Many people live paycheck-to-paycheck, and that means they have to carefully stick to a tight budget. And most people have to watch what they spend on clothing, gifts and, of course, food. But sticking to a healthy, affordable food budget can be one of the most difficult challenges for consumers. So keep reading to learn 10 easy little ways to stick to your food budget.
Set a Specific Amount Per Day Per Person
For most people, $5 per day per person is a fairly reasonable figure. You can eat produce, bread, rice, beans and meat when you purchase them at a decent price for about this much per day.
If you have special dietary needs, or growing teenagers who wolf down everything in sight, you’ll need to adjust your budget a bit to meet those needs. But if you budget $35 per week per person, you should be able to buy the right combination of ingredients to make the food last all week, especially if you purposefully plan for leftovers.
Get Support from a Group
On Facebook alone, you’ll find hundreds of groups that focus on helping each member stick to a budget. You’ll find anything from “Healthy, Frugal Food” groups to “Living On $1 a Day” groups. Try joining one of these and checking in regularly to gain encouragement, share difficulties, and seek advice.
Never Shop When You’re Hungry
Sticking to a food budget isn’t impossible, but it’s difficult when you go shopping while hungry. You’re more prone to purchasing junk food, excess amounts of ingredients, or things that would be easy to pop in your while you wait in the check-out line. So, eat a snack before you go to help avoid this issue.
Keep a Refrigerator List
Get a dry-erase board or pad of paper and stick it to the fridge with a writing utensil. As you put each item into the fridge after shopping, write the items down. As the items get used up, scratch them out or erase them. This can help prevent food going bad because you remember that avocado that rolled to the back of the fridge.
Do Comparison Shopping
Always compare prices between brands as you shop. A lot of times, those ingredients are remarkably similar between name brand options and the store’s brand. If there’s not a significant difference in quality, you can save a load on purchasing the local or store brand for less than the known-brand name items.
Stock Up During Sales
When there’s a great sale on peanut butter, and your kids go through about three pounds a month, you’ll save tons of money on this item. However, if you overstock and “buy ahead” too much, you’ll blow your budget for the month because of limiting the food you can purchase now and still stick to your budget.
If your family loves chili, soups, marinara sauce or other meals you can cook in a slow cooker or pressure cooker, cook ahead. Doing a giant pot of chili could feed your family three or four meals in a single week, saving you precious time and energy. Doing this can also save you money, as meals like this are relatively inexpensive to make. Use items like healthier dried beans instead of canned beans to cut costs even more.
A single time-consuming cooking episode can save you tons of money while your family has enjoyable leftovers all week long. The bonus is that most of these kinds of foods taste better the second or third time around.
Use Cash Only for Your Food
If you have a hard time sticking to your precise budget for groceries, a great tip from the Dave Ramsey Financial Peace University is using only cash for purchasing food. At each paycheck, or once per week, get out only the cash you’re budgeting for food. Keep this in a separate envelope or pocket of your wallet. This cash represents your food budget. If you go over it in the grocery store, you’ll have to put something back.
Skip Eating Out
Of course, this is a kind of a no-brainer. But eating out is one of the things that will blow through your food budget faster than anything else. If you really love eating out, though, you can budget one or two meals per week. Remember to use that cash you’ve got in your envelope to pay, though, so that you don’t go over.
Keep a Tally While You Shop
Pull out that shopping list and calculator together as you go down the grocery aisles. As you add an item to the cart, add the price to the calculator. Or, better yet, subtract each item from your weekly budget total, to help keep you in check as you go through the list.
If you find yourself going over the budget, re-evaluate what you’ve got in your cart and put the non-essentials back until you’re back within budget.
Yes, You Can Stick to Your Food Budget
Using these easy tips could help save you hundreds of dollars each year. They can also help with avoiding food wastage, eating unhealthy foods, or possibly even help you lose weight if you plan your meals properly. You can take the money you save to do something special or buy an item you’ve wanted for a long time.