People often wonder how we can afford to feed nine children. The short answer is that we can't. Sometimes we don't know how we are going to make it. Sometimes we go weeks without a trip to the grocery store, living on what can be found in the pantry and freezer. These are the times that I fall back on my Dutch heritage, using the skills bred by generations of frugal living to create masterpieces of culinary genius. (I call it "pulling a rabbit out of my hat" and believe it is the closest mankind can come to imitating God's act of creation ex nilo.) Sometimes, the creativity reaches its limits and we eat strange and not so great meals. But God has always provided and we have never gone hungry. Here are three more ways you can make the grocery budget go farther.
Learn To Eat What God Provides. It is much easier to stick to a grocery budget if you teach your children (and yourself) to not be picky eaters and learn to eat a wide variety of foods. Grocery stores often run specials on surpluses or foods nearing their expiration dates. Gardening friends will sometimes offer extra produce when they have more than they can handle. (You know the joke about leaving your car locked during zucchini season?) Friends with chickens may gift you with farm fresh eggs. (I admit, this is my area of weakness. I much prefer the less healthy store bought ones.) Occasionally there are leftovers from potlucks that no one else wants to take home. These gifts are not always what we would purchase had the choice been ours, but they are still a blessing which we are happy to receive. If you are not confined to the whims of picky eaters, you will have so many more opportunities to save money on the grocery bill! However, there are times when the cost of food needs to be measured in more than just dollars. Health should always be a consideration when you are choosing what to feed your family. Even though junk food sometimes appears cheaper, you will pay an additional cost for it in the long run through poor health and doctors bills. Sometimes, being frugal isn't really very frugal at all.
Eat whole foods and cook from scratch. While real food options don't usually go on sale or come with coupons, they are often a better value pound for pound and will do a much better job of satisfying appetites. Real foods don't come "ready made" so you are only paying for food, not convenience. And cooking from scratch gives you much more control over what is in your food, so you can make better nutritional choices. However, the recent popularity of organic foods has caused the cost of whole foods to climb. For those hoping to stretch the grocery budget, the best alternative is often to take a do it yourself approach.
Raise Your Own. No matter who you are or where you live, there is always something you can do to grow your own food. Those blessed to live in the country will find it easy to keep a few chickens or plant a large garden. But the idea of raising your own groceries should not seem impossible even to those living in urban areas. I grew up in the middle of the city, but my mom still had a garden every year. It meant the sacrifice of a good portion of our yard, but it was worth it. If a garden is not a possibility for you, try growing vegetables in containers or herbs and greens on a window sill. Houseplants are pretty and help to clean the air, but why not make them edible as well? At the very least, you can purchase some seeds (alfalfa, beans, etc.) and grow your own sprouts.
Though grocery prices continue to climb, it is still possible to stretch the budget with a little creativity and some good old fashioned elbow grease. The important thing is to remain balanced. Do what you can, but keep in mind that there are other factors to consider besides the dollar sign. Don't sacrifice your health for the sake of a good deal, and don't be afraid to choose convenience when you need to. Your time is worth something too.