How to Make a Food Budget That Works for You

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Struggling with making a food budget that works for you? Here are 3 big problems and how to crush them with simple solutions.

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Many of us struggle with grocery budgets in a few big ways.

Whether you are trying to get out of debt and figure out what’s reasonable, living hand-to-mouth in a tough financial season, or you are just starting your adult journey (and have no idea where to begin), creating a grocery budget is challenging. How much money does a person need to feed themselves?

Add to the mix a strong desire or passion to eat healthy while sticking to a budget, and it grows even more challenging. Eating healthy gets expensive quickly. We all knew that the first time we price-checked organic vegetables at Whole Foods.

However, if you are dealing with health issues, food allergies, or are simply determined to eat real food, it’s really hard to sacrifice good food for a tiny budget.

If you are in that season, I have some tools for you.

Here are some of the biggest struggles we deal with when creating a grocery budget and how you can beat them.

We talked about this for one of our Live Morning Classes, so I threw it up on the YouTube Channel (subscribe here!). Excuse the laptop camera quality. We’re working on that!

1. How to Find a Reasonable Budget for Your Family

Whether you are creating a budget for the first time or moving to a new town, maybe you just don’t know where to start.

I recommend a quick internet search for the average grocery budget or cost of living in your area. Some sites even rank the averages for tight budgets, normal, and above average budgets.

Next, look up the local SNAP or food stamp benefits for a family of your size.

Both of these numbers should give you a good place to start when creating a reasonable real food grocery budget.

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2. Unrealistic Expections

You are a unique human living in a unique space. The grocery budget that works for your neighbor won’t work for you.

Food budgets is not a comparison game (I learned that th hard way). It’s a reflection of your priorities, skills, and needs – and they will look different for everyone.

Before you try to replicate someone’s recommended budget you found online, consider these:

Time

How much time do you have to dedicate to cooking and planning? If you have time to cook, this is great. You can save a lot of money by making food from scratch and planning well.

But if you don’t have a lot of time, you can still save! The key here is deciding what is important to you, what is not, and what you are willing to give your time to. I go into more detail about this in the video (coming soon!).

Either way, you might like these posts, which focus on streamlining your time and resources in the kitchen:

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Income

Obviously. The amount of money you make directly effects how much you can budget for real food. Keep this in mind while you create your budget.

I say this because when we are passionate about eating healthy, we tend to put very high expectations on ourselves and our budget. And then we feel guilty when we can’t afford the organic meat or have to buy conventional produce. Keep your expectations reasonable for your income in this season. Do what you can and let the rest go.

Do you Even Like Cooking?

Generally speaking, the more you can cook from scratch, the more money you can save on real food. However, if you don’t love cooking, that might sound like a death sentence. You don’t have to cook all the time in order to save money and eat healthy. Make a list of your care about (homemade dinners? Farm fresh eggs? Veggies at every meal?) and what you care less about (homemade baked goods or homemade sauces and condiments), then move on and don’t feel guilty. Balancing budget and health is all about choosing your priorities and leaving the rest.

If you don’t like cooking, you might like these posts (I shared them above, but they apply here as well!):

Season

Keep in mind the season of life you are in. What worked when your office was next to Kroger probably won’t work now that you’re working from home with a toddler. Or maybe you moved to the country and the grocery store is 30 minutes instead of 5 minutes away. Different seasons of life heavily influence our budget, even if we are eating the same amount of food.

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3. Keeping Track of the Budget

This is especially tricky if you have more than one person buying groceries.

The main goal while budgeting is to communicate really well so that anyone who is shopping can easily see how much is in the budget.

We have successfully done this in two ways over the years:

Cash

Every week or month, we withdrew the alotted grocery money from the bank and put it in an envelope. Whoever went shopping had to have the envelope with them. This prevented us from swinging by the store on a whim, and we always knew how much money was in the budget: simply count the cash.

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Use an App

A few years ago, we downloaded the You Need A Budget app (YNAB). We have used their budgeting software for years, but the app helped us communicate better than ever.

We used to have to keep track of receipts, look for the lost receipts, sit down together and make sure everything was logged into the software correctly, fix the mistakes, and eventually give up on finding that rogue missing receipt.

However, after we downloaded the app to our phones, we started logging in expenses separately in real time. It was a game changer. Our budget and expenses are almost always up to date, we don’t lose receipts (or don’t care anymore), and it prevents nearly any money conflicts.

There are tons of budgeting apps to choose from, but we have only used YNAB, and we love it. However, I have also heard good things about Every Dollar.

Note: we pay extra to make sure the app syncs with our bank account. It’s absolutely worth it in our opinion.

That’s how we have learned to crush 3 big food budget struggles and make our budget work for us.

What are your budgeting tips? I would love to read them! Share in the comments below.

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2 thoughts on “How to Make a Food Budget That Works for You”

  • One thing about food stamps budgets. They assume a grain-based diet as thats most frugal. When youre subbing out grains for greens, forget that SNAP backbone. You will just annoy yourself to death trying. Throw in pastured animal and in about 3 days, your weekly budget is gone. They also assume there will be LOTS of cooking done even with grains included in the family diet. Can you do this? Week after week? Poor ppl generally work ALOT as their jobs pay so little, and/or are single moms with nooooo time.

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