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How To Budget For Groceries

Woman shopping for grceries

Budgeting for groceries could be as easy as looking at your past food purchases. However, it's not always that easy when you are in a single-income household or your family's age varies significantly. Here are a couple of ways to develop your grocery budget and get your family involved in monthly meal planning.

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Developing Your Budget

When developing your budget, you should consider your monthly income, expenses, savings, and the amount you can dedicate towards items such as groceries. There are a couple of budgeting rules of thumb, such as the 50/30/20 rule or the 70/20/10 rule of thumb. The first rule is 50% of your income towards needs, 30% towards wants, and 20% towards savings. Groceries are needed, so this would fall in that first category when evaluating your monthly expenses. You should also consider the household members' size, age, and gender to estimate what everyone will eat weekly or monthly.

Monthly Food Plans

The U.S. Department of Agriculture publishes monthly food reports that can be used to help you budget for groceries. The food levels are listed as thrifty, low cost, moderate cost, and liberal.

According to the food plan, if you're a family of four, have two teenagers and two parents, and you're budgeting tightly on the thrifty plan, you would spend about $800 a month/$200 per week. This presumes that all meals and snacks are made at home. For example, during the summer, food costs increase. If you budget $800 monthly year-round, any additional funds could be used for school lunches that are needed.

Now, say you are budgeting tightly, and you're a family of two with no children on the low-cost plan, you would spend $517.50 per month, and if you are liberal, it will go back to that $800. As you can see, these budgets are general and would depend on how individuals purchase food. Are you buying canned vegetables or fresh vegetables, and how often?

Budget Shortcuts & Health Investments

It's essential to strike a healthy balance between making budget shortcuts and investing in your future health. If you can't manage your finances because you're constantly trying to eat the most nutritious foods, you can physically make yourself sick. Now, you can buy fresh fruit and vegetables, but you don't always have to buy organic. Organic food purchases can be expensive, and when you're talking about a family of four, your monthly food bill can skyrocket from $800/month to over $1,000 a month or more. This can cause stress, mental anxiety, and even problems within your household. So, it's essential to consider the right balance between investing in healthy eating and selecting the right foods for your budget.

I liken it to this: most individuals want that $3,000 Peloton treadmill, but you can find a Horizon for $600 and get the same amount of exercise. Striking a healthy balance by growing your food, cooking, and exercising at home can save you a ton of money.

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There are instances when you may be short on time and just don't have time to plan a meal. Meal delivery services are a quick and easy way to reduce your eating out budget and add a bit of variety to your meal planning. Most deal delivery services like Dinnerly are affordable when you eat at least two meals a day at home. For a family of three, you could spend $15 per meal as opposed to $15 per person with fresh food delivery.

Have a conversation with your significant other about your health priorities. Discuss what you would like the family's health to be and how mealtime should look. Having a conversation can help you get on the same page. You can bring the children to the table as well. Children can help make meal plans for the week, encouraging them to eat the healthy meals cooked when they are involved in the process. Children should also be involved in grocery shopping. Helping children understand the differences between branded and grocery store items can help them learn to budget and cut costs.

Remaining consistent with your health priorities and managing a monthly food plan can help you keep your budget and health on track.

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