The grocery budget is one of the most variable household expenses. For that reason, it is the place where our diligence, planning and “looking well to the ways of our household” can benefit the family economy the most.
Food is like money. If you don’t budget it, it will leave you. Just disappear. And since we know how many meals are in a day, and how many snacks, and how many people are eating, it really isn’t that hard to budget. But it does take deliberate planning.
Instead of just buying more food when it runs out, I’m on a mission this month to only spend a certain amount (OK, under $600 is the goal and then we’ll work down). I thought it might be helpful to share some of my ideas and maybe going public will help me be more vigilant too
Considerations about our budget: I have lots of little eaters. I am including room for extra meals/mouths (hospitality). I shop at Aldi’s, a discount grocery store. We have a small garden. We don’t buy many convenience foods and ready-made snacks. We sometimes sacrifice cost for nutrition, balancing it all as best we can.
Shopping twice a month seems to work well. I know the food must last for two weeks. So I “budget” the food, (that sounds better than ration), down to thinking about how much cheese I can use in a dish to make the bag last as long as it needs to. I print off weekly menus (front and back) to hang on the fridge. I pencil in three meals a day and two snacks a day for two weeks. Then I lock the pantry and dare someone to break in “If it’s not on the menu, you’re not eating it”…you just gotta do what ya gotta do. I’m taking charge of my kitchen, apron and all.
I’m thinking weekly menus to be repeated, with possible variations, is going to be the easiest.
Some of my menu items:
Breakfast: cereal, eggs & sausage, fruit smoothies, cheese grits and sausage, oatmeal & fruit
Lunch: potato soup, rice/mushroom soup (made with left-over rice from the night before), cheese, nuts & fruit, boiled eggs, hummus dip, corn chips and apples, turkey salad and crackers
Dinner: Cornbread casserole, roasted chicken with veggies, beans, potatoes & cornbread, soup, chicken pasta, tacos/Mexican, sausage/veggie casserole
(Sides: sweet potatoes, sauteed potatoes, sauteed onions/peppers/veggies, beans, salad, slaw, okra, frozen stir-fry veg,…)
Snacks: celery & peanut butter, raisins, yogurt, fruit smoothies, fruit, graham crackers with peanut butter, nuts, boiled eggs
We do our best to stretch and use leftovers, but still provide filling, nutritious meals. I think after we budget this month, I’ll be able to cut the amount we spend down a good deal.
(“I hear you in the pantry!!”)
I’d love to hear your favorite food budget-slashing ideas.