Typically when we discuss food budgeting we tend to talk about cutting back on eating out, social drinking, etc., but obviously at this time those aren’t the main focus. Has food spending changed for you in the last few weeks? It likely has, let’s talk more about it.
You Eat 93 Meals a Month
This is the harsh reality of feeding your family. These are the number of meals you have to cover, and of course that comes with an associated cost. As we navigate our way through this time we are getting down into hard expenses, expenses that don’t go away. No matter how you shake it, you have to feed yourself and whoever lives with you. Our goal today is to cut food expenses to be as lean as possible.
What You Used to Spend
As many cities are under shelter-in-place, lockdown, or stay-at-home orders, your options for spending money on food are more limited than normal. Under normal circumstances these are the big food expenses we see other than groceries:
- Work lunch
- Social beverages
- Dining out
- Carry out
How much of this are you doing now? Probably not a lot. You could be ordering some carry out and maybe you hit up a liquor store on one of your grocery runs, but most likely a majority of these expenses are down significantly.
This may be where you can make big headway on our goal of cutting back $500 in expenses this month. Be aware of what you aren’t spending on these and shovel that into savings.
And Then There’s Groceries…
You can’t throw a rock without hitting an article about food hoarding. You may be one of the people filling three carts at Costco or you may be a bit more conservative on your purchases. Either way, you’ve likely succumbed to the comfort food boom we are all in. We’re feeling out of control so we go to food for comfort. Totally get it, we are all there. Yet, this program is about pushing ourselves through the discomfort and uncertainty to action. You have to make a plan to cut down on food costs. Here are three ways to get started:
This is a necessary step. A menu plan isn’t just about making a plan for the food you have, it’s about making a plan BEFORE you shop. If you go into the store with no plan, it’s just about guaranteed you’ll overbuy and/or have food waste in a week.
If you choose to roast a whole chicken you might eat half for dinner one night and the other half might float around your fridge for a couple of days before it gets thrown out. Or at least that’s what happens at my house. If you don’t make a plan for excess ingredients, they will go to waste. If you buy an ingredient for a recipe or know you’ll have extras, work that into your meal plan for the week.
Count up the Cost
As we hunker down for the long haul, we have to understand the cost of each meal. Back in the old days (about two weeks ago), you could grab Mexican take-out after a long day for your family of four and drop $40. That’s a $10 per-person meal. If you make tacos at home and buy hamburger and use existing cheese, shells, and toppings you are talking more like $10 total for the family. That’s food cost. It’s something you need to know for your budget. Whether you’re cutting costs to be cautious for the future or you’re necessarily forced to cut food costs due to circumstances, you need to get familiar with the cost it takes to feed yourself.