Eating like a king on a shoestring budget (Part 1)

In the first post of her blog series, Sandi Richard helps us lower our grocery expenses, without compromising family-friendly healthy meals!

Looking for Sandi’s Eat Sheet? Download it here!

$1.50 to $3.50 per serving? Anyone can do this!

Have you ever been weaving through the grocery store aisles and then notice you keep passing the same person aisle to aisle?

This happened to me a couple of weeks ago! The woman was a young mom with two small children. I tried not to notice, but I couldn’t help it! Every single item she picked up was a thought, a mathematical question and either a keep-or-put-back decision! This dear young woman had no choice but to analyze every item she could afford or not afford! Although I didn’t know this woman at all…I knew her. This young woman was me, at one point in my life.

I felt helpless! There was a pit in my gut! The items she was putting back weren’t extravagant extras, they were basics. It broke my heart! I wanted to belt out, “Just get it, I’ll buy that for you!” or “If you buy this instead of that you end up with the same meal, but it will free up enough money to get the other thing!” or “Let me help you out today with your grocery bill…we’ve all been there!” But instead, as I passed her by, lane after lane, I said nothing. Why?

I didn’t want to embarrass her. I didn’t want her to think I was watching her decisions or judging her…so I shut up! This experience has haunted me every day since. I, like most people, live in a fairly urban setting so I see poverty all the time. It always upsets me, but this was different, this was personal.

By the time I reached the end of the grocery store I realized there was a way to help!  I set out on a mission to find her…I walked aisle-to-aisle looking everywhere. Once, twice, three times around the store…but she was gone! I am a professional meal planner and every single day for 20 years I have researched ways to help parents make affordable family friendly meals at home…yet I couldn’t help this one woman.

I couldn’t help but think: How many people have recently been divorced or separated and are struggling to live on one income? How many single parents try to navigate through the must-haves and must-dos, like grocery shopping and dinner, trading off food for the light bill! Or…how many of us argue with our spouse when the bills and groceries seem just too high to handle?

In the meantime Carolyn Graham, my producer at Cityline, and I were just about to decide on an idea for when I would be on the show Wednesday, April 15. I asked if I could approach this subject, and she quickly agreed that this is a very necessary topic! We both knew it was going to be really hard getting all the information into about 11 minutes, but we’d do our best!

I got an idea! What if I did a blog series on the topic addressing the four ways you can get your grocery expenses waaaay down, without compromising family-friendly healthy meals?

If either you or someone you know is struggling with finances, this blog series will be like a lifeline! For everyone else, you will feel more peaceful, healthy and you’ll be smiling all the way to your larger bank account! But I beg you please, if you know someone who is struggling, pay it forward and teach them what you learn this week!

But before we continue, you might be wondering, “What were you going to say to the woman, if you had found her?”

I was simply going to comment on how beautiful her children are and how I couldn’t help but notice how gently she spoke to them and what a great mom she is. I then was going to let her know I am a professional meal planner and that my career started from my own need to feed my children on a budget, while being healthy myself. I would tell her of someone who helped me when I was a young single mom and that I’ve never forgotten that act of kindness, so I would like to pay it forward by spending some time with her, helping her to design Eat Sheets™ to make her life easier, at her convenience. I also made another decision that day: I will always carry a $20 gift card from the grocery store in my wallet from now on, so that now I know what to say and I can actually pay it forward when I strongly sense a need.

Here are the topics we will cover in detail throughout this blog series along with recipes in the meal plan!

  • I will show you the difference between an Eat Sheet™ and a grocery list in more detail. Three Eat Sheets™ mean no need for you to meal plan for the rest of your life…I will explain more later! We will discuss how having your family fill in five little lines will not only save you a bundle, but save your sanity in the meantime!
  • I will prove to you that shopping from your freezer first will save you more money than you can ever imagine!
  • I will show you which items you can pick up at the grocery store that pack a lot of nutritional punch on an extremely low budget. (And don’t worry, I won’t be telling you to pick up all kinds of weird things your kids have never eaten! That process needs to come gradually.)
  • And to tie it all together I will walk you through my own personal meal planning this week, including scans of my grocery bill, so that you will be able to follow step-by-step when its convenient for you.

Watch the video below to learn more about Sandi’s Eat Sheets and how to shop smart at the grocery store:

Stay tuned for Sandi’s next article on shopping and eating smart, and you can always get more great recipes and healthy eating ideas from Sandi on her website, Cooking for the Rushed.

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