Today's tip is a simple one: meal plan!
I don't think I need to explain how to meal plan. All it takes is a little bit of time, a cookbook/Pinterest and a notepad. Meal planning not only prevents you from eating out, it also guides your grocery shopping for the week. If you plan a week's worth of meals you won't be running back and forth to the grocery store during the week, which saves time and money.
I do my grocery shopping on Wednesdays so I meal plan a week ahead of time. To stretch the most out of our budget I only serve meat two-three times a week. Our weekly meal plan includes a beef night, a chicken night, a breakfast night, a bean-based meal night, a homemade pizza night and the remaining two suppers are leftovers. (If we don't happen to have any leftovers we eat waffles or pancakes with peanut butter.) Meal planning allows me to get the most out of my groceries for the week. Say I'm making chicken enchiladas for dinner on Tuesday. I'll probably serve them with some corn and Mexican rice. Then for my meatless night on Thursday I'll use the leftover corn and rice along with some cheese, lettuce and tomato to make loaded nachos. Simple, right?
If you're new to meal planning I would suggest writing your beef/chicken meals first (or whatever two meats you choose). As you write your meals down on a notepad, jot down the ingredients you need on another sheet of paper. After getting your two "big" meals on paper, look at your shopping list and see what other meals you can make using the same ingredients. This is one of the easiest ways to make your family a wholesome dinner every night while still keeping to a strict food budget.
If you're looking for meal inspiration I'd suggest a good old fashioned cookbook. To keep things easy I always work from one cookbook for an entire week's meals. Pinterest is also a great resource for recipes. Here are my favorite cookbooks:
(I have a few from this series of cookbooks and they're all great!)
In the last six months I've also gotten into couponing. I am NOT an extreme couponer, but I have found that coupons allow me to further stretch our food budget. I'll go into more detail on how I coupon tomorrow. Come back if you want to hear more!