I’ve tried many methods over the years and what I still struggle with the most is keeping my food budget. I’m a single women with no kids, so I’m guessing this must be even so much harder when you have toddlers that have specific tastes or adolecents that only like the branded products.
I’ve gone from meal planning and grocery lists to frustration and fuck it all! From foodboxes to freezing food. Doing all of this while buying on a very full stomach, as this is tip number one all the money guru’s love to share.
It’s still hard. It’s hard because you can’t just eliminate this category and it is hard because there is a lot of time going in to that meal planning and grocery list making, and time, well, as they say, is also money.
It is also hard because, unplanned things might come up. Like, as a women, our period. We might go a tiny bit crazy with a chocolate or potato chips craving, that wasn’t budgeted. Friends might come over, and you realise that the only beverages in the house are tapwater and tea, because you’ve set your food limit strict.
Or the sun might shine and friends will invite you to a BBQ where you’d bring something, or your roommates want to have a BBQ, and you’ve guessed it, It wasn’t in your budget.
Heck, I even went a period without budgeting my food just to live off of bread and water and all the rest I could find in the house, until my pay check arrived.
But as we all know. That’s no way to live. So I’m going to list a few alternatives to try below.
- Set a strict food budget. And by that, I mean a food budget that you need to keep to accomplish some of the saving goals you have in mind. I trust you’ve assigned every dollar somewhere. And you know what it takes to get to certain goals. But, also count a little wiggle money in there. Use a cushion within your food budget, like you would in the miscellaneous category, for unexpected things. This cushion can be as little as ten to twenty or to fifty euro’s, but it means that, if something would come up like the first sunny days of the year and the barbecues that go with it, you don’t have to punish yourself.
- Always keep cheap but healthy products stacked. It pays off to build a good pantry with essentials that you’d buy in bulk and keep fresh for long, but aren’t necessarily expensive. I’m thinking rice, canned beans, pasta, bread you have to pop in the oven, canned chickpeas, coconut oil, olive oil… All the things you can easily use to make a meal go further. Granted, eating more veggies is healthier, but it could be that if you are following a strict budget for a period in time, that you will have to cut back on these a while.
- Further on the veggies. Stack and buy the cheap ones weekly. Carrots, onion, kale… look at what is the least expensive and try to make meals with those.
- Always buy the vegetables and the fruit that is in season.
- Spices. It pays of to plant your own spices and freeze them in ice cubes for winter. Spices are essential if you want to add a bit of variation to your dishes. So you can easily buy big bags of dried spices for less and fill up the little jars in your spicerack.
- Go vegetarian once and a while or completely. You’d be surprised how much money this saves you.
- Eliminate the alcohol. It’s a non- essential, and will save you so much money if you cut it out when you’re a regular drinker.
- Freeze leftovers. Or batch cook and freeze.
- Use foodboxes. If you have a hard time managing your money this can really help because the amount you are spending is set, you don’t waste time meal prepping or planning or making grocery lists. You go to the store with way shorter grocery lists, so the chances of getting seduced by other stuff is smaller. If you buy a foodbox for 6 people at hello fresh for instance, that comes down to 4,50 euro a meal per person. Which is not that bad. Especially if you are single and freeze the other portions for later.
- The cash enveloppe system is hard to apply during corona times but I find that it is one of the best systems when it comes to keeping your budget at the grocery store. It really pays off to go in with only the money you intended to spend. Because guess what, you can’t spend it if you don’t have it with you and you are forced to look at the prices and get your calculator out, Or you can have some drama at the checkout ;). Bonus tip: go in with your calculator but round up the prices. You’ll even get cash back at the checkout. ( Which is always nice 😉 and you might even wanna hug the cashier )
Let me know how it goes. If you know of other tips in this area, I would love to find out!