- Add in one night a week for leftovers and one night for breakfast-for-dinner
- For breakfast, eat healthy - fruits, eggs, toast, and non-sugary cereals (the bulk generic variety)
- Our kids love classic staples like grilled cheese, pb&j, half-sandwiches with chips, ravioli/spaghettios, and sometimes leftovers. It's easy to keep up with all the sandwiches if you look out for bread savings at your grocery store - our Wal-Mart often has $75 bread put out.
- Check out sites like http://www.allrecipes.com/ or http://www.cooks.com/ to find recipes by ingredient.
- Pick up some old cookbooks from yard sales or check them out from your library to get more ideas.
- During the winter, soups are just what you need to stay warm - on our rotation we have: crockpot chili, potato soup, chicken stew, beef stew, black-eyed pea gumbo, tomato soup, and even Campbell's Chunky canned soup (with a $1 off/for 3 coupon).
- Shop your meats from a wholesale source or butcher (more willing to give you certain cuts) or find a farmer's market like I do - a huge pack of ribs is only $9 as compared to a smaller pack for $20 at the commercial grocery store. I'm trying something new this go round by purchasing bulk from a wholesale vendor and letting the meat last through a couple paychecks.
2) Frugal Cooking. The next step happened when I looked at everything I was buying - high priced meats and tons of ingredients that were bringing the prices up. I was raised in the South and thought that I wasn't doing my job if we didn't have meat-and-potatoes type meals every night. But my husband was practically begging for healthier meals (though he loved the heavy stuff) and the kids love the light stuff. So I started having soups, stews, chili and gumbo several times a month (change it out and it won't get boring). I'm also getting out of my comfort zone by making homemade tomato soup, a new chicken stew, and crockpot chili. All of these are either vegetarian or use inexpensive meats like chicken pieces, stew meat, or ground beef. Taco or Fajita nights are also on the inexpensive list. One or two nights a week I throw in those heavy meals and it doesn't break our budget because of how few there are.
3) Clip the Coupons. This is pretty self-explanatory... weed out every name-brand thing you buy (If you're not buying generic already, you may have a hard time with this) and find coupons for as many as you can. Look in your newspaper or online at sites like http://www.coupons.smartsource.com/ (all you need is a printer). The product sites also have newsletters you can sign up for to get occasional savings e-mailed to you. I remember my grandmother keeping a little file folder full of coupons and thought that it was a complete waste of time but now I'm absolutely certain that she's the kind of homemaker that I want to be.
Back in the beginning of December, I had already started meal plans but hadn't added in the coupons or the pared-down, frugal meals. I was already saving then by spending $359.16 (whereis I was spending close to $400 before) but now I'm only spending $193.30, including the meat purchase. I'm sure that as I get used to clipping coupons it will be an even greater saving, but I'm already happy with the $400 I'm saving a month and I finally feel like I'm learning how to be the frugal helpmeet that I should be.