How to Create a Food Budget

There are many ways households can save money on groceries, and one way of doing so is by creating a food budget to help you organize your food needs for the month and beyond.

To do so, you will need to follow three easy steps: plan meals before you shop, purchase food items at the best price and prepare meals at home. By following these three steps, you can create a cheap grocery list that will help you stay within your food budget.

When you are budget meal planning, you will need to find areas where you spend more money on food and areas you spend less. Creating a budget will help you determine where and how you can reduce food costs, so that you can stretching each dollar to make sure it counts. Learn how budgeting will allow you to buy more nutritious and delicious foods for your family to enjoy by reading the sections below.

Step 1: Plan Your Weekly Meals

If you are going to create a grocery budget, then you need to follow the below steps to plan your weekly meals:

  1. Take inventory of the foods that you currently have in the kitchen since doing so will prevent any chance of you purchasing duplicate items. You are also getting a better look at which foods your family eats and which ones they do not.
  2. Look for coupons, sales, and promotions for the food items that you plan to purchase. To start, check your local newspaper, any mail you receive, and coupon pamphlets at your grocery store. Also, you may want to start shopping at grocery stores that offer a loyalty card program for extra savings. Often, chain grocery stores offer more discounts than smaller grocery stores, so you may want to switch where you shop to maximize your savings.
  3. Plan large meals that serve several people, such as casseroles, stews, soups, and crockpot meals. Doing so allows you to stretch expensive items like meats into more portions for more people. For healthy low-cost food choices that will feed your family, you can include beans, such as kidney beans and lentils. Not only are they inexpensive, but they offer a good source of protein, and can be used for both main and side dishes.

Related Article: Meal Planning 101

Finally, when skimming through coupons to make a budget grocery list, be sure to look for sales and specials for expensive food items on your list like meat and seafood. By doing so, you are often able to purchase foods that typically might not be in your budget.

Step 2: Be a Bargain Shopper

Now that you are learning how to grocery shop on a budget, you are ready to head to the grocery store. When you show up at the market, follow the below steps:

  1. Purchase store brands over name brand items whenever possible. If you take a store brand product and a brand name product and compare the two, you will see that they are virtually the same. Meaning that you are buying almost the same product but at a lower cost.
  2. Purchase canned seafood. While seafood is a good source of omega-3s, it is often expensive. However, you can save money on your food budget by purchasing canned seafood, such as tuna, salmon, and sardines. Not only do they store longer than fresh seafood, but they also have lower price tags. You can also add canned seafood to many styles of meals, such as casseroles, sandwiches, and salads, giving you an even bigger bang for your buck.
  3. Buy lean meats like chicken and turkey, and ground beef that is at least 93 percent lean. By purchasing meals in bulk and freezing the rest for later, tacos, casseroles, and burgers are all quick and healthy meals that you can whip together for you and your family.

When you add healthy foods on a budget, such as meats, you may worry that it will take up too much of your budget. However, you can drastically reduce the amount of money that you spend on meats by buying family-sized or value pack meats. Moreover, you will only be eating the amount that you need and freezing the rest, so most extra costs will be worth it.

Step 3: Prepare as Many Meals as You Can

Now that you know how much to spend on food per month, you are ready for the fun part; creating meals from the items you purchased from your food budget.

To get started, you will want to pick a day in which you can prepare large batches of your favorite meals, such as a day off from work or during the weekend. Then, refrigerate the amount of food that you and your family will eat that week, and freeze the rest in individual containers. By preparing meals in advance, you are drastically reducing your weekly cooking, while also preventing last-minute trips to your favorite take-out restaurant.

If after a few days of eating the same meal your family gets sick of eating leftovers, switch up your meals. Turn leftover meats into a stir-fry or throw chicken breasts into a garden salad. The more meal variations that you make, the more you are getting out of your food budget.

Extra Tips for Staying on Your Food Budget

You have made it to the home stretch. You now know how much should you spend on groceries, but you have just made it to the checkout lane at the grocery store and are greeted by temptation.

While you may think that you have stayed on your food budget, the checkout lane is often where stores display hard-to-resist snack items, like candies and chocolate bars. If the sugary treats will easily tempt you or your children, try and choose a checkout lane that does not offer candy.

Lastly, make sure that you do not show up to the grocery store hungry. When you shop on an empty stomach, you tend to toss the food budget aside and head straight for the snack aisle. Therefore, to make sure that you stick to your budget, but sure to only go to the grocery store after you fill up on a meal at home.

Related Article: How to Combine Food Stamps and Grocery Coupons to Save Big

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