Food Budgets, Menu Planning, and Healthy Eating

Food Budgets, Menu Planning, & Healthy EatingThis week as I’ve readied our budget for the new month, I’ve been motivated and challenged anew to be the best manager of our grocery dollars possible. This is one of the few areas in our budget that I have the ability to affect significantly. The balance between being frugal and not sacrificing quality and health is a delicate one. I don’t generally clip coupons or shop multiple stores, but I do have a plan to maximize my food budget.

Here’s a short recap of my strategies:

  • I’ve found that it really is true that I spend less when I use cash. I’m much more careful when I have a set amount with me. If I’m writing a check or using my debit card I tend to feel like it’s no big deal if I’m a few dollars over…but being a few dollars over every time I go to the store blows my budget in a hurry! I take the amount I have allotted for weekly grocery purchases out in cash and carry it to the store. I do have regular amounts I set aside weekly to go towards things like my meat co-op order and other bulk orders which don’t come around as often, and I leave that money in the bank in a designated “fund”, but for all actual grocery purchases I try to use cash only.
  • I plan my menus and shop from a list. I used to toss an extra item or two in the cart almost every trip but I’ve gotten better about that. I rarely deviate from my list these days. I have a great app on my phone for my grocery list…it sorts it by store and by aisle, arranged to fit the stores I frequent. It also tracks prices and tells me how much I have in my cart. Subscribing to Gnowfglins’ menu plans and participating in recipe link-ups helps me stay motivated to do my meal planning and yields some neat new recipes to try! The planning and list making takes me very little time each week…30 minutes at the very most I’d say…but saves me much time and money.
  • I’ve discovered over the years that purchasing as much as I can from places OTHER than the grocery store actually saves me money…both in cost and because the less often I’m in the grocery store, the less I spend! Buying in bulk and from local sources and buying co-ops allows me to only make a trip to the store every couple of weeks. The products I purchase from these alternate sources are healthier than much of what the grocery store offers as well. I went into more detail about that idea here.
So, in a nutshell, I:
  • Set a budget and use cash so I’m not tempted to overspend.
  • Plan my meals, make a list, and stick to it.
  • Buy very few prepackaged and convenience foods.
  • Stay out of the grocery store as much as possible by finding alternate sources for much of the food we eat.

Most of the strategies I’ve outlined here aren’t new. In fact, you’ve probably heard of several of them before and maybe even use some of them. Hopefully there is a new idea or two for you to think about implementing, or maybe my thoughts will help motivate you to use your chosen methods even more efficiently!

Do you have any tips to add to these?


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  1. Great tips!

  2. Kara, I just stumbled on your website through a linky on The Happy Housewife. I have been a SAHM for about 5 years now and I love the idea of frugality and making my home a happy place for everyone. Unfortunately, the convenience of the grocery store and eating out is just overwhelming. What can I do to start getting away from that and becoming more home bound. I want to make the ideas that I love and cherish in other Christian families a reality for me and my family. My husband is a police officer and right now we own 2 homes. Everything I have seen so far I have liked on your webiste, but i just feel like I'm missing the motivation. Do you think it's just laziness?? Help me Jesus!!

  3. Yes, great tips! I used to be a regular meal planner but lately I've just been buying some basic things and then making stuff out of what we have on hand. I found that we eat the same kinds of foods most of the time (my family is very picky and not very experimental) and our grocery list rarely deviated and I just got lazy and started buying supplies instead of making menus. On the other hand, making menus allows me to add in a new recipe each week and break my family out of their rut on occasion. And that's always a good thing. I need to get back into that habit, so I can make a better grocery list each week. =) Thanks for the reminders! =)


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