I realized I jumped ahead of myself and didn’t even mention that before you can eat food on a budget, you must make a budget!
Where do you start? One good resource is the USDA Cost of Food at Home database. This database dating back to 1994 lists suggested per week spending on food. What I like about this guideline is that it breaks down cost per week, year, age, sex, and spending style (thrifty, low, moderate, liberal).
Use this guideline as your starting point. I try to keep my cost level at thrifty/low, meaning as of June 2013 statistics, for my age and sex, I’m spending roughly $162 – $203 per month.
I also add on an additional $20 for going out to eat per month and $10 per month for household items.
If I reach my budget limit for the month, that is it! I need to either ‘borrow’ money from another one of my budget categories (only when you really have nothing to eat) or eat P&J for the remainder of the month.
On the other hand if I don’t reach my budget limit, I roll it over to the next month or I transfer that money to one of my saving goals like travel. I prefer to just take that money and put it towards my travel goal because I really want to travel. But, it is a month by month decision. For example, it might be beneficial to keep rolling over money for those circumstances like hosting friends for Thanksgiving or brunch.
Just some other money saving thoughts:
If you don’t keep a budget and you just spend money on the fly, I suggest using the website You Need a Budget (save $6 with this link). It has been useful to me and I recommend it for those who need a nudge in the right direction.
If your goal is to increase your net worth, than you need to learn how to save, spend wisely, and of course earn money. In order for me to reach my financial goals, I needed to evaluate my spending habits and strictly adhere to a budget. That may mean you have friends that side eye you when you say you can’t go out for happy hour 5x in a month, but at the end of the day, it’s your money and your comfort level not theirs.
Make a budget and stick to it. If you get a promotion at work and increased pay, great! But, be wary of increasing your spending habits. You won’t get wealthy by increasing your material goods every time you make more money. Stay within your old limits and stack that new money.
Food is one area that is easy to spend out of control and I hope that with these tips, you will be able to eat healthy and well on a budget.
These are the two Food on a Budget segments:
1. Food on a Budget Tips. This will be weekly. I’ve been brainstorming and I’m up to 25 tips, but please feel free to send over any thoughts, questions, and ideas, and I will answer them. Be sure to subscribe to this blog to stay updated.
2. Food on a Budget Pictures. I will post pictures on various social media sites(make sure you are following me). I will also share the cost per serving, what I purchased, and what I spent on groceries for the week/month.
Food is a major interest of mine, so I’m happy my cousin suggested I share my strategies!
I hope I am helpful.
An urban planning PhD student finding peace in creating a balance between the mind, body, soul, & environment.
Photo Credit: Tax Credits