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Creating a Food Budget

Woman Consulting Her Shopping List in the Supermarket

Food is a large part of just about everyone's budget. Whether you eat out a lot or always make meals at home, knowing your food budget will help you maintain your household budget. This is a guide about creating a food budget.



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Article: How To Create A Monthly Budget For Food

A receipt from the grocery store.Food is not something we can do without. Cutting back on your food bill, though, can leave you with a substantial amount of money left in your pocket at the end of the month. The problems is that most people do not know what they have to do to make that happen. By creating a monthly food budget can be a perfect way to save.

Take Julie, for example. She is a mother of two and is married to Christopher. They work hard but barely make ends meet. When the two of them sat down to determine just where their money was going, Julie was shocked to see that they were spending more than $170 a week on food. That was $600 on just food per month. So, they decided to do something that most would never do. They decided to track their food budget.

For the next month, Julie and Christopher kept a small notebook with them and any time they bought any type of food product, they jotted it down. In fact, it became a competition to see who was spending what and to see who was doing a better job keeping track. At the end of the month, the results were in. They had spent a total of $853 on groceries.

They found that some was going towards the grocery store, but they spent a considerable amount on restaurants, coffee shops and at the gas station when they just stopped in to get something for dinner. Now, what would you do with this information?

Julie did something she had not done before. She decided to create a monthly budget for food. What she found was that it was not difficult to do. Here are some steps that she followed.

  • Track spending to determine what areas you are spending your money on.

  • Determine ways to cut. For example, Julie invested $26 in a coffee maker and bought flavored coffees that she and Christopher enjoyed and saved the $58 they had spent on coffee shop money. Stopping at the gas station where things were more expensive was important to them as well.

  • Make a basic weekly grocery allowance. Since they were already established, she had most of what she needed to cook available the first week such as spices and basics. By making a menu for each week, she saved herself time too. She knew what to pull out for dinner and have no worries about having to run out to pick something out. She found that she could cut her grocery budget down to about $100 per week.

  • Later, she started to cut back on foods they didn't need and made them herself. For Sunday breakfast, she made French toast and made enough for another meal down the road. She also baked a batch of cookies instead of buying packaged and the kids loved it.

By taking the necessary time to track spending and then in making a monthly budget, Julie found herself saving money. They actually treated themselves to dinner out at the end of the month since they had save several hundred dollars and now could say they could afford it.

By Sandy Baker

Article: Five Easy Tips to Save $590 On Your Food Budget This Year

Five Easy Tips to Save $590 On Your Food Budget This Year

Five Easy Tips to Save $590 On Your Food Budget This Year

Don't Throw Your Money Away

Would you like to help the planet and save an easy $590 this year? It's not a gimmick. Many families can save an easy $590 without even having to give up their lattes from Starbucks, turn down the heat, or ride their bikes to work. All it takes is a little better menu planning.

According to research from the University of Arizona, the average American family throws out nearly $600 in food annually, often due to good intentions but poor follow through. Research shows that most food shopping is done on the weekends, when shoppers are fresh and well rested. With good intentions to eat healthy, they buy an assortment of fresh fruits and vegetables with plans to make healthy foods, perhaps a fresh fruit salad and green salad with dinner each week night. Then Monday comes and brutal reality strikes. The enthusiastic, health conscious shoppers from the weekend come home from work tired, hungry and cranky, order carry out pizzas with garlic fries and the family soda special, and forget about the tasty fresh produce sitting forlornly in the crisper. Or maybe they don't forget about the produce. They may even feel guilty about it. But they order the pizza, soda and garlic fries just the same. By the end of the week, the fruits and vegetables, wilted and spoiled, are tossed in the trash. Then the weekend comes, and the tired, fast food aficionados are once again transformed into the enthusiastic, health conscious, well intentioned grocery shoppers, and the vicious cycle repeats.

Tips to Avoid Wasting Food Each Week

If the above description matches what goes on in your household, how can you stop this cycle of produce and budget abuse and save money on your food expenses this year? Try the tips below.
  • Buy canned, frozen or dried fruits and vegetables instead of fresh. Sure, fresh produce tastes great and is highly nutritious, but be a realist. If your family is throwing out perishable food regularly, then cut back on how much fresh food you buy each week. Buy fruits and vegetables that will keep until you really have the time to prepare and eat them. Frozen mangos and frozen strawberries placed in a blender with some apple juice makes a tasty, healthy smoothie.
  • Grocery shop several times a week and just buy enough fresh food for a few days at a time. In my family we have found that it is less complex to plan 2 - 3 days out than it is to plan for a whole week. Plus shopping more often makes it easier to know what is in the fridge and be able to use up leftovers before they spoil.
  • Get a crock pot and make your meals in the morning before you go to work or get tired out from doing housework and taking care of the kids. With crock pots you can start baked potatoes, baked apples, baked winter squash and a wide variety of soups and casseroles with fresh vegetables in the morning and come home later in the day to a house filled with great aromas and a healthy meal waiting for you and your family.
  • Plan your meals in advance and only buy what you need to make those meals. For easy week day meal ideas, I like to buy cookbooks with dishes you can make with 3 - 5 ingredients. I've learned to avoid cookbooks that have "simple", "fast" or "easy" in the titles. What is simple, fast and easy for someone who loves to cook and whose only job is to write cookbooks for a living often means meals you can make in under an hour or two. I'm more into what can I make that is healthy in 15 minutes or less. Simple is a relative term often abused by cookbook authors, but three ingredients is three ingredients.
  • Buy fruits and vegetables with long shelf lives to keep on hand for those times when you find you do have the time and energy to prepare and cook fresh produce. These include apples, potatoes, onions, carrots, cabbage and winter squash. Diced onions and root vegetables, tossed with a little olive oil and roasted in the oven, makes a great side dish in about 10 minutes of prep and 25 minutes of baking time. Sliced carrots, onions and cabbage stir fried in a wok with a little sesame oil is another simple and healthy side for a quick week night meal.

