We plan the menu, make out the shopping list, clip a few coupons, and head to the store. Everything is going well for several weeks and then a special event comes and we want party food. Can we do that on a strict budget? Yes. Is it tough? Yes. But sometimes they special foods we want for the party have expensive ingredients. How do we manage that? There are several ways to consider.
- Save money in the grocery budget ahead of time
- Purchase special items a little at a time
- Add a line for parties in the budget
We have done all these and all can work. Let’s explore the options.
- Save money from the grocery budget don’t spend the whole grocery budget each week and bank the rest to pay for the parties. This is a good option if the party foods change or are perishable.
- Purchase special items a little at a time- I know that there are certain items that Tim always makes for parties, so when I see a good deal on those I stock up. This only works if he checks the pantry before shopping for the party.
- Add party money to the budget Tim loves to cook good food! And all our family and friends love to eat it! He really enjoys hosting large gatherings in our home and we try to do it often. So we just added some money in our budget, outside the regular food money, to pay for the party food.
Other things that can blow the budget include special events, illness, feeding extra people, and going to the grocery story hungry.
- Special events- this includes activities that take us far from our usual schedule and make cooking difficult. Several years ago I was the director for our church’s VBS. While I loved the job, I was so tired that I could not think about cooking for my kids. The next year I planned ahead and purchased convenience foods to quickly prepare for dinner during VBS week. My kids were shocked to see frozen fish fillets, French fries, pot pies, etc. I did chose rather inexpensive items and it just made the week go so much better.
- Illness one reader wrote that she had her meals planned and grocery budget in hand, then over a period of a couple of weeks all her kids were sick. This made it hard to cook and she had to spend a fair amount of money on prescription and over-the-counter meds. We all get sick from time to time, so just be ready. Moms are often the ones who bear the brunt of the nursing responsiblity for little ones. A couple of ideas for next time:
- Stock up on over-the-counter meds while playing the drug store game. It is quite less painful to get the meds for pennies on the dollar and then there are no late night trips to the drug store when kiddos are sick.
- Relax your meal standards. Make pancakes or French toast for dinner. Or canned soup with grilled cheese sandwiches. Make sure everyone is fed, but don’t stress about meals.
- Enjoy your time with the children. Sometimes we get to busy that it is tough to get cuddle time, so when they are ill can provide the perfect opportunity.
Feeding extra people- having guests is a happy time, but can be a strain on the grocery budget. The ideas for parties apply here too. Also, don’t be afraid to serve meals that are lower cost- pasta, chili, etc. Meatless meals are a good stagey too. This is a good time to use the crock pot too, so you don’t have to spend all day in the kitchen when you have company. If it is appropriate, ask others coming to bring something to add to the meal. You cook the main dish and ask others to bring a side.
Going to the store hungry- we have all heard this is trouble, but I really think it is. Try to plan shopping trip after a meal, but if not, be very true to your list. I keep granola bars in the car for when we need a quick snack, so eating one prior to entering the store helps snack foods from jumping into my cart.