How To Manage Grocery Budget – If youarelikemanypeople,youmaytakeacloseviewofyourregularexpensesandwonderwhereyoucancutbacktosavemoneyandachieveyourfinancialgoals. While some expenses, like your house payment or your car payment, can be fixed, others offer a little more flexibility. One of those flexible, or variable, expenses is your food budget.
Whether you eat out or take out most nights of the week or cook at home most of the time, there are plenty of ways to trim the fat from your budget and cut down on your food costs. Learning which healthy foods offer the best value for money, meal planning and how to make the most of the grocery store can all help you save money on food costs.
How To Manage Grocery Budget
Before you start finding ways to cut back on your food budget, it’s essential to have a sense of how much you spend each month and to see how your family’s expenses compare to national averages.
Tips To Create A Monthly Food Budget
The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) prepares meal plans that reflect how much people spend on average on a nutritious diet. The USDA separates the meal plans into four categories:
If yourgoal is to save on food costs, it makes sense to align your monthly food expenses with the USDA’s Thrifty Plan or the Low-Cost Plan. Read on to learn more about budgeting for food.
Once you have an understanding of the cost of food on a cheap or thrifty plan, you may wonder how you can reduce your expenses and bring your total food costs down to the average based on your family size and age.
It may seem that the most affordable food in the grocery store is also the least healthy. Chips, canned juices and candy are all very affordable, but not exactly the best when it comes to nutrition and overall health.
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While packaged foods may seem cheaper than fresh produce, whole grains, and other healthier options, in reality, many of the foods that are best for your health are also reasonably affordable. Some examples of foods that are good for you and good news for your wallet include:
Saving money on your food bill means more than understanding which foods are wallet-friendly and waistline-friendly. It also means you understand how to make the most of your time at the grocery store so you don’t overspend. Here is a list of 5 tips to keep your spending in the store in line with the limits of your budget:
Many grocery stores produce a sales floor each week, noting which items are marked down. When planning your grocery list, it helps to check the circulars to see what’s on sale that week. It may be worth stocking up on certain items such as canned or dried beans or frozen vegetables if they are reasonably priced for one week.
Coupons can be a double-edged sword when it comes to reducing your grocery costs. If you can find coupons for items you normally buy, then you’re good to go. But many coupons are for items you might not plan to buy or wouldn’t even consider without the coupon. The best way to approach coupon use is to clip or print coupons only for items you use regularly.
Saving On Food Costs: Meal Planning And Food Budgeting Tips
If you don’t need the item you have a coupon for right away, one way to get the most value for your money is to store it until the food goes on sale. Pay attention to the expiration date and make sure you use it before then.
Going shopping with a list keeps you from buying things you don’t need and which are likely to throw your budget out of balance. Using a list also makes you less likely to forget an item you need, which means you’re less likely to have to go back to the store. The fewer times you have to go to the grocery store, the less temptation there is to spend.
Spouses and children can make grocery shopping and sticking to a budget and your list a challenge. Your children may ask you for things that are not on the list or that are out of your budget. In some cases, your child may add items to the cart without you noticing until you get to checkout.
When you go to the store alone, it’s much easier to stay focused and buy only the things you know you need because you put them on the list. That said, there’s still a chance you’ll be tempted by a sale item or a display of deliciously exceptional baked goods in the store. To reduce the chance of impulse purchases, it is a good idea to shop on a full stomach.
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Have a meal or a snack before going to the store to make treats and snacks less tempting. You might want to listen to a podcast or music while you shop so you’re less likely to be distracted by a flashy in-store display.
If you’ve ever shopped in a supermarket on a weekend afternoon, you know it can be a challenge. During busy periods, shops are full, lines are long, and the whole process takes more time. You may become cranky or tired, which may make you more likely to give in to impulse purchases.
In contrast, if you go to a grocery store at night or on a morning day, the aisles are practically empty. You have space to find the items you need, and it takes much less time to navigate the store. The whole experience is usually much more pleasant, and you spend less time in the store, which can mean getting in and out without going over budget.
There is more to the price tag at the grocery store than the retail price. The tags printed on the shelf under the item you are buying not only let you know what you will spend to buy one of those items, but they also give you an idea of how the price of a particular brand or product compares with similar foods and can help you stick to your food budget.
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Each tag has either the retail price or the sales price printed on it. The tags also have the unit price printed, which is how much an item costs per ounce, pound or other unit of measure.
If you look at the price tag of two Greek yogurt options, you may see that one has a retail price of $0.80 for an 8-ounce container. The unit price is $0.10 per ounce. Meanwhile, a quart (32 ounces) of Greek yogurt costs $2.75. The unit price is $0.085 per ounce. Although you generally pay more for the quart-sized container, you pay less per ounce.
Understanding the difference in unit price can come in handy when you need to buy multiple amounts of an item. If you only need a single 8-ounce container of yogurt, it doesn’t make financial sense to buy 32 ounces because the extra yogurt will likely go bad. But if you eat yogurt daily, buying the larger, less expensive container will provide better value.
Knowing what you will eat for breakfast, lunch and dinner throughout the week can help you plan your grocery list and can ultimately help you reduce your food-related expenses. As an added benefit, meal planning also eliminates dining indecision and can prevent you from calling for takeout because you don’t know what to eat.
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Getting into the habit of planning meals and maximizing your meal planning so you spend less money at the store and spend less time in the kitchen takes some time and effort. A few tips can help you become a master meal planner as quickly as possible:
In 2017, the average household spent $7,729 on food. On average, households spent $3,365 on food outside the home and $4,363 on food at home. Both spending on food at home and food away from home increased between 2016 and 2017 and between 2015 and 2016.
In general, preparing meals at home is less expensive than ordering food from a restaurant or getting food to go or delivery. While there are exceptions, such as $1 hamburgers on the value menus at some fast food restaurants or $5 burrito specials, eating out at restaurants typically costs about five times more than food you prepare and cook at home.
You don’t have to give up eating out or getting takeout or delivery because there are ways to get the most bang for your buck when you get food from a restaurant. You can take advantage of specials and coupons. Many places offer happy hour specials on food and drinks, so you can save money by eating earlier in the evening.
Weekly Grocery Budget (for A Family Of Four)
Since portion sizes in many restaurants tend to be much larger than what you would serve yourself at home, another way to make the most of eating out or takeout is to get two meals out of one. Grab half your meal for lunch the next
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