A Little Planning Can Turn Into Big Savings

If you can reduce waste and save $600 from your food bill each year, in twenty five years you will have saved $15,000 (or more if you invest your savings each year and let the interest compound).

Tip: Getting the Kids Involved with the Food Budget

Our children used to love having a certain brand of cookie or snack, but unfortunately they were also the most expensive. I wanted to teach them about a budget without making them feel as if they were missing out on something so we invented "Family coupon night".

I clip coupons everyday and then on Friday night we make a bowl of popcorn and put all the coupons on the table. We divide them into categories and each person takes a few.

Even our youngest, who cannot read yet recognizes the vegetables on the coupons and is excited about helping. We then go grocery shopping with our coupons on Saturday morning.

When home, I show our budget and how much we saved. The difference goes into a vacation jar and each year we use it to go someplace special, like camping. Everyone feels like a special part of the project and are proud of their contribution.

By Laurie from Biloxi, MS

Tip: Cutting Your Food Budget

My food budget has been growing every week, so I sat down and looked at what I could start doing to cut back and still eat quality meals. This is the plan and I am seeing a difference in my spending. Maybe, it will help you, too.

On the week end I sit down with my grocery ads and plan out the week of meals. Not only do I save money by shopping the sale, I am saving money by planning what we will have for meals, thus not waiting until 3:00 in the afternoon to think about dinner plans, driving to the store and picking up more items then needed. Going to the store once a week, also makes me use what leftovers I have. This has not only saved money, it has caused me to be more creative with meals and not fix the same thing week after week. Don't forget to use your coupons.

By Bobbie G from Rockwall, TX

Tip: Sticking to a Lunch Budget

I am not working currently as I am a care giver for my elderly parents, so I eat lunch at home. I have set myself a budget of 1 pound a day (approx. $2 American) for everything I eat, except for our main meal at night with my husband. It is quite possible to make 1 pound stretch, as I mostly live on snacks and fruit during the day.

I mentally calculate the cost of everything as I go along. I know that's a bit sad, but it gives me a sense of satisfaction to stick within my budget. If I do go over one day, I cut back the next. It's a bit like a diet I suppose. I can make a big bowl of mashed potato with grated cheese mixed in for about 50p, and this covers lunch for 2 days. Then I can have a banana, an apple, and a bag of crisps. There is no limit put on our evening meals, but we don't go mad! I am a great believer in looking after the pennies etc.

By econ o'miser

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Here are questions related to Creating a Food Budget.

Question: How Much Should It Cost To Feed 7 People?

My husband decided to move in his mother, 2 sisters, niece and nephew in with me while he is in Iraq for a year. I only have a son at the moment. Can anyone tell me how much it will cost to feed 7 people! My husband thinks $400 will cover it and people I have talked to laugh at this amount. Please give me advice, I am going crazy with stress here.


Most Recent Answer

By Lavera10/29/2013

I won't criticise your situation because everyone has one but I will tell you, I have six kids plus me. We go through $1054.00 a month and still run out at the end of the month. None of us are over weight.

Question: Feeding a Big Appetite on a Budget

I have a 23 year old guy living at my house and he has a big appetite. How do I cook for him on a budget?

By Rachael from Lodi, CA

Most Recent Answer

By Annie Rios Hill01/05/2011

The 23 year old man should be paying for his fair share. And use as many coupons as possibles and follow all local markets sales.
Good luck.

Question: How Much Should It Cost To Feed Family of Two?

Hello everyone:

I have a question. We are now down to the two of us.

How much should it cost for food and basic toiletries (toothpaste, shampoo, deodorant, etc) for a family of two.

I am talking about in-home prepared foods; meat perhaps 2 to 3 nights per week; rest would be cheese, beans, macaroni/dishes).

I live in the NorthEastern region of U.S. and have large supermarkets like, Shoprite nearby.

I am trying to establish a reasonable a budget.


Most Recent Answer

By Kim Sappington02/07/2009

You may have to spend a little time on this one. If you cook using a weekly or monthly menu you can very easily see what you realistically eat. If you do not do this (I do not) you may have to try it for a month or so to get an idea of what you actually eat and how much. Keep track of the number of times you eat out or have delivery also, so you can figure that dollar amount into your budget.

Now a couple of things that may seem obvious but I will include them anyway. If you clip coupons and watch the sales and shop the perimeter of the store (the produce, dairy and meat sections) and stay out of the areas that have all the over processed packaged foods you will see a big difference in your grocery bill. There are certainly some good products like canned fruits and vegetables the can be had from the "interior" of the store shelves, but you have to be willing to monitor yourself. I have always had to live on a budget so I know this works.

Depending on the cost of living in your area and how good the sales and coupons are, I would think you could both eat on ten dollars a day or less.

Question: Grocery Shopping? Food Budget?

Ok, I think I spend a lot on groceries. About 400 to 500 dollars a month for a family of 3 (and that's not counting eating out a few times a month!). I am pretty sure this is quite high? More than that, we are living paycheck to paycheck and I want to have some savings. Our child is now 4 and I am wondering what you folks do to cut costs? What would be a more reasonable food budget? And what are some tips for planning meals, grocery lists, etc. I really don't know where to start on this but this seems like the right place to look, I have already found some useful tips on this site.



Most Recent Answer

By najah g (Guest Post)02/18/2009

I spend up to $400 on food for a month.