Setting A Budget
The first step to eating real food on a budget is to actually set a budget – d’oh! The thing is this sounds really obvious but very few people actually do it. They “think” they spend x amount a month on food but in reality that figure is (generally) much larger. I know some people who spend $200-300 a week for a family of 4 but estimate they spend much less. I think that given the choice no one wants to spend that much on groceries. Without a doubt the more people that you are feeding, the more money you will need to spend. But how do you even go about setting a budget – and what does that mean?
1. Before you begin to implement big changes, you need to have a good understanding of where you’re starting. If you save receipts or shop with a debit or credit card, pull out your statements, and add up your grocery and restaurant purchases for the last 1-2 months. Determine where that number sits in the acceptable range for you. I can’t (and won’t!) tell you what is a “good” amount of money to spend. If you want to make changes you have to know what you’re facing.
2. Next, think about the purchases you normally make. Do you eat out often? How many of the purchases you make are convenience or packaged foods? Do you throw away a lot of produce? These are all huge money-sucks.
3. Generally when people consider budgets for food they advocate coupon cutting, store hopping and other tactics to keep their budgets super low (we’re talking $50 a week). I don’t do this. When determining how much you want to spend, keep in mind that there are ways to save money eating real foods – they’re just not all the same as with mainstream diets. You will most likely be spending more on things like produce, meats, etc.
4. Time to set the new budget! You may want to start small, cutting 20-25% off your current grocery bill. Or you may want to go big, cutting 50% or more. Whatever it is, decide. Write it down. Prepare to stick to it!
5. Consider allotting yourself an amount each week that is “flex”. It could be only $10. This amount can carry over week to week and is especially useful if you come across a great deal on something and want to stock up.
6. Finally, how will you stick to your budget? Some people are big advocates of the cash envelope system. Others prefer to use a credit card to get money back or other rewards. Choose what works for you, what you can consistently use and how you will not overspend your budget.
Your Assignment This Week: Get that budget set! I highly encourage you to walk through all of the steps in this process.
I would love it if you shared your experience with this exercise and any additional tips you have for others.
Want to see the other posts in this series? They will all be linked up here.