Dealing with rising food costs

I have always been good at using leftovers to stretch my food budget. Raising 5 kids and trying to do it in a healthy way was a challenge.

Now that there are only 5 of us, but 4 are adults, it is still a challenge to stretch our food dollars. Gas and grocery prices are rising but wages, if you are lucky to have a job, are lowering. How are you supposed to feed your family on a budget?

An alternative to shopping at your local supermarket is shopping at Walmart instead. In many areas of the country, Walmart has a grocery section. Here in NJ, they have frozen foods and groceries and recently added some fresh produce.

I shop at Walmart whenever possible for items like laundry detergent and cereal. I tried buying the cheap laundry detergent at my local supermarket. It was like water and didn't remove stains or make my clothes smell fresh like Tide does. I save a lot of money by buying Tide at Walmart.

As far as meals go, I prefer to cook from scratch and avoid processed/prepared foods. This is my downfall. When a supermarket (or Walmart) has prepared foods on sale, it can be tempting because the price is so low. Personally, my digestive system does not tolerate all the additional sodium that is added to processed foods. I disagree with the amount of sugar and preservatives in boxed cereals.

I am sure that if your food budget is extremely low and you need to feed your kids, you could do better by serving cereal for dinner and use things like canned pasta (when on sale) and frozen dinners. Personally, I don't like the artificial tastes of these products.

So, we stretch our food dollars by buying produce and meats that are on sale. We try and stock up on items when they are on sale. Coffee has escalated in price and when it is on sale - we take advantage. I purchase a lot of frozen vegetables and even store-brand frozen fries. Frozen fries can be jazzed up with your own seasonings ( I like chili powder, onion and garlic) and cooked in the oven. You can spritz a little olive oil in the pan if you like it crispy.

Frozen vegetables are as good as fresh- sometimes fresher! Leftover vegetables can go into soups, wraps or make a good lunch side for one.

Instead of jarred spaghetti sauce, a few cans of organic (or not) crushed tomatoes, fresh garlic, parsley and basil can yield more sauce for less money. Plus no added colors, sugar or preservatives. The taste (if you use quality tomatoes) is fresh and delicious. Plus, leftovers can be frozen so you have sauce on hand for those quick dinner nights.

Take advantage of sales by planning out menus before you go to the store. Use coupons only if it will save you money. I am a firm believer in only using coupons on items that you like. If you are saving money but your family doesn't really like the product, what's the point?

Consider making a second trip to another store for health and beauty items. Check out prices at your local drug store chain. Coupons and weekly specials can save you money on your favorite products. Walmart is another good option for health and beauty items.

With the price of gas nearing $4 a gallon ( in NJ), planning your shopping trips is a wiser choice. My daughter works around the corner from Walmart. I try and plan our Walmart purchases by sending her since she is already in the area.

Thinking first about multi-tasking when you venture out, especially if it is a drive to get to shopping, will help you to save money on the price of filling up your gas tank.

It is tough out there for many of us. A bit of planning and organization can help you to save money and stretch the money you do have.

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