Feeding a Big Family
On one income.
Planning, shopping for, and just generally feeding eight people on any given day of the week is a challenge. On one income it really forces you to make some decisions about what you eat, where you shop, and IF you'll ever see the inside of a restaurant again.
Pretty much NO to the restaurant thing. Except for special occasions. And after sports events. And when necessary.
Eating out is the first thing that has to go if you're watching your food budget. Eric and I enjoy occasion nights out on the town, but that's for two... and it's much more affordable than couple's therapy.
We also take a well-deserving kid out to their choice of eatery after a big game or some school accomplishment. But again, that's one kid, and not that often. They still feel treated and the bank isn't broken. Win win.
This is absolutely no problem for me. I become almost physically ill when I see the cost of our entire family eating at Chick-Fil-A. That much money for that type of food will never work for me. (And I enjoy Chick-Fil-A; no offense intended). I can feed all of us--plus wine for the adults--for that amount for three days! Versus ONE MEAL. With no alcohol. No thank you.
I have ordered pizza to our home ONE time in the last 10 years.
My husband, on the other hand, thinks of these expenses as "experiences" and has no trouble throwing down lots of money for Bush's Chicken and some Sweet Tea. But then again he doesn't manage the monthly budget so he gets to spoil them once in a while.
1. Don't eat out much. See above.
2. Use an online shopping experience. Some stores offer free grocery pick up with a fairly small minimum order. This is an absolute necessity for me. One, I don't have to spend time in the store. Two, someone else has to attempt the Heruclean task of fitting groceries for 8 into one shopping cart. Three, someone else has to unload it again and ring it all up. Four, someone else has to put it in your car. I would pay decent money for all those things, but some places do it for free.
If you shop online, you can see the balance as you go. We all know we buy more just by entering the store. That's what the term "loss leader" refers to. They lead. We lose. Seeing how every purchase changes your balance absolutely changes how you shop.
If I want to spend $200, I can actually see how I'm doing and edit my cart as necessary. In the store, I show up at the check out and have NO IDEA WHATSOEVER what the total will be. And Lord knows I'm not going to see it and ask the poor cashier to start removing some items because I overspent.
3. Don't buy soda. I never intended to allow my children to drink soda at home so this isn't a problem for me. But if you have six kids, and each one drinks one soda a day, that's close to $3.00/per day. That's $90.00 a month. Nope. We buy it as a treat on vacation or at special events and let them have as much as they want on those occasions.
4. Don't shop at Costco or Sam's Club. So this is controversial but I've never been a fan. We waste almost NO FOOD at this house because every last bit gets eaten. I tried Sam's Club for a while, but buying all that food in bulk meant that inevitably they ate more when it first came home (studies show the bigger the package, the more people eat). It also meant that they got tired of it and some of it had to be thrown out. Also, those stores only sell the name brands. I can do much better with store brands and smaller quantities that don't go to waste. Ever.
5. Have kids and parents pack rather than buy. Packing lunches for six children is absolutely my hands down least favorite household task. Right now, many of you are saying, "why don't they pack their own?" Good question. The bigger ones do most of the time. Almost all of them would prefer this practice, as a matter of fact. But my grocery budget would skyrocket if the little ones chose their lunch fare: inevitably they would hoard ALL THE GOOD STUFF--Clif Bars, string cheese, and cookies--items I buy in limited quantities and divvy out accordingly. Buying their lunches at school would cost me $21.00/day or $126.00/week. I occasionally have them buy, especially after a busy Wednesday night at church, but not that often. My husband also brings leftovers to work most days which conserves the food budget even further.
6. Finally, my ABSOLUTE favorite, track all food expenses with the Everydollar app. Setting aside a certain amount each month for food, and then sticking to it, helps me stay accountable to the budget. Dave Ramsey says using Everydollar will make you feel like you got a pay raise because you'll see how much money just goes out indiscriminately. Completely true. I make a budget before the month begins and then stick to it because it's easy with Everydollar.