This post is the third and final post in the Eat Well, Spend Less series! I'm honored to be a part of this series along with other great bloggers representing various parts of the U.S. (and Canada!).
If you're new here, welcome! I'm Tammy, I'm a Seattle transplant, and we love good food!
Money-saving. Time-saving. And healthy eating?! One of the goals of the Eat Well, Spend Less series has been to help you learn how to get the best from your grocery budget, your family dinners, and your time investment...
...because I don't know anyone who has limitless time or money to spend in the kitchen or in the grocery store aisle! But we all want to eat good healthy food, right?
So in this post, I'm going to tell you what works for our family. In short, we:
We've found some inexpensive, healthy foods that we like to eat, and I make sure I plan those weekly! This gives us more resources to enjoy variety the rest of the time... because we really do enjoy good food! :)
I've elaborated on this in my post about our top 5 favorite frugal foods: Oatmeal, beans, soup, bread, and yogurt/kefir. Check out that post for lots of creative serving suggestions, because those foods are anything but boring! :)
I know, I know. I have heard over and over again from people who use coupons and shop several stores weekly, that the reason my grocery budget is "so high" is because I'm not taking advantage of the loss leaders at different stores.
When we first moved to the Seattle area, I was in awe of the number of grocery stores within a 5-mile radius! I even blogged about it, and got lots of great advice and even more suggestions about where to get good deals on food in the Seattle area!
My excitement was short-lived, though. I quickly realized that 5 miles, or even 3 miles, was quite a drive with traffic, and as a 1-vehicle family, grocery shopping during lighter traffic hours wasn't always possible.
Stores move around their items frequently, so just running in for a couple items wasn't always very quick, especially with lots of little kids.
Most of the truly good sales (in my opinion!) have ridiculously low limits for a large(r) family size.
We started getting Red Plum coupon inserts in the mail, but I could rarely seem to match up a coupon with a good sale to get items we needed for a price I was willing to pay. I use very few toiletries, we don't have pets, I use cloth diapers, and we don't buy processed foods (very often).
The "normal" sale prices are almost always quite comparable to Costco's everyday prices.
That last part was the clincher! I love shopping at Costco. With a growing family, we just don't have trouble using those 5-pound bags of organic veggies or big bags of dried beans. Is Costco frugal? I certainly think it can be, and I've been getting the majority of our groceries at Costco for a couple years now. You can see pictures and price breakdowns from some of my Costco shopping trips here.
My reasons for doing most of our shopping at Costco include: We go through a lot of food, Costco is 3 miles from our house, I don't like spending lots of time running to lots of stores, and more. I think most weeks we spend a total of 2 1/2 hours (including driving time and making the grocery list!) on shopping. Many weeks, Joshua does the shopping for me (with a list I've prepared) and despite the occasional (not on the list) doughnut purchase, I love not having to go to the store at all!
When we're busy (and who isn't busy these days?!), it's HARD to eat well on a budget. I've been trying to do some planning and preparing for each week (on Sunday, for me) to help us eat better all week.
What my weekly planning includes (or should include!):
--Making a weekly menu plan.
--Making salads for the week. These keep in the fridge and are an instant healthy lunch option. I would NEVER eat a salad for lunch if I had to make it every day. Doing them up ahead means I WILL GRAB one when I'm hungry! :)
--Making oatmeal for the week. I cook a big pan of oatmeal and put it into containers for Joshua's breakfast at work (he re-warms in the microwave). The extra oatmeal, we re-warm in bowls for breakfast(s) through the week. I usually end up cooking oatmeal 2-3 times a week this way, instead of every day! A bowl of oatmeal also makes a good snack.
--Cook beans in the crock pot. I love the texture of dried beans in the slow-cooker! If you've not tried cooking dried beans in a crock pot, you're seriously missing out! A big crock pot of cooked pinto beans can be put in containers and frozen or refrigerated for use in bean burritos (or make freezer bean & rice burritos), or eaten with hot sauce and sour cream for lunch. We love pinto beans, and having some cooked ahead makes them a quick, filling, healthy lunch or snack.
--Put washed fruit (apples, or whatever's a good deal) in a produce drawer in the fridge for a quick healthy snack. I don't usually cut/prep fruit more than 1 day in advance, so it stays fresh and delicious.
--Make homemade mocha frappuccinos for Joshua's lunchbox. (Yes, I always pack a lunch for Joshua!) These can be made with protein powder added, to make them more than a morning coffee pick-me-up drink. Joshua drank one of these daily for probably 18+ months, but recently stopped so I haven't been making these any more. But I used to mix up 5-7 at one time and store them in the fridge so they were ready for the week! :)
I'll be linking up to the rest of this week's Eat Well, Spend Less posts tomorrow, so stay tuned! :)