Your mortgage, rent, car payments are fixed expenses in your budget, but your monthly food expense seems to be rising each month. Sometimes there is nothing you can do about fixed expenses, but with a little effort, you can decrease that food number.
According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, the cost of feeding a family of four can run $146 to $289 a week. That’s based on preparing all the meals and snacks at home for a couple with two school-aged children. It doesn’t include one-dollar deals at fast-food restaurants or splurges at pricey restaurants. The USDA uses national food intake data and grocery price information to calculate costs.
The latest numbers for a family of four: a thrifty food plan, $146 a week; a low-cost food plan, $191 a week; a moderate cost plan, $239; a liberal plan, $289 a week. It is possible to eat healthfully on $146 a week, but you can’t do it without planning. You have to shop sales, and use coupons and other loyalty programs.
Here are some helpful tips on how start:
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Plan your meals: Check out your store’s weekly sales flyer, which will give you some guidance for matching recipes with ingredients. This week, Kroger stores are having one of their mega deals.
This means that when you buy four eligible products, you get $4 automatically taken off your receipt at checkout. Think of it as $1 off each item. You can get Birds Eye and Green Giant frozen vegetables for 99 cents. Meijer stores also have a deal: Buy five and save $5 instantly. Remember, you can match these deals with coupons, making it a double-stacked savings. Oscar Mayer meat franks would be $1.39, and Pepperidge Farm Goldfish would be 99 cents with the Meijer deal.
Make a list: How many times have you popped into the grocery stores to pick up a few items, only to come out with foods you had no intention of buying? I tell people they have to keep their eyes open in the stores. A store’s manager will have specials unique to that store. Also, always check out the clearance and closeout products; these also vary from store to store.
Skip the convenience: Washing, peeling and chopping vegetables and fruits takes time and effort. It seems so much easier just to buy tubs of cut-up carrots and chunks of fruit. Remember: Convenience comes at a cost at least double the initial cost. Spend a Sunday morning preparing all your vegetables and fruits for the week.
Use less meat: Try to have a meatless Monday family dinner. It’s a great way to introduce new vegetables to your family. Check out Meatlessmonday.com for delicious recipes.
Think about cooking with eggs. They’re are one of the cheapest and healthiest foods around. I bought my eggs last week for 22 cents each, a quarter of the price of chicken. Try eggs hard-boiled and grated into a salad or a vegetable omelet.
Keep tabs: Americans toss out 28 percent of the fruits and veggies they buy. To prevent food from going to waste, take a periodic inventory of your pantry and fridge. Anything nearing expiration should be moved to the front.
Fru-Gal quick tips
1. Never go shopping hungry.
2. Prepare double the amount of the meal so you have leftovers for lunch.
3. Drink water.
4. Always carry your coupons.
▪ Do you love Starbucks? Check out this new promotion! May 6th through May 15th, score half price Frappuccino Blended Beverages during their Frappuccino Happy Hour between 3 and 5 p.m. daily. Starbucks Rewards members can get an extra hour of this promotion each day, until 6PM.
▪ If you are planning a Disney trip, now is time to consider making reservations as Walt Disney is offering up its very popular free dining promotion. This limited-time promotion allows you and your roommates to eat completely free with the purchase of a non-discounted 5-night, 6-day package that includes a room at a select Disney Resort hotel and theme park ticket with Park Hopper or Water Park Fun & more options on select dates. Visit Bit.ly/1SmRwiD.
▪ Teachers, check out this deal: On May 3, Chipotle is celebrating Teacher Appreciation Day. School faculty and staff get a buy one-get one free offer on burritos, bowls, salads, or tacos. The deal is valid 3 p.m. to close. Present your school faculty ID to get this offer.
▪ On April 30, the YMCA will celebrate Healthy Kids Day, a national initiative to improve the health and well-being of kids. Check out the area’s YMCA for classes and activities offered that day. For a complete list of times and activities offered, and participating YMCAs, go to Bit.ly/1YSljA0.
▪ Is your baby turning 1 soon? Join Babies R Us 11 a.m. to noon Saturday to celebrate that milestone with activities, giveaways and inspiration for planning baby’s big day. Go to Bit.ly/1qRfiWX.
▪ Expectant parents can get the answers to many questions about giving birth and babies at Baptist Health Lexington’s Expecting Great Things maternity event, 11 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. Saturday at the Keeneland Entertainment Center off Versailles Road. It is a free event with no registration required. Sign up for the grand prize of a free delivery at Baptist Health, along with a crib filled with surprises.
▪ Target has a coupon for a free $5 Target gift card with a select food or beverage purchase of $15 or more. It will be available in the weekly Target ad or you can text PEPSI to827438 to get a mobile coupon sent to your smartphone.
Kids’ Mother’s Day gifts
▪ Free “I love mom” craft at Kmart on April 30 for kids 12 and younger, while supplies last. There is a limit of one per child.
▪ Register for the free Home Depot Kids Workshop on May 7. kids can build a free “Angry Birds” bird house. These workshops are designed for ages 5 to 12 and are at all Home Depot stores between 9 a.m. and noon. Go to Thd.co/1bi5Y2e.
Kids can build a chalkboard planter at Lowe’s, starting at 7 p.m. May 5. Register at Lowesbuildandgrow.com.
There’s a Mother’s Day craft event at Michaels stores 1 p.m. to 3 p.m. May 7. At the free event, children can craft a card and bracelet for Mom. Go to Bit.ly/1RncivU.
Deborah Morris’ every-other-week column, The Fru-Gal, can help you get more for less. Go to her website, Fru-gal-friends.com.