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How I Save Monthly on Groceries for My Large Family

Aja Koska / iStock.com
Aja Koska / iStock.com

According to market data firm Gitnux, the average family of four spends a little more than $245 a week on groceries — and the tab is a whole lot higher for the many families that are much bigger than average.

Learn More: Average Cost of Groceries Per Month: How Much Should You Be Spending?
Find Out: How To Get $340 Per Year in Cash Back on Gas and Other Things You Already Buy

Chef Ashley Shep is a mealtime strategist, cookbook author and former personal chef for families. Her website is filled with testimonials from parents with multiple children who have used Shep’s shopping and cooking tips to make meals for many people in less time and for less money than they could have on their own.

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“I focus on getting dinner done faster with quick, healthy and tasty meals,” she said. “My recipes and strategies are family-friendly without breaking the bank. With grocery prices on the rise, it can feel nearly impossible to save money on food, especially when you have a big family. Here are a few tried-and-true methods to save hundreds, if not thousands, of dollars on your food bill each month.”

She’s had plenty of practice testing her tactics in real life with her own large family, and now she’s sharing her tips for sticking to a budget at the grocery store with many mouths to feed at home.

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Start by Taking Inventory and Keep a Running, Written List

When you have a big family, it’s critical to inspect your cabinets, pantry, fridge and freezer before every trip to the supermarket.

“First and foremost, the best way to save money is to remember we’ve got food at home,” Shep said. “Shop your kitchen first by making a running list of items you already have. This could be a dry-erase board attached to your fridge, a note on your phone, or even a piece of paper. Take a picture of the list or use your note while grabbing your groceries to prevent buying duplicates. After a trip to the store, add your new items to the list so it’s up to date. If your kids are old enough, make this task one of their chores as the sous chef responsible for inventory in your kitchen. As you eat items, simply erase them or add them to a section of the list to ‘buy again.'”

Discover More: I’m a Shopping Expert: 9 Items I’d Never Put in My Grocery Cart

Shop and Store With Waste Prevention in Mind

The USDA reports that America throws out hundreds of billions of pounds of food worth hundreds of billions of dollars every year. If you’re in charge of feeding a large family, you simply can’t contribute to that statistic — and you have to strategize at home and at the grocery store accordingly.

“Another way to feed a large family is to make sure you actually eat the food you buy,” Shep said. “That sounds silly, but according to the USDA, up to 40% of food is wasted in America.”

She said that much of the waste comes from improper storage.

“One way chefs cut down on food waste is to follow the ‘first in, first out’ method,” she said. “This means you use the oldest foods first by storing your new items in the back. This process pushes the older items to the front, making you more likely to use them first.”

She also advised storing food properly so that it lasts longer.

“This can vary based on the climate where you live, but being knowledgeable about what to put where means your food will be less likely to go bad before you get to it,” Shep said. “For example, adding apples to the fridge can help them last a month or longer, and storing potatoes in a cool, dry, dark place keeps them fresh for a month or two. Additionally, my favorite way to cut down on food waste is to stir-fry the random vegetables in my fridge that will go bad in a few days. It’s perfect to do before trash day to stop throwing money down the drain on uneaten produce.”

Invest In a Warehouse Club Membership — But Always Compare Prices

Wholesale clubs are perfect for families with lots of hungry mouths to feed, and low-cost, high-quantity purchasing can make a membership quickly pay for itself — but never assume the price there is lower than your neighborhood supermarket.

“Stores that offer items in bulk tend to have the best deals on most foods, but sometimes, your local grocery store has a lower price due to a sale,” Shep said. “Compare prices between the grocery store and membership warehouse stores like Costco or Sam’s Club to check the cost per item or serving instead of the overall price. One easy way to compare is to download the stores’ apps on your phone or tablet and search for the desired item. Then add to your cart at the store that’s the cheapest.”

Always Shop the Weekly Ads

Food stores offer rotating discounts that change every week, and you should base your weekly meal plan on the items they mark down.

“Regardless of which store you choose, shopping the weekly ad is a great way to save money without much thought,” Shep said. “Use the items that are on sale to decide what you’re having for the week. Is chicken on sale? Great! Buy it in bulk and season a few extra servings to freeze for later. Are carrots in season and dirt cheap? Perfect! Add them to a stir fry and a one-pan meal to feed your family two different dishes for less money. Saving money with a big family takes a little extra effort, but it’s definitely worth it.”

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This article originally appeared on GOBankingRates.com: How I Save Monthly on Groceries for My Large Family