I frequently get skeptical looks, the side eye, or people thinking I’m starving my kids when I tell them that our grocery budget is $80/week.
It takes a lot of work, but it is doable. I cook a lot from scratch- it’s healthy, cheap, and I can control what goes into each dish (hidden veggies, fruit, less sugar, etc.). I can make a cheese pizza at home for less than $4, and that is enough pizza for the kids for two meals!
Here are a few of our family tactics to stay on budget:
CASH! Go to the bank/ATM and get your grocery money out of the bank every week. This is a great way to start. I get $80 out of the ATM each Saturday for the upcoming weeks’ groceries.
Inventory your Fridge, Freezer, and Pantry. Bonus- You’ll also find stuff that needs to be thrown out or donated. If you are looking for kitchen inventory printables, I like the kitchen inventories here. They are great printables.
Menu Plan. Start by using what you’ve got on-hand. Eat food that’s on sale or in season. We eat a lot of strawberries in the summer because they are cheap!
Make a grocery list. Stick to the list Don’t be afraid to substitute brands, or make changes based on what is on sale, or any in-store markdowns you find.
Don’t be afraid to go to more than one store. I’m not saying run all over town, but going to two stores is OK. In our area, there are a 99 Cents Only store and a Grocery Outlet in the same shopping Center. I hit up both each week. Then, on the way home, I stop at Food4Less and buy milk (cheapest in town!), eggs, and bread (if 99 Cents Only doesn’t have the high protein bread we like).
Eat Less Meat. Not only does it save money, but it’s better for the environment.
Take advantage of local resources. There are a few food co-ops in our area. Additionally, there are free produce distributions too. A couple of my friends and I split a co-op lot twice a month. It comes out to less than $20 per person, and we get all kinds of cool stuff. A quick google search can help you find both in your area. In the summer, we take advantage of Kid’s free lunches too.
Coupon and/or use money-saving apps. My complete list of apps can be found here. Right now my favorite apps are Fetch Rewards and Ibotta. I love that I can use Fetch at any store. It helps because I shop a lot of Grocery Outlet and 99 Cents Only.
Be Flexible. Some weeks you will go over budget. It happens. Sometimes you need to stock up on staples, or your family wants to eat something that isn’t on sale. Sometimes you really want to order a pizza and wings. That’s OK! Frugality is a journey, it’s not a punishment or a life of austerity and suffering. You can still live a fun, full life while being frugal.
Talk Back: Share a few of your families tips for staying on budget?
My friends Annie and Christine are hosting an awesome STEAM camp this summer, and Registration JUST OPENED!
They are very excited to be offering four summer day-camp sessions this year. Camp will be open for children age 5-10. We will be holding camp at two different locations in Clairemont and Kearny Mesa. Camps will be Mon-Fri from 9:00am-3:00pm and include free lunch. Lunches are provided by the San Diego City.
Campers will do daily art and science around a fun weekly theme. In addition to art and science, our days will also include interactive games, STEAM inspired stories, outside play time, free lunch and more. We will have an underlying focus on kindness and helping others. Each camper will put together a care package for Cali Kids Medical Foundation to give to a family with a child admitted in the hospital and will also make cards for kids in the hospital.
Not only will your kiddos enjoy STEAM activities, but they’ll be helping a family and child during a tough time! I’ve known both ladies for many years and they love kids and they are passionate about STEAM education.
I haven’t had much time to sit at the computer and write lately, but we’ve been busy! There are so many free and frugal things to do in the summer, and we haven’t even done a 1/3 of what we have planned!
Here are just a few of the adventures we’ve been having (and you can try them too)!
Rock Painting! Some of you have seen pictures of the painted rocks we’ve been making, hiding, and finding all over town on my Instagram feed. Santee Rocks was started by a local teacher to spread kindness. There are lot of other “rocks” groups all over San Diego, and the US! We even hosting a Rock Painting party at a local park! Over 30 people showed up, painted, and played. We hope to host another one in July.
We’ve also been hitting up our local libraries for all sorts of fun events and activities. Our favorite is the El Cajon Library. They serve lunch M-F, 11:30-12:30. Afterwards there are a variety of events and activities from special speakers, concerts, and even crafts! And they even serve an afternoon snack!
There is a small play area for kids with an interactive discovery structure, and a Duplo Wall! There is a shaded playground out front as well. It’s a great way to spend a few hours in a climate controlled place without visiting the mall or any place where you might spend money. We usually end up bringing home a few library books too.
We’ve been on adventures with friends! Playing T-ball at the park and going on the hunt for decorated rocks was the biggest hit so far.
And of course, We spend time at home, doing crafts, swimming in the community pool, playing Legos, and just hanging out!
I’m of the mind that summer doesn’t need to be packed with activities sun up to sun down. Frequently, we spend our time at home spending time together. We have friends over to play, but it’s super low-key.
I’ve taking a break from trying to pound out an article or post each day. I want to spend time with the kids and family.
What kinds of activities and adventures has you family been having this summer?
School is out (for most of us, the rest will be getting out next week), and that means there are some parents (and kids) who usually rely on free or subsidized school lunches may find themselves wondering what to do.
Thankfully, a lot of great organizations have stepped up and partnered with local area school, rec centers, and civic organizations to provide free breakfasts, lunches, and snacks for al kids 18 and under this summer. For those of us in East County, here is a list of locations!
Those of us in the greater San Diego Area, there are a lot of great options all over town!
There is a kick off BBQ at Skyline Hills Park 6/21/17 10:30am-2:00pm! Parents eat free at this BBQ and there are all kinds of activities!
Lindo Lake in Lakeside is hosting a summer BBQ that’s free for kids, and only $4.00 for parents on August 15th! The best part is that each family leaves with 6 lbs. of fresh produce thanks to Feeding America! If the two lists above aren’t in your area, you can also turn to the USDA Find Summer Meals map here.
All of these programs are free and there is no proof of need and you do not have to sign up in advance. Just show up and hte kids get a tasty meal!
What I love about this program is that there are tons of rec centers hosting these lunches and they are usually adjacent to a playground, which means after a long morning of playing, the kids don’t have long to wait to get a yummy lunch!
Looking for a few ideas of summer fun with a nearby lunch?
There is a lunch location down at the Waterfront Park- which is also free! It has a great playground and a splash area.
That looks like a pretty good lunch, right? It was free! And what you don’t see is two little boxes of raisins that Lil’ Man basically chugged (they really are nature’s candy!). Pizza, nectarine, applesauce, Apple juice, and a bag of carrots.
There were other side choices as well, including a mixed green salad, brocolli, mandarin oranges, celery, and ranch for dipping and fresh salsa too.
Here’s the deal.. It’s not a deal. The USDA sponsors the Summer Food Service Program, open to all kids aged 2-18 years. No proof of need is required, and you don’t need to sign up in advance. Just find a location near you (here– this is for San Diego County only, for all other areas, click here), show up, the kids pick their lunches, and enjoy!
Most locations offer lunch Monday-Friday at a specific time, and some locations even offer breakfast too!
This is a great way to stretch your budget over the summer (and get the kids out of the house!). Locations differ, but include schools, rec centers, and parks.