A Fearless Guide to Food and Travel

10 Steps to Eat Real Food on a Budget: Set a Budget 10 Steps to Eat Real Food on a Budget: Set a Budget

Eat Real Food on a Budget

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.

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Amanda Mouttaki

Curious world traveling, mom of two busy boys, foodie at heart, addicted to social media and lover of all things Moroccan.

  • Eric

    March 29, 2013 #2 Author

    My wife and I did this after realizing food is more expensive in our new town, although she really deserves the credit. After figuring out how much we were spending on food compared to what we really had room for in the budget, we made some big changes. We eat out less, which makes the times we do more special. Instead, we keep a few frozen dinners on hand for those nights when I can’t cook. We use the loyalty card for our local grocery to get coupons and fuel discounts and buy as much store-brand food as possible. In the short span of time we’ve lived here, the store has dramatically increase the number of healthy store-brand items available, which makes it much easier. Since we didn’t want to eat the less healthy, cheaper meats and didn’t want to burst our budget on the better ones, we’ve gone vegetarian for cooking at home. We also signed up with an online service,, to plan our menus. This has helped cut back on food waste by a lot. Since the recipes feed four, the leftovers take care of most of our lunches, further reducing our grocery bill. We used to have a “flex” spot on our list, but I’ve noticed we use it a lot less often as we’ve gotten better at making and sticking to lists. Having a list helps avoid potentially pricey and unhealthy temptations at the store. We use our bank’s online tools to track all of the spending. Although stocking the pantry put us over budget a bit at first, we’re now coming in well below even with our emphasis on buying organic.


    • marocmama

      April 4, 2013 #3 Author

      Eric – it sounds like you use a lot of the same strategies I do with my family. Don’t you love The Fresh 20?! I do! Congrats on making this life change!


  • DB-The Foodie Stuntman

    February 27, 2013 #6 Author

    Hi Amanda, all great advice. Thanks for the tips!


  • illy

    February 27, 2013 #7 Author

    Thanks much for this post, much needed!! eating healthy and not spending a fortune can be a challenge :(
    will try implementing these steps ASAP! Shoukran :)


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