10 Ways to Feed Boys Without Going Broke
Since the moment my boys figured out how to latch, they’ve been hearty eaters. Around age 6, my oldest Cohen took his eating habits to a whole new level, going from constantly snacking to purely ravenous. He’d come home from kindergarten like a savage wolf who hadn’t been fed in days. Nothing in the pantry was safe.
I knew I was in trouble.
Our monthly food budget (which includes everything we need for meals and snacks for our family of five) is somewhere between $400 and $450. (Note: We have a separate budget line for “consumables” like toilet paper, fabric softener, and so on.) Because I work from home part time, we rely mostly on my hubs salary, so that food budget can’t change. As a result, I’ve had to a bit creative and VERY disciplined. We don’t do things perfectly every month, but we have found what works well for us 90% of the time.
Now let me disclaimer: I’m no coupon mom. If you’re looking for secret coupon websites or tips on “doubling your coupons,” you won’t find that here. I completely respect and admire everyone who makes couponing look simple and gets $40 worth of CVS laundry detergent, cereal, and mascara for $1.76. But the whole deal confuses and overwhelms me, so I’ve had to come up with some alternative solutions that keep my boys eating and keep me sane(r).
I hope you’ll find a tip or two helpful, and feel free to add your own money-saving strategies in the comments.
1. Create a budget (& track your spending!).
If you don’t currently have a family budget, don’t read any further. Stop here. Hands down, I overspend on groceries 100 percent of the time without a monthly budget. A budget is your best friend when it comes to being frugal, because you determine how you allocate your income. (None of this end of the month “where did it all go?” stuff…) And to make sure you remain within your budget, find a way to track your day-to-day spending. The best budgeting tool we have found is Dave Ramsey’s EveryDollar. The basic version is absolutely free, you can use the mobile version everywhere you go, multiple users can input transactions, and it’s super user-friendly.
photo credit: Public Domain via pixabay
2. Make a meal plan.
I find that planning out my meals for the week helps me buy fewer items that I don’t need. Plus, I can coordinate meals that may need the same ingredients (especially meat). For example, if I plan on buying frozen chicken breasts for Cream Cheese Chicken Chili, I may also plan to make chicken tacos later in the week. You can either determine day by day what you want to make, or if you’re more of a see-what-kind-of-food-mood-I’m-in person like me, just make a general list of meals and then decide what to make from your list each day.
3. Don’t go to the store without a list.
Going to the store without a list is food budget suicide. You WILL buy things you don’t need or on impulse, and you’ll inevitably forget the things you came to get in the first place. Here’s how I make my list: Based on my meal plan, I create a list of ingredients I don’t have that I need for my recipes. Then, I add in everyday basics like cereal, bread, eggs, fruit, and so on.
The other beauty about the list: When my 4-year-old asks for everything on the shelf, I can point to the list and say, “Sorry, dude. Not on the list.”
4. Shop at ALDI at least 80 percent of the time.
I believe with my entire being that ALDI is the greatest grocery store on the planet. In fact, according to the ALDI website, “you can save up to 50% on the majority of your needs.” I know I spend anywhere from $30 to $50 less per week by shopping at ALDI versus any other local grocery store. The experience takes a few times to get used to (for example, take your own shopping bags and bring a quarter for the self-service carts), but it’s worth it.
5. Check digital in-store coupons.
If I do have to go to another grocery store, I always take a quick peak at the digital coupons. My ALDI alternative is usually Kroger, and they happen to have a great mobile app that lets me choose digital coupons and load them on my Kroger card. (By having a Kroger card, I also earn points at the pump, which saves me about 10 cents per gallon at the pump at least once a month.)
CAUTION: Load coupons only for the items already on your list. When you buy something just because you have a coupon, you’re “spaving” (spending to save), and that’s not saving, people.
6. Download Ibotta.
Do you like a good rebate? Yeah, so do I. That’s why I love Ibotta, the app that gives you access to instant rebates on hundreds of items. In the last six months, I’ve been able to get back $45 in rebates. The Ibotta concept is simple: Search through the rebates and select the ones that coincide with your shopping list. Often, the rebates are brand specific, but they also have many “any brand” rebates. Purchase your items, and then verify your purchases through the Ibotta app. When you accrue $20 or more in rebates (which took me about 3 months), you can then transfer that money into a PayPal or Venmo account. You can also select to receive your rebate on a store gift card. (PS: New users get an automatic $10 in rebates just for signing up. Free money, y’all.)
7. Say it with me: “No.”
I usually shop with at least two boys in tow. One likes to pull things off the shelf, and the other is constantly asking for Twizzlers and pudding cups and pickles and “marshmallow cereal” and…well, you get the point. To save money (and teach my son some important lessons about getting what we want), I have to stay strong and say “no” 95 percent of the time. I do, however, sometimes let the 4-year-old pick a “special treat” of his choice. That takes a little pressure off me, and it helps him learn to begin his own little food budget. “You get to choose one, kiddo, so choose wisely.”
8. Drink water for most meals & snacks.
For years, I let my boys drink milk constantly—until we started to go through MULTIPLE gallons per week. I had to put the kaibosh on how much milk they consumed. Most days, my boys will have one glass of milk, usually at breakfast, but will drink water the rest of the day. So in lieu of milk, soda, juice, or that fifth cup of coffee, try upping your family’s water intake. It’s good for your body and your budget!
9. Everyone eats the same.
We eat dinner as a family most nights, and I refuse to make mini meals catered to everyone. It’s exhausting and expensive to try to please five people. Instead, I make one meal, and everyone must “eat their age.” (So since Ben is 34, he has to take at least 34 bites.) The only exception is 9-month-old Baby J, who eats about 50 percent of what I make and the rest we supplement with store-bought baby food.
One particular child is a picky eater, and many meals are a battle, but this is how we choose to stick to our budget and expose our kids to a variety of foods. But to help you stay sane and have a few meals without complaints, I recommend having at least two battle-free meals (something everyone loves) each week. We do “Brinner” (breakfast for dinner) at least once a week and RELIGIOUSLY end on a high with “Friday Pizza & Movie Night.”
10. Close your kitchen.
After dinner, my boys know that the kitchen closes. Mama goes off duty, and they will have to wait until morning to eat anything else. My reason is two-fold: 1) It encourages them to eat enough dinner to last them through the night; and 2) It helps minimize the endless snacking that makes our food disappear quickly. The result is less money spent on snacks.
photo credit: Public Domain via pixabay
Don’t take on a second job just yet. With a few adjustments, you may be surprised by how much money you can save while keeping your sons’ tummies satisfied (well…mostly).
(Note: I’m not being paid directly to endorse ANY of the products I mention in this post. I just believe in them, so enjoy.)