Grocery shoppers are unsure about the threat of inflation costing them more at the checkout, and while Fed games continue to keep prices artificially low, we’ve still seen some increases in recent years. With so much of our food costs out of our control, here are six steps anyone can take to get a handle on that growing family food budget in just 30 days.
1. Budget Wisely
Some bills aren’t flexible. House payments or rent, loan repayment, and insurance costs are fixed expenses for many of us. The most flexible part of any family’s budget, and the one that usually sees the most wasteful spending, is the food bill. Determine what a reasonable monthly grocery budget would look like without breaking the bank, and make it a number to live by.
2. Stay the Course
Major change requires knowing what you’re doing wrong in the first place. It’s painful, but continue shopping and eating out as usual for one budget month, and keep all receipts. At the end of the month, sit down with receipts, a calculator, and your family, and prepare to be shocked. Most families spend around $150 a month on groceries for each family member, but it’s possible to spend much less with smart budgeting.
3. Start Tracking Food Prices
The only way you’re going to truly know if a deal is worth buying is to know what you normally pay for groceries. To compare apples to apples, so to speak, break prices down into units that work for you. If, for example, you shop by price per ounce, a category in your price list may look like this:
|Unit Size||Regular Price
|Turkey Lunch Meat||Oscar Mayer Deli Selects||3.29||2.50||16 oz||0.21||0.16|
|HEB Oven Roasted Turkey||2.89||2.50||16 oz||0.18||0.16|
|Buddig Thin Sliced Turkey||1.89||1.00||5 oz||0.38||0.20|
Table 1: Price Book Sample Entry
If your store-brand choice is out of stock and you’re left with the other two choices at regular price, you’ll be able to see at a glance which regular price is the best choice. You’ll also know when it’s time to buy in bulk to stock your freezer when a price is at its lowest.
4. Budget and Plan
Scheduling shopping trips for the day your favorite store starts new sales can help stretch a grocery budget. Develop a grocery list that fits budget constraints, but have funds available for a stock-up purchase that will save you money in the long-run. Plan on buying perishables with waste reduction in mind: as much as 40 percent of all American food purchases go to waste, so buy less to reduce waste.
5. Shop with Cash
Some financial advisors recommend keeping all monthly transactions on a cash basis to prevent unexpected overspending. This works well for grocery budgeting, as long as in your envelope system you have an “emergency stock-up” envelope. Also, make sure you have a calculator handy when you shop.
6. Cook with What’s Available
Instead of cooking with recipes that require ingredients that may not be affordable, learn pantry cooking. It’s a technique that requires looking at what’s in the fridge and pantry and pulling a meal together with what you’ve purchased at a good price per unit. To help you stick with the pantry cooking method, a simple and frugal cookbook like The More with Less Cookbook is an essential kitchen tool to keep your budget on track.