Eight ways to save money on your toddler grocery bill

Every now and then, the media gets all excited about how much it costs to do the family thing. Usually, I scoff at the figures: “You can do it for less, surely!” Other times, I do the maths and feel reassured that there’s a reason we never have much money.

According to the NCost of Raising a Child Calculator, the average toddler costs £40. Well, blow me down! Really? I guess that’s really possible, even with a three-year-old like mine who doesn’t seem to eat that much.

Anyway, I did a shop (NatWest sent me some vouchers), and I honestly don’t think I spend £40 on my toddler, in groceries anyway. Here are a few reasons why plus a few I want to try.

Ways to save money on toddler food-3

1. Make from scratch
I don’t manage it every week but most weeks we do at least one session of baking. If you’d told me this would be part of my routine a few years ago, I would have rolled my eyes at your barefoot-and-pregnant vision of my future. Yet now baking is something I really look forward to doing with Talitha. She gets so much out of it that it’s worth any mess and effort. It also means that we end up with healthy snacks at a fraction of the cost. One of our favourites to cook and bake from is the River Cottage Baby and Toddler Cookbook. It’s not gluten and dairy free friendly, mind, so we don’t share these treats with Laurence.

2. Buy the adult version
Although I’ll buy the odd Organix tomato whatever, I don’t usually go in for toddler snacks. I really resent spending five times the amount on toddler rice cakes when I could just get unsalted adult ones. As for things like breadsticks and biscuits, I think people often expect these to contain less salt and sugar than their adult counterparts but they don’t always! It’s always worth reading the ingredients. You might be better off just buying the adult version and limiting how many you give your child.

Ways to save money on toddler food-2

3. Buy big and divide
I totally get the convenience of those child sized raisin boxes and yoghurt pots but they’re so expensive, you’re basically paying for packaging. On more organised weeks, I’ll buy just your normal bag of raisins and divide it into little tupperware containers. I’ll also spoon out a bit of yoghurt to take in a plastic tub with us if we’re going out. Talitha’s hardly ever had yoghurt that wasn’t natural so she hasn’t really acquired a taste for the kiddy fruit flavours, anyway, though she’ll definitely opt for them if they’re available!

4. Lay off the juice
Leading on from that, I’m also really glad that we haven’t got into the habit of having juice all the time. We recently had a few juice boxes in the fridge from her birthday last month and I couldn’t believe how quickly she got into asking for juice all the time! Now that it’s gone it’s gone, though, and apart from avoiding the sugar on teeth worries, water is free!

Ways to save money on toddler food-5

5. Go fresh
It can also be cheaper to just go fresh. An apple is a fraction of the cost of those dried fruit bear things, for instance. And, if I had a child who would eat carrot sticks (she’s always expanding what she’ll eat so I imagine this is in our future), I’d certainly opt for dipping them in houmous over breadsticks. Bananas are also a perfect snack because they’re grab and go. You don’t even need to wash them.

6. Grow your own
And so, if you’re doing the fruit and veg thing, the cheapest way, hands down, is to grow your own. I’m really looking forward to the blackberries in our garden ripening and Laurence has promised me an apple tree this autumn. Easy options for growing food with toddlers are cucumbers and tomatoes. They make such easy snacks too.

7. Set up a fruit and veg co-operative
If gardening isn’t an option right now (and fair enough, different seasons of our lives for different things), then setting up a fruit and veg co-operative is a great way of getting the good stuff cheaply for you and a few friends. I haven’t done this yet but I so want to give it a go.

Ways to save money on toddler food

8. No second options
As I mentioned, I have a bit of a selective eater. Ever since she had a bout of tonsillitis at fifteen months, Talitha has been a bit picky about what she’ll eat. I don’t know if it was the illness or just something that was going to happen anyway. She has gradually branched out and now all the food groups are covered, to my relief. For a while, however, it seemed like I was spending extra money trying to make sure to have something on the table that she’d eat.

Nowadays, though, there are no second options. I’ll always include something in the meal that I’m sure she’ll eat but what’s on the table is what’s on offer. It’s saved both my sanity and money and it’s even meant that she’s tried and discovered she liked a number of new things.

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Is there anything I’ve missed? What do you reckon you spend on your child’s groceries? I suppose if your child is in disposable nappies that adds a cost too.


10 Comments

  1. August 5, 2014 / 6:02 pm

    Good tips. I also just buy normal ricecakes and biscuits, I do end up buying those Goodies bars though because they are so useful and I actually love them too, they are so expensive though! That cook book looks good too x
    Jess @ Along Came Cherry recently posted..Walking Through The Field Of Dreams

  2. August 5, 2014 / 6:26 pm

    I find when I actually take the time to meal plan I save a small fortune. Definitely agree with no juice – my two always drink water and I’m amazed when their friends come over and say “I don’t like water”! The book looks good!
    76sunflowers recently posted..Camp Bestival Diary 2014 {Thursday}

  3. August 5, 2014 / 7:57 pm

    great tips! I only buy the boxes of raisins if we’re away – took some to the festival this weekend. We bake our own cakes/snacks etc and buy big packs of things usually too.
    Polly recently posted..The Festival Survival Kit: Ten Must-Pack Items

  4. August 6, 2014 / 1:14 am

    Only 40 quid?!? They need to meet my one year old that eats more than our four year old!!

    Totally agree with your suggestions, especially the last one. As someone with a selective eater too, how do you manage mealtimes? Do you have any rules on trying/ finishing things?
    Natasha Batsford recently posted..The First Crush

  5. August 8, 2014 / 10:00 am

    So many great tips – we alway good from scratch, my mother always has and I can’t think of doing it any other way. I think having no second options is a good point as well as growing your own 🙂
    Great tips!

    Laura x
    Laura recently posted..Off to Blogstock

  6. August 8, 2014 / 10:59 am

    totally agree those toddler biscuits and snacks thing! adult sized yogurts and rice cakes are the way to go. I am pretty crap at doing the no second option thing! I know I need to stand my ground more, ha! x
    Fritha recently posted..Nurture

  7. August 8, 2014 / 12:03 pm

    Love this Adele! I don’t buy toddler/baby food either and we make from scratch a lot – IKEA do cute sets of child-sized baking accessories which are very Montessori 🙂

    Love the River Cottage book too. It’s a classic.

    I do toast as the second option. If she won’t touch what’s on her plate or genuinely hates it, she can have toast – but only toast. I keep offering things she ‘won’t’ eat too, one day she will – it took ages but now avocado on toast is basically her idea of a treat! x

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