Hey Family Builders, Abe’s Wallet is giving you a special treat today: a guest writer AND that guest is a woman!  A terrific one at that.  Check out our friend Alexis as she reveals…

FOUR HACKS to feed your family of 5 [well] for $360 a month

When I was 9 and my sister 11, my dad dropped us off at the mall with $100 each and said, “I’ll pick you up at 3pm”.  That was how my sister and I did our school clothes shopping most years.  If we wanted to keep up with the Joneses and buy $100 Nike Jordans then, well, that was that for the year. Tough choices kids!

In high school, my dad would give me a $20 bill for two weeks of lunch money/weekend money/etc and I spent it as I saw fit.  Through this, I learned how to spread my money out so I’d have what I needed for an allotted period of time.  Turns out, these were really helpful lessons.

The exact same principals apply now when I grocery shop.  We have a lump sum, $360 in cash at the beginning of the month, and we make it last til the end.  So here’s FOUR THINGS we do to make it work right, every single month:

1. Shop with cash.  You hesitate to buy frivolous things when you pay for it in cash. It’s true!
2. Try every item in the generic/store brand first.  If I can’t taste any less quality (did you know it’s often the exact same product, from the factory, in different packaging?  It’s true)… no sense in paying more.  Good example, canned tomatoes (store brand fo sho!).  Bad example, Saran wrap (NEED NAME BRAND).  Trust me: I know from experience.
3.  Kick brand loyalty to the curb.  This is how I save a lot of money.  I buy the item I need, but the brand that’s on sale.  Take almond milk, for example: I buy whatever brand is on sale, every time.  Butter: on sale?  Done.  (This can still be accomplished if you have specific requirements. For example, I don’t want high fructose corn syrup in my bread, but among “healthy” breads, there is always one that is a better deal that day.  Shopping sales does not mean low quality, it means not being a sucker, and choosing the better deal for the quality.)
4.  Compare price by ounce.  Per ounce price is usually listed in top right hand side of the sticker price.  You can end up paying more for food that’s just in a smaller package… and that is NOT a deal.

IMPORTANT SIDE NOTES:

  • My family’s monthly $360 does not include eating out, alcohol or any home supplies.  Just groceries.
  • In season (key phrase, there), fruits and vegetables are really affordable.  It is not expensive to eat healthy, I just need to keep it seasonally appropriate- no fresh blueberries in December.
  • I have a “regular shopping list” note on my phone so I know what I normally buy at each store whenever I’m there.  Simple!
  • My husband and I share an ongoing grocery list on the Todoist app so we can communicate current things we are out of so there is no guessing or doubling up on items.  Brilliant!
  • There are a lot of things I would buy if we had more money budgeted, but we feel like it’s good for our hearts and minds to not buy everything we want.  [This is a shared value of Abraham’s Wallet.  See LoDoFeb!]
  • Our budget has increased by about $80 in recent years because we realized that we wanted more margin for hospitality.  Being frugal does not mean you cannot share, invite, and bring meals to people.  The budget creates freedom, not restrictions.  Prioritize, be smart, and make that budget work for you!

Because I want to send you with some very specific marching orders, here’s a look at what a week of feeding might be in our home:

Monday: Pasta (select a $0.50 CAN of pasta sauce, not a $9 jar), ground beef, zucchini
Tuesday: Breakfast for dinner! Pancakes, eggs, fruit
Wednesday: Chili and cornbread
Thursday: Asian stir fry with chicken and veggies, rice (grabbing dark meat will save you at least $2/pound and increase your tasty-factor by 4!)
Friday: Ground beef burritos, lettuce, toppings
Saturday: Leftovers (womp womp)
Sunday: Carry out pizza (not part of the grocery budget – this is a treat for us!)

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