This may have to be done in baby steps (to pull one over on your family :), but packaged food is very expensive. Biscuits for example, can be made for a fraction of what you would pay for a bag of frozen ones and you could make about twice as many in that fraction.
2. WATCH your coupon purchases.
I know couponing can be like winning the lottery, but be sure you eat what you are buying and aren't just buying for the bargain. Also, factor in your time. The time you usually spend clipping might 'pay' better making a menu plan and making more meals from scratch.
3.PLAN- Plan around what you already have and what you will eat.(Yes, meal planning!)
This has saved me MORE money than probably anything else I've done. Looking in the pantry, fridge, and freezer the day before you go shopping helps avoid purchases you don't need and enables you to look for sales and perhaps items you can stock up on, since you know what you do and don't need. (I also keep a list of items that I run out of or am low on.) I find that a failure to plan, leads to lots more spending or else just not having what I need.
You can buy these in bulk, cheaper per pound, than many other foods and they pack nutrition and fiber which will satiate and fill you up. If your family isn't used to them, start gradually. Use them as sides at first, and gradually bump them up to main dishes, at least once or twice a week. Also, use them to stretch other dishes. Grains are good to add bulk to your soups, while lentils and beans are good to add bulk to your meat dishes. So- sneak them in- if you have to, to stretch your main dishes. One pound boxes of pasta often goes on sale for 2/$1 and you can get the whole grain. (Check for coupons, which could make them free!) Pasta is great for sides, main dishes, soups, and even some desserts.
5.DRINK- water and lots of it!
Figure up how much money you are spending on sodas, drink mixes, and sugars. That money could be being used for REAL food. This too, may have to be gradual. If your family is used to drinking sodas, perhaps cut back to Kool-Aid. Then, cut back to water at meals (with a small slice of lemon, if necessary) and Kool-Aid only as a treat. Give them a special 'water cup' and leave it on the counter or table most of the day. Switching to water can give you a LOT of extra grocery money. It can help to involve the whole family and make this a 'fun' and 'healthy' project.
Start a new folder for your cookbook section. Fill this with instructions on how to make your own yogurt, buttermilk, crackers, bread, broths, gravies, salad dressings, and everything else that you use on a weekly basis. I can buy milk for $2.79 a gallon. I can culture half a gallon and make buttermilk at a cost of $1.40 per half gallon. (Do you know the cost of half a gallon of buttermilk in the store? It's usually as much as a gallon of milk!) 32 ounces of plain yogurt on sale might run about $2. You can make 4- 32 ounce containers from one gallon of milk for $2.79! Bread can be made for at least half the price of what you would pay in the store. Gravies can be made for pennies. Broths can be made for basically free, using the carcass from baked chicken and scraps of celery and onions. You can make 6 jars of jelly for the price of 2. You can make your own pureed pumpkin for pennies. ....Try to think of your normal staples or convenience foods and do some digging to see if you can make them yourself. (You can even make your own form of a Hot Pocket!)
7. DO buy in bulk!
This step has become one of the most joyful for me. I seldom buy small containers of anything. I buy big bottles of pepper, several containers of salt at a time, 25lb (and up) bags of sugars and flours, 5lb bags of frozen fruits and veggies (bigger if I can find them!), bushels of apples when I can, 50lb bags of potatoes, huge bags of egg noodles, 9lbs of onions at a time, #10 cans of sauces and other items, oil by the gallon, etc. You can get them cheaper this way and you save shopping time as well.
8. DO stock up!
There is NOTHING worse than having a hungry family and you can't find anything to fix. So, not only do you want to buy in bulk but you want to stock up when things are on sale. Once you start this, you will find that these cycles work fairly well and you will have enough food in storage to make-do when you find good sales and need to skimp on some things to take advantage of the sales.When your family's favorite frozen vegetables are on sale, buy 20 bags instead of 10. At Thanksgiving, buy turkeys, sweet potatoes, and canned foods. In spring, buy butter. In fall, buy apples. Learn to can and freeze so you can stock up when when produce is at it's lowest price. (Don't know where to start? Have a look at Brandy's pantry list.)
9.DON"T throw food away!
If you see one of your fruits or veggies starting to experience the effects of aging- save him! Dice him up and stick him in the Fountain of Youth! (The freezer.) Freeze up your old bread for breadcrumbs, meatloaves, croutons, bread pudding, or dressings. For years I've kept a bucket in the corner of my freezer for leftover veggies. When it's full, we get vegetable soup! Leftover meat? Same thing- stews. However, sometimes my leftover-leftovers will become dog food. :)
Anything you can grow is going to save you money. Do some experimenting and start small and see what grows best for you that your family will eat. Freeze or can the extras. And don't just think 'big' veggies, think of green onions, herbs and spices (this is a frugal way to change and kick up your recipes), and even garlic.
11.S-T-R-E-T-C-H your meat!
Consider an approximate daily budget. If you have a daily budget of $5 to feed your family, you don't want to spend more than half of that on meat. If you shoot for $2 a day in meat, depending on what you buy, that will be 1 to 2 pounds of meat (or less), so you are going to want to watch for sales. (Whole chickens .79-.99 a pound, turkey when it runs on sale at Thanksgiving, ground beef for less than 1.89 per pound, etc) (Check out my post of 100lbs of meat for $130.)You're also going to want to find dishes to stretch this meat. Pasta dishes, casseroles, adding beans and rice, adding frugal veggies such as celery and onions, are all ways to stretch your meat dishes. Use meat as a 'flavoring' when you can, rather than the prominent ingredient. Consider saving your fat drippings and making gravies, sauces, etc with them. Fat keeps you full longer!
12. STAY out of the stores!
Shop less frequently and very purposefully. I only shop once-a-month. When we have to run errands, I pick up extra milk and eggs and if I have extra, fresh produce according to sales. This will save you money, gas, time, and keep you from mindless shopping.(Make lists when you go, and shop by your list or perhaps an occasional sale, not by the cool packaging or appetite (ie don't go when you're hungry!).)
13. DO teach your children to eat what's put before them.
This is Biblical. (1 Cor 10:27 .. whatsoever is set before you, eat, asking no question for conscience sake.) It's also being a good steward. It also trains their little tasters to grow to like different things. Our pediatrician told me once that if you feed a child just one bite of a food every few days, within 6 months they will acquire a taste for it. If you allow your children to be persnickety, this will increase your budget, cooking time, and likely your frustration. Teaching them to 'try' everything as a rule and not to complain is a good, frugal budget helper and a manners-builder! (Phil 2:14 Do all things without murmurings and disputings)
This goes back to the gallon of milk thing above. Milk makes yogurt, buttermilk, kefir, ice cream, cream cheese, and more! Eggs make omelets, frittatas, custards, deviled eggs, egg salad, and many other things that are not necessarily breakfast foods. Flour makes bread, crackers, pasta, dumplings, pie crust, biscuits, cinnamon rolls, cakes, donuts, pizza crust, buns, English muffins, bagels, flatbread, fry bread, funnel cakes, and so much more. Don't buy boxed mac and cheese, buy bulk pasta and make your own mac! You can use any noodle for spaghetti sauces, Alfredo sauces, pasta salads, casseroles, or just as a side with butter.
15. NEVER stop learning and looking for new ways to save, cut back, and make new recipes.
If I run out of things before shopping time, I usually look to the computer to see if I can make my own. I often find very frugal alternatives.
I have five children at home right now, all of which are as big as me, or bigger. 4 are boys. Two of them are 17 and 15 and eat like there's no tomorrow. And somehow, with the Lord's help, everyone gets fed (well!) for usually between 5 and $10 a day.