Friday, November 15, 2013

Making a Plan to Save

A big part of menu planning is food budgeting. Sure I can plan all the menu's that I want but I still have to afford those dinners and be able to buy the groceries that I am planning on using. Also for some of us, we have to use what we already have in our pantry wisely or items that we have gotten from assistance like a food pantry or food bank program.  It would be easier to plan a menu based on what you wished you could cook all week - steak and potatoes, spaghetti and meatballs, but the truth is most of us are going to be asked to make do with a very small budget and what we have sitting on the shelves of our pantry.

So what are some ways we can be successful with food budgeting?

Step 1. Know what you currently spend on food.  - You can't even begin to budget if you don't know what you are currently spending. Gather up your receipts and lists from last month and find out what you actually spent on food. Did you budget one amount but spend a different amount - was it more or less? This is where you get real honest with yourself. How much did you spend this month on take-out, on fast food, on vending machines and sodas? I have found out myself that those 1.50$ a day habits can really add up quickly.

Step 2. Determine how much you have to spend on food each month. - Add up the amounts of money that you have to spend, any benefits you receive and any assistance that you are getting. This is the total amount of your budget. Do you need to plan for some of them to vary, will they be changing the amounts each month or are they steady? This is something you need to plan for. Look at what is happening in the month. In a month like this one, we have a great big meal we have to plan for at the end of the month, So we need to be sure we are saving some food dollars to plan for that.

Step 3. Put that budget to work! Look over store ads for what is one sale, make a menu plan with what you have in your pantry and add items to your grocery list to fill in what you still need.   Some people choose to use a 4 week plan with envelopes for each week and other choose to just subtract each shopping trip from the total budget amount. Try both ways to see which works for you.

I know it seems overwhelming and perhaps like too much work to change what you are doing. But keep in mind that this isn't a one-and-done type of system, this is a lifestyle change. It won't seem so hard once you have done it once or twice. And after that it will seem like something that is second nature and you'll wonder how you ever got a long before you budgeted this way.