Each week when Americans head to our local grocery store, we fill our carts with items on our list, we compare prices, we search for bargains, we clip coupons. All in the name of saving money. Stretching our budget. And I know so many of you are in the same boat as me...we wish our grocery budget would stretch just a little further. I notice prices going up each and every week on the items we buy the most. It's frustrating.
But in reality, did you know we in this country spend a smaller percentage of our income on food than any other country in the world? At just under 10%, we are at the bottom of the list! And when we consider food consumed at home specifically (vs. eating out), the U.S. leads affordability with only 6.6% of American incomes going toward the grocery bill.
I'm not going to lie. When I found out those statistics, and looked at the chart above, I was shocked. I guess you don't realize just how good you've got it, until you learn what others in this world are dealing with. Just another example of "the grass is always greener on the other side" until you learn it's not; and you just need to be thankful for the resources available to us.
Now, while it's a fact America has one of the most affordable food supplies in the world, that doesn't mean your budget isn't any less strained. And making a food budget work in today's economy is something we can all agree is a challenge. So, in that spirit, my good friends at Indiana Family of Farmers have come up with a 4 part blog series, Affordable Food Options For Your Family, From Ours. During this series, bloggers like myself will be sharing our tips, ideas and options for your family.
Our first challenge? How many meals can we make for $50? The guidelines? Every meal must have some form of meat protein. The plans can include breakfast, lunch and/or dinner options or all the same type of meal. Cost of pantry staples (flour, sugar, spices, etc.) do not have to be included in the $50 budget.
I was happy to step up to the challenge. Below you will find my meal plan for $50 (for me, this means 3 dinner options), links to recipes I already have online, tips as to why I chose each one, and a brand new recipe I think you'll be very excited about!
$50 Budget Meal Plan
Chips n Salsa
Meal # 2
Olive Garden Salad (see recipe below)
My Tips for Stretching a Grocery Budget
1. Sale Prices: When you saw a chicken dish on the menu, did you think I was crazy? Chicken can be one of the most expensive items at the grocery store. But for me it's simple. I don't buy it, unless it's on sale. Wait for those great deals. Usually at least one store around us has it on sale every week.
2. Casseroles So, you've bought the chicken on sale, but there isn't enough in one package to feed your whole family. But wait. What if you stretch that amount by adding other ingredients and make a casserole? It's a great way to make a smaller amount of protein feed a large number of people.
3. Make Your Own vs. Bottled That salsa recipe? It can be made for pennies on the dollar compared to buying the already jarred. Sure, it's going to take a few extra minutes, but not only does it taste better, it goes further for less money. Don't get me wrong, I'm all about paying a few extra pennies for convenience, but in this case, making my own is a win win.
4. Breakfast for Supper In this house, traditional breakfast foods for dinner are a huge treat. And I know many families that agree with us. But besides just being delicious, it's a great way to save some money too. Foods you typically eat in the morning tend to be a little less pricey than dinner foods. Sausage vs. steak for example. Potatoes. Bread. All things that can be economical and easily feed a crowd.
5. Freezer Beef For our family one of the biggest ways we save money is by always having a surplus of beef in our chest freezer. Sure, the initial cost of a 1/4 or 1/2 beef may be a little salty, but in the end I can tell you from first hand experience just how much money it saves you. Having beef (or other proteins) on hand reduces your weekly budget while still including your favorite meats in your diet.
6. Buying in Season Produce can be one of the things you spend the most money on every week. Sometimes I can't believe the cost of our favorite fruits and veggies. But if I try really hard to buy at the peak of the season, not only do I get the freshest choices, but also the most economical. And when things are in season, you can also take advantage of buying from your local farmer or farmer's market, saving you even more money!
So there you have it, my best tips on making that grocery budget stretch a little bit more. I hope something stands out as one you want to try and you can keep a few extra pennies in your wallet. But remember, no matter what we are spending each week on food in this country, so many around the world are spending so much more, for so much less, and for that we can always be grateful.
Copycat Olive Garden Salad
1 head Romaine lettuce, chopped
1 medium red onion, sliced thin
3/4 c. black olives
3/4 c. grape tomatoes, halved
Freshly grated Parmesan Cheese
1 c. oil and vinegar dressing
1 garlic clove, peeled and halved
1/2 TBS dried oregano
1/2 TBS dried basil
1 TBS sugar
In a bottle or jar, place all ingredients for dressing. Shake well. Refrigerate for 24 hours before using. To make salad, combine all ingredients in a large bowl. If not serving right away, don't add croutons. Add dressing a little at a time until desired consistency. Mix well. Serve immediately.
Shared on The Country Cook May 23, 2014
Disclaimer: As part of the Affordable Food Options For Your Family, From Ours series, I was compensated for this post. All thoughts opinions are my own.