I previously posted my cheap laundry detergent recipe here. I explain in that post that I am extremely cheap. Toward that end, I want to share another money saving tip that goes against what most people will tell you: Convenience Food.
What!?! I know. When reading "101 Ways to Save Money", they always tell you to avoid pre-made, prepackaged food. And I agree. Mostly.
When we were early married, I would try to save money by not buying ice cream at the grocery store. Have you seen how much that stuff costs? But, as I mentioned before in a previous post, I LOVE ice cream. It is my happy food. So, when the craving overtook me (usually at least once a week), I'd go to the local ice cream shop, too conveniently located, and buy their (expensive) ice cream. Usually I'd have to take the kids or hubby. This trip would cost me at least $10. At least once a week. So I'd spend at least $20 on ice cream saving in order to save $6 at the grocery store. This is NOT saving. I eventually learned to just but the ice cream.
Fast forward half a dozen years and an equal number of kids. In an effort to save money, I have tried to get as "basic" as my limited culinary and organizational skills will allow. I've tried making homemade bread for sandwiches (which we loved to eat, but really didn't work for sandwiches for us).
I have gotten to the point where I can't stand to buy box dinner mixes because I know that even though they may only cost $2, I could make it for $1. So I quit buying most convenience foods.
Then I noticed that we run such a busy, hectic life, that we were grabbing a bite to eat out, or getting a quick fast food snack, more and more often. It was too hard to get home for lunch after church (we can't get home until 2) so we would eat out. We'd have a 4-H meeting and have to leave as soon as daddy got home, so we'd grab a bite after, because I was hungry. I am very unpleasant when I'm hungry. (Very unpleasant)
Then it hit me. This was the ice cream issue all over again. I realized my need to start buying some very quick preparation food items, such as those detested box dinners (not detested for taste, just price). A $2 box dinner is much cheaper than the $25 (or more) it costs to feed my family fast food.
I realized that if I splurge on some fresh fruit for after church on Wednesdays, I won't have to grab a snack after when the kids are starving and it's too late to fix a snack after we get home. If I buy the good deli meat, we don't mind a picnic lunch after church because it isn't peanut butter.
So, my official advice for busy families with a tight budget, splurge on some food items that can be prepared quickly. Take one or two "fast food" meals worth of money and buy some nicer convenience food that will free you. If you are like me, no matter how often you tell yourself that you can fix and freeze some of your own "convenience foods", you never seem to get around to it. If you continue to find yourself eating out due to schedules, realize that you aren't going to get around to it at this point in your life, release your guilt, splurge on a few quick meals to keep in your pantry and enjoy!