to find a list of recipes that incorporate avocados.
At the supermarket
Supermarkets are businesses. Yes, they’re there for your convenience and to sell you what you need, but they’re also there to encourage you to buy more. From the layout of the store, to the music that they play, everything is geared towards you filling your trolley with everything you need – and a few things you might not.
To save money here, you need to:
Always shop with a list: If you’ve planned your menus and audited your pantry, you’ll know exactly what you need. Write it all down, and stick to it.
Be aware of the cost per item: Many supermarkets have leaflets they hand out with their weekly specials listed. Use these to compare prices. It may be that spending a bit more and buying the 1kg pack now will save you money in the long run. This is especially important when it comes to things like kids’ snacks.
Buy in bulk: Larger packages generally work out cheaper than single servings. Buy things you use all the time in bulk and use your freezer to keep perishables such as meat.
Think about two-for-one offers: Do you really need two of the item on special? Yes, there will be a saving, but not if it’s just encouraging you to buy more than you need.
In the future
If you have the space, it’s worth considering establishing a vegetable garden. Be aware that growing your own vegetables is not always the cheapest option, by the time you consider the cost of fertiliser, seedlings, watering, equipment, etc.