Food budgeting can be a nightmare. It’s easy to make a food budget on paper, but it seems almost impossible to keep a budget. Instead of starting with a budget, start by figuring out how much money you spend on food now and go from there. Here are some tips on lowering your food costs to fit whatever budget you decide on.
Get Started: Keep Records
Whether you’re entering the workforce for the first time or just seeking to be intentional with your money, setting a food budget is an important first step.
Food budgets vary greatly from household to household. Start by asking yourself a few questions. How often do you eat out? Do you prepare your own lunch or buy packaged meals? Is eating organic or exotic food important to you? How much meat do you usually eat?
The best way to make an accurate food budget is to keep track of your family’s food bills for a month. Include things such as going out, incidental items such as aluminum foil and alcohol. Once you’ve kept records for a month, look at the amount. If you are satisfied, set that amount as your food budget. But if the amount seems too high, take a moment to think about how you can lower your food costs.
The things that will raise your expenses most are: eating out, buying prepared foods, eating meat frequently and eating a lot of organic or exotic foods. Decreasing one or more of these habits should substantially help your wallet. Even giving up a daily cup of coffee from a coffee vendor will net over $1,000 in a year’s time.
When you shop for groceries, observe a few basic tips. Bulk buying is usually cheaper than buying small containers. Buying frozen greens can save a lot on vegetables, and studies show that frozen vegetables are picked riper and thus have more nutrients than fresh vegetables. Use coupons whenever possible. Taking the time to glance at your newspaper coupon insert could save a lot of money on your groceries. Be willing to stock up on things. When you see a great deal on something you normally buy, don’t just get one or two--get 10!
New Eating Habits
If your expenses are still way above the amount you’ve budgeted, consider making some bigger changes to the way you eat. Prepared breakfast cereals can be unbelievably expensive; consider switching your family to oatmeal, an economical and nutritious option. Meat can be another big expense. Use meat sparingly in your dishes; consider it a garnish or side dish rather than the main course. Use a slow cooker to prepare simple and nutritious one-dish meals that can also be frozen and packed in lunches. Make your leftover vegetables into soups or casseroles.
Whatever you do, be creative. A little creativity can go a long way toward lowering your food budget.
Ginna Baker freelances from her home in Harrisonburg, Virginia. Her articles have appeared in numerous websites and publications, including Relevant Magazine Online, Bloom Magazine, and the Daily News-Record. In her spare time, she pursues her interests in folk music and children's literature.