Food is one of the biggest necessary expenses for families. What's worse is that watching your wallet might tempt you to opt for cheaper, unhealthy foods. But if you have the discipline to prepare meals at home, you can maximize your spending power and eat well. Initial costs might be a bit bigger -- such as buying in bulk sizes and collecting a modest spice supply -- but will be more cost effective in the long run if you plan ahead of time.
Making grocery lists (and sticking to them) is essential to a food budget. Don't let you or your kids be distracted by impulse purchases, especially junk food. One idea is to plan your grocery budget with the intent to spend more on the foods with the most nutritional value, like fruits, vegetables and grains. Then, spend moderately on protein and moderately healthy foods, like meat, eggs and dairy [source: NZFFBS]. Before you go out to the store, take inventory of what you have at home and plan your meals around using what you have already.
Time could also be a factor. If you're already working overtime to help pay bills, buying a quick, cheap burger at a fast-food restaurant seems easier than taking the time to prepare and cook a meal at home. Instead, try preparing larger meals when you have the time so there are more leftovers. Also, keep a supply of fruits, vegetables and healthy snacks, like yogurt and granola, that can sate your hunger throughout the day and won't require lots of preparation.