Conquering your grocery, specifically your food budget, is one of the easiest ways to trim your overall budget and get your household finances under control. The more processes you can put into place for your everyday tasks and responsibilities, the more time and money you can free up - meaning less stress in your life! Here are 7 easy steps to help you start addressing your food budget.
To get going, ask yourself:
- How much are you spending, and on what?
The easiest way to figure out how much you can trim is to figure out how much you’re spending, and on what. Saving your grocery receipts for a month will give you the most accurate gauge. Keep your grocery lists and compare them to your receipts. Are you tossing impulse items into your cart, or do you stick to your list?
- Are you going into the convenience store at the gas station? Are you hitting the drive-through?
The convenience store stop was a habit my husband had to break. Typically I wouldn’t put gas station/convenience store stops in the “grocery” category, but if it’s for snacks or a soda that could be purchased ahead and are part of a routine, then you should count it. It’s much cheaper to stock up on energy drinks and snacks at the grocery store, rather than picking one up here and there at a higher price. Don’t get me started on the drive-through. It’s much cheaper to plan for one or two “break in case of emergency” fast food stops that can crop up when your schedule gets crazy – but multiple stops a week isn’t healthy or cheap.
- What’s your cooking reality?
Don’t start with “I wish I…” or “I’d like to….” For now, let’s be realistic about how often, and how, you cook each week. How many days per week are you cooking? How many days are you going out or ordering in? Lately we’ve been cooking nearly seven days a week, though we will plan for a pizza or store-bought rotisserie chicken night a couple of times a month to give us a break. Picking up convenience dinners or getting takeout multiple times a week can add up quickly, and it’s an easy place to cut back.
- Do you eat leftovers?
Some people NEVER eat leftovers, and they languish in the fridge until they resemble a science project. Others may just throw leftover food out as they’re cleaning up after the meal. (Don’t get me started on wasting food this way!). Do you use your leftovers as lunches at work? If not, could you? Do you get inventive and turn one meal’s leftovers into something else? Would you be open to it?
- How are your cooking skills?
You don’t have to be Julia Child to cook at home and successfully save on your grocery budget. But what level are you at? Do you use one of those meal delivery services that set a box of three night’s worth of dinners on your doorstep, complete with ingredients and recipes? Have you mostly relied on someone else to cook in the past, and you’re just getting started? Are you repeating the same recipes such that you and your family are getting bored? You may need to plan on some new cookbooks to get you up to speed. Check out my favorite cookbooks post for some recommendations.
- What do you eat?
Do you have champagne tastes? Are you flexible with different proteins? Would it be strange to eat breakfast for dinner? Sometimes changing up your proteins can be a cheap and easy first step toward trimming the budget.
- Put it all together
Now take a look at your total food receipts for the month and consider the habits you outlined in the above questions – grocery, convenience, fast food… all of it. You should be able to identify some quick hit items that will help get you on your way, even before we talk about in-store strategies. You’ll be able to see where your big expenditures are, where you could make more efficient choices, and where you might be able to cut back without feeling it too much.
Next up: Meal Planning